A couple of stories on taste (the food kind) struck me yesterday:
1. The “duh” category. Or perhaps, more kindly, we should put this in the “Here’s Why McDonald’s Should Sell Carrots” category. The short story: McDonald’s branding makes kids think food tastes better. A study of preschoolers demonstrated that kids thought that foods in McDonald’s packaging tasted better than the identical foods in generic packaging. The results are pretty profound, too; 76.7% of kids preferred french fries branded with golden arches to the exact same fries without the packaging. In case you were wondering why McDonald’s spends $10 billion dollars annually (enough to give every hungry child in this country almost $800/year!) marketing to children in the U.S., this study proves it: marketing works.
2. The “Foodies Can Be Hoodwinked, Too” category. Adulterated olive oil (and/or other oils that get treated with chlorophyll and beta carotene to make it look and taste like EVOO) is now a huge source of agricultural fraud. According to the original report by Tom Mueller, published in this week’s New Yorker, it’s a huge concern in the E.U., and fraudulent EVOO has been found here in the U.S. as well.
(I’m kinda’ ticked about this; there’s some serious heart disease in Blair’s family, and — since we want him around for a long, long time — we’re very aware of what kind of oil we’re using on a regular basis. The idea that someone could be tricking us into a less-healthful alternative just feels like an entire industry is flipping us the bird).
The best way to detect true EVOO from the adulterated stuff according to Mueller? A panel of taste testers.
(Want more on olive oil? Susie J has some tips on making grocery store olive oil taste like the gourmet stuff. And, in case you were wondering, olive oil has some great non-food uses. Just ask Chris J. It can clean garden tools, treat head lice, free a stuck zipper, and lubricate your most romantic moments. Hey, look, you asked…Actually, you didn’t).
3. The “Think of the Possibilities” category. There exists a miracle fruit that tricks your taste buds into thinking things taste sweeter than they are. It makes lemons taste like lemonade, bologna taste like cake. According to folks who have had miracle fruit parties, it really works. Perhaps this is how I can get the kids to enjoy their veggies…
If you’re tired of tasting, and want to start FEELING for a change, check out We Feel Fine, an exploration of human emotion. It’s got nothing to do with food or eating, but it’s cool nonetheless. What it is: all kinds of statements about how folks are feeling are constantly pulled from the blogosphere, stored in a database, and get represented visually as little swirling dots. You can click on any of the thousands of dots (different colors = different emotions) and get a statement, sometimes accompanied by an image, that represents a real person somewhere, experiencing an emotion. Rage, boredom, grief, love, despair, loss of virginity — it’s all there. It’s basically an interactive visual exploration of human emotion, and it’s easy to get sucked in.