Sensory parsing versus cognitive dissonance.
[This post was the beginning of a lot of inquiry and I was wrong numerous times. In this edit I will try to note how my ideas have changed since I wrote this.]
This post gives a tiny nod to Leonard Koren’s great book Which ‘aesthetics’ do you mean?
One of the stumbling points of discussing flavor theory or culinary theory is the common notion that “we all taste differently”. Many people even say why bother develop a theory “my banana isn’t your banana”.
I believe we taste (sensory parsing) far more similarly than differently and the cause of the belief that many people taste (sensory parsing) differently is in our language or lack thereof. [I hold steady that we parse things very similarly but when you consider ideas like aromas being part illusory or dramatic demonstrations of differences in contrast detection such as with my wormwood hand sanitizer, it is hard to say how similarly.]
It is common to believe our other senses work similarly to each other’s because we are all able to parse things in similar enough ways to function together in the world. We see enough alike to interact with each other and we hear enough alike to to hold oral conversations. Of course there are some exceptions like the color blind, but they are a small minority.
Disbelief that I’m experiencing the same banana as you likely arises from our inability to wrap articulate language around the experience. As opposed to flavor, our other senses are much easier to discuss because they are far less multi sensory. The more senses that a word represents as a metaphor, the more imprecise its meaning because its range grows. Bright to describe a visual experience does not have as much range as a term like full bodied to describe a flavor experience which has to summarize olfaction, gustation, and the haptic sense among others.
Our other senses are also directed less exclusively to optional experiences than flavor. The option of tasting (parsing) only things you think you may like compounds mixing up the act of tasting (parsing) with matters of taste (consonance, dissonance). We may parse an experience relatively similarly (though of course some have better schemas to break things down and can see more than others), but we will each assign different values of consonance and dissonance to what we are perceiving.
I like Campari. You do not. We are probably tasting (parsing) it the same (bitter-sweet) even though I find it more consonant and therefore harmonious than you. Harmony knows no correctness unlike parsing, but rather only authenticity of the conviction. [Parsing knows no correctness either but the differential among people is less severe. I also suspect gustatory contrast detection among people (besides the super taster phenomenon) is significantly more similar than olfactory contrast detection.]
Now that we no longer mix up parsing with consonance and dissonance we can advance culinary via a plane conscious (spatial) understanding of our metaphors which gives us more control over their range. With increasingly articulate communication skills, more people can realization that pronouncements of correctness will only constrain artistic expression.
[I really irked a commentor when I first wrote this and their comments really lingered with me as I read so many others things. They were certainly correct by degrees. I was later able to isolate some of the ways that we do perceive the world differently and Gordon Shepherd’s Neurogastronomy goes into it much deeper.
But we do function in this world together. Your own case by case ability to detect contrast will give each experience a unique timbre of sort but we can often agree on what flavor experiences are ordinary and what experiences are extraordinary. So for a wine, we might now be able to expect arrival at the same flavor descriptors but we probably can arrive at the judgement of ordinary or extraordinary with demonstrates we construct the world pretty darn similarly.]