Lately I’ve been enthralled with Stephen Macnik & Susana Martinez-Conde’s book Sleights of Mind, what the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions.
One of the interesting things they talk about is how sometimes children do not get the same pleasure out of magic tricks as adults because they do not have the same expectations that are violated. Young children do not yet have firm expectations from the laws of physics so a trick that defies them is no big deal while an adult is dazzled.
Does any of this happen in culinary art?
We somewhat have 21 years of eating and drinking things whose aromas consistently correspond to elements of gustation. If something smells similar to something else you had that was predominantly sweet you will expect gustatory-sweetness and probably be validated. The same typically goes for other gustatory divisions.
But now at 21, you enter the highly abstracted world of alcoholic beverages. A wine can smell sweet yet have all of its sugars converted to alcohol during fermentation. Distillates and partial infusions can have all sorts of gustatory features removed. Can this stimulate any kind of reaction that is similar to a magic trick and would the reaction be different if you did not have years to build up your expectations?
I previously theorized that we might have a motivational drive to like things such as dryness because they are attention grabbers and therefore can probably do things like dispel anxiety. Could we also have a motivational drive to like them because of their magic-like ability to defy our expectations? Besides many dry wines, an interesting example of drastic olfactory-gustatory non-convergence is Green Chartreuse.
Another claim I had made a while back is that the way we use language makes it hard to separate someone’s ability to parse a culinary experience from their ability to find it harmonic. Sleights of mind discusses contrast detection as integral to consciousness and attention, but how drastically does people ability to detect contrast in food differ? Would studying contrast detection in food be easier if we use non linguistic forms to identify differentiation? Could you match a wine to a variety of colored images or construct your own after being somehow trained?