back in january i wrote a post called “which ‘taste’ do you mean? sensory parsing
the idea of the post was express how so much of the terminology we use to discuss flavors is ambiguous (the word “taste” for example). constant ambiguity means we have a hard time telling the difference between language that parses an experience and language that tells of enjoyment. i made the claim that my banana or my campari was roughly the same as yours. i thought the vast skepticism of our tasting the same was due mainly to our having different senses of harmony and not significantly different experiences when we reconstruct what we parse.
anyhow, to bring this up to today… i just finished the chapter about cezanne in jonah lehrer’s “proust was a neuroscientist”. neuroscience proves that we do indeed see differently because our brain takes shortcuts and often uses our past experiences to help fill in the blanks completing an image more efficiently. this somewhat weakens my argument that my banana is your banana, but not by much. we may rely on past experiences but they are similar enough that we can all construct a reality that we can function in together.
so now some new questions:
by how much does flavor as a perceptual system differ from other systems like vision?
flavor seems more drastically connected to our reward systems than other sensory systems and we constantly make harmonic judgments that feel so much more significant than the other senses. i may enjoy campari while you may not. this happens to such a degree that you may wonder if our mind constructs campari the same.
does flavor have an auto-complete that works the same way as vision’s?
many people hear a suggestion that a wine smells like apples and all the sudden everyone agrees. is this phenomenon related to autocomplete?
wines constantly conjure up everything but grapes and cocktails made from disparate ingredients often synthesize the easily recognizable. the other day we wound up recognizing cantelope when we mixed an unaged whiskey (white dog) with orange juice. tomato has been recognized within a daiquiri made from strawberry syrup, lime juice, and a very olfactory umami rhum agricole.
often times we look to avoid anything recognizable because pleasure lies in the unknown and extraordinary.
with flavors we so often experience different levels of “detachment”. perceptual distortions due to prior experience may be detached as well as any experience associated symbolism. flavors can take you down a path to a memory. attentional features within a flavor can pull consciousness to safety if but for a moment so we can regroup. finally, flavors can also mark a memory.
the experience i’m often looking for in a flavor seems to be something like oliver sacks’ patient in “the man that mistook his wife for a hat”. (i haven’t read the book yet and only know what was described by lehrer). sacks’ patient’s eyes work fine, but a brain lesion prevents him from using any amount of “experience” to also help construct vision. he has permanent detachment. a vast percentage of what it takes to construct visual reality is apparently experience. having no prior experience means i may have an easier time finding escapism in a flavor or an easier time book marking a moment so i can return. my drinking habits might be explained by what i need my flavors to do…