mercredi, août 27, 2008


OK, so this isn't my usual daily post, but I wanted to bookmark this for those who might enjoy this. A blogger by the name of Joe Posnanski recently posted an article on his blog about what he terms "Pixifoods," which are foods that tasted like awesome when you were a kid and now taste like FAIL.

Here's an excerpt from his blogpost:

Baseball Card Gum
As a child it tastes like: Bubble blowing magic.
As an adult it tastes like: Sugared sandpaper.
Tidbits: A few years ago, Topps released a retro set of baseball cards — I believe it was based on the 1952 set. Anyway, it included the gum. I was SO excited. I immediately went to eBay and spent WAY too much on a box of those cards. I got it, and I chewed the gum and … I expect to get the feeling in my jaw back no later than September 2013. More to the point, the inside of my mouth got so raw, you could strike a match against it. What do they put in that stuff? Roofing shingles? I think part of the problem is that they started putting the gum in little plastic packets, presumably so they would not get stale and ruin the back of baseball cards like the old days. But maybe that’s how they lost the magic. As a kid it was great because, really, as far as taste went, you never know where the gum ended and the baseball cards began.

I've been fascinated by age-related taste since I first noticed a lot of comments about it on the Japanese (and best) version of Iron Chef, many years ago. Sometimes the guest judges would say things like, "This would be a pleasing dish for a young child, but to my taste it is too sweet," or "This is too bitter and astringent for me to enjoy, but I can see how I might like this when I am older."

Ask any parent about early-childhood tastes and they'll tell you that, with very few exceptions, kids like things with strong, vibrant tastes. The only kind of taste that they have absolutely no tolerance for is bitterness. You might remember your first taste of coffee or beer as a kid (if your parents let you try that stuff) or grapefruit juice for that matter. In a way, it makes sense, since most toxic / inedible things that occur in nature taste bitter on the human tongue, but that doesn't explain why older people are supposed to have an increased taste for bitterness. Hmmm...

5 commentaires:

Humingway a dit…

Yeah, bitterness is interesting. Of the five tastes, bitter is definitely the least explored. Check this exchange in the indispensable eGullet thread "Inside the Alinea Food Lab":

Today, one of the questions [Grant Achatz] had was, “what is pure bitter – how can we achieve pure bitter?” It sounds simple, but the contrast was: pure sweet is sugar, pure sour is citric acid, and pure salty is salt… so what is pure bitter? [...] In this case, everyone had some input ranging from “burn anything and it’s bitter” to specifics like coffee, unsweetened chocolate, a tea of hops. As a first effort, Chef Duffy burned sugar (intentionally..), and then diluted that with water, then reduced it. The final dish might be self-encapsulated flavors of sweet, salty, sour and bitter… then again it may not.

My suspicion is that bitter is akin to picante: a taste that initially serves to warn us that what we're eating is potentially dangerous, but gradually turns into an exciting, satisfying flavor component as we learn not to be scared of it. It's the bungee jumping of tastes.

Of course I have no evidence, beyond the progression you describe from childhood to adulthood, and the widely varying levels of bitter-acceptance among adults. But it feels truthy to me.

On another note, this talk about childhood tastes makes me really skeptical of Madhur Jaffrey's claims to have perfectly recreated her favorite childhood meals from memory, with only the slightest prompting from her mother. (Apologies if that's not what she claims; I'm going by my mom's synopsis of this interview.) If she did it by memory, the food is probably different, and if the food is the same, it probably doesn't taste the same to her now.

LMGM a dit…

I like your comparison of bitter to spicy; it also feels truthy when I grope it. (ahem) Seriously, tho, I could see bitterness being a 'warning signal' for our body which we eventually learn to manage in exchange for other kinds of pleasure.

Humingway a dit…

Ugh, you groped my comparison?? Actually, I'm not even sure it's a pleasure exchange, but that may depend on how abstractly you interpret that word. At any rate, I didn't mean to imply a tradeoff between bitter/unpleasant and coffee/pleasant so much as a pleasure that comes from overcoming the bitterness itself. Take the spicy analogy again: everybody has a threshold beyond which it's painful (yes, even you -- hold still while I pepper-spray you in the eyes!), but up to that threshold, spicy food is exciting, challenging, and fun.

You could get the exact same curry without the capsaicin, but it wouldn't be as good without that little twinge of pain. Likewise, stout without bitterness is just Yoo-hoo.

LMGM a dit…

Ja, good clarification. What I was thinking of was less "if you wince your way through the bitter there is some sort of Freudian Pleasure Principle Payoff" but more that intense sensations are intense sensations before they become pain or pleasure or what have you. And so the possible fun of bitter or spicy food is pleasure of riding that sensual jolt, maybe like watching suspense/horror movies for some folks or thrill rides.

Kristy a dit…

And in commentary only semi-related to the post (in the sense that the one made me think of the other), were you aware they have come out with gummy vitamins for grownups? I will be trying them as soon as we run out of our current vitamins. I am hoping they are AWESOME, but may well be FAIL. Either way, they're still gummy and brilliant.