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Random Thoughts

Food and Psychology

(taken from diary)


I was eating a dinner of boiled rice with kidney beans in curry. I was praising myself for eating something that was economical, because it had cheap ingredients and could be made cheaply, and something that was fairly environmentally friendly. However, as I shovelled forkfull after forkfull into my mouth, gradually, the charm of eating the meal wore off. It appeared, that with the palate, taste is king and not rational consideration. My taste buds slowly but surely got immensely tired of the meal until my entire mouth was filled with ennui and I could hardly bring myself to eat another morsel. I told myself all the usual formulas to keep myself eating – there were children in other countries crying because there was no food for them to eat and I was fortunate that I lived in the prosperous West; I was spoilt because I could not force myself to eat a wholesome meal which others would have enjoyed, etc. Finally, I managed to finish the whole dish, convinced that I was a total food hypocrite.


While I was eating, I had a few thoughts about food which I’ve had before. Clearly, there is a psychological dimension involved in eating. For example, if you watch a cookery show on TV, they are always telling us that ‘you eat with your eyes’. In other words, presentation is important in what we eat. There is the oft-cited fact that supermarkets have to get rid of ‘ugly’ produce, because the customers won’t buy it, even though appearance has no relationship to taste. Also, some countries find the food of other countries delicious, while they cannot tolerate the food of others. The example I thought of was America, who are not infatuated with Indian food like our Great Britain is, but on the contrary, find it difficult to digest (so far as the sitcoms I have seen over here seem to suggest). An example I thought of myself as a British Asian was how much I disliked the taste of peanut butter when I tried it, while it seems to be a staple of the American diet. Now, this difference is clearly cultural – the majority of Britons (judging by the ubiquity of the Indian takeaway on the High Street and the Indian ready-made meal in the supermarket) like Indian food, the majority of Americans don’t. The reason for the difference is therefore constructed – whether this is through ‘the colonisation of taste’ and habituation to certain types of taste or because of (which I believe is more the case) some psychological dimension. I wonder if there has been any research or thinking in this direction?



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