Notes on tasting…and a little feelin’, too.

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.

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5 Responses to “Notes on tasting…and a little feelin’, too.”

  1. 1 boogiemum August 8, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    I love that last emotion site. very cool.

    One of my favorite uses of olive oil? mix it with a little sweet castor oil and it takes off eye make up

  2. 2 Fairly Odd Mother August 10, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    I saw something on TV once (maybe 60 Minutes?) where they took a bunch of preschool students and offered them a banana OR a rock with a Spongebob picture on it for breakfast. Almost all of them picked the rock—-for breakfast. Lovely.

  3. 3 SusieJ August 10, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I love the point about carrots and McDonalds. How different life would be if they had never even bothered with the saturated fries, and just stuck with baby carrots. Thanks for passing on the info about the olive oil

  4. 4 Tyla August 12, 2007 at 4:09 am

    I have been reading over the last couple of weeks and enjoying all that you have to offer. I feel lucky to be able to read writing by someone willing to take the time and post all of the information and tips and peices of humor etc.

    I have two young children and have been overwhelmed by the kitchen duties when preparing all of our foods, every day, for every eating occassion. But I refuse to buy the processed junk that we are marketed. With Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in hand, I too find myself wanting to only eat what I grow. Right now, it’s not reality for our family to move to a farm and do what Barbara’s family did, but it sure sounds appealing.

    I must share my latest findings about Government Recalls. Living On Earth (from KQED the public radio station in the Bay Area) broadcasted their latest radio program today about the recalls of children’s toys from China.
    But that is just the tip of the iceberg! Take a look at the food and product recalls and it will catapult you to the local CSAs in your area and into the kitchen to cook with REAL food!

  5. 5 Tony Sansone December 2, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Regarding being tricked with adulterated olive oil: The person with heart disease in the family can really be hurt by those who make a fast buck by selling a less than healthy product. A high quality extra virgin olive oil high in polyphenols will help anyone achieve a healthier heart and vascular system. Most of the oils on the supermarket shelf are blended oils that will not be high in polyphenols. The number of polyphenols is determined by the variety of olive, where the olive is grown, the time the olive is picked, the way the olive is processed into oil, and the manner in which the oil is packed and stored. I grow, harvest, press, and pack extra virgin olive oil with the goal of achieving the highest quality and most polyphenols. Further, I provide independent laboratory tests that prove the quality of my oil. When you find an oil you like and the seller offers this kind of information and proof, then you have a good oil that will enhance your health. It will also be the most flavorful. Every year we strive to make the best and most healthful extra virgin olive oil possible. There are a lot of crooks out there in olive oil land, but there are honest producers too. Keep looking until you find the extra virgin olive oil that is right for you. Your family will be better for it. Ciao. Tony

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