We seem to have a predilection for oversimplifications. They really come out when language fails us and that is readily apparent if you eaves drop on conversations on wine. I was told once that those who curse a lot do so because they have trouble being articulate and that concept really stuck with me. Similarly, specialists, due to finite time and resources, often have to run the other segments of their lives on gross oversimplifications and ideologies. I work in an area populated by highly specialized doctors and they seem to ask me more frequently than I’ve ever encountered elsewhere “whats the best thing on the menu?”, or “is that wine good?”. Really?
The word love, believe it or not, might be a detrimental oversimplification. We roll a multifaceted thing into only one word. I love you but I cannot live with you. I love having sex with you. I love your smile and it biases my decision making abilities. I will always be concerned with what you are doing in life. If you need something you can always ask me because we have bonded and empathized enough that I will always sympathize enough to help. I treasure the fact that we are more honest and open with each other than we allow with others. I love you.
Clearly one wine is the best and the others are worthless. There is no possibility that all of the wines could be beautiful in their own way. The best thing on the menu is the chicken and I do not know why we even offer anything else seeing as they all are more or less the same price and size. More expensive things are always better and of higher quality unless the person pricing them happens to be teasing and/or exploiting you (sarcasm).
At the same time we need these over simplifications because life is short and the art is long. Sometimes we can only get one or two words in. “I love yoooou!”, he said as the train pulled way. I’m stressed, I have choice paralysis, I’m out of my element, I’m thirsty, money is no object, please impress me with a glass of wine. Believe me I’m not ignorant, I’ve just devoted my life to brain surgery. Wait, what? you don’t have time to here my menu spiel?
Well, since oversimplifications are necessary have we fully explored our options? Can any sets of oversimplifications better serve us in the culinary arts? I propose that the two oversimplifications or pronouncements that can more usefully serve the culinary arts are ordinary and extraordinary which pertain to frequency of occurance. When we understand that we need to solve the problems of anxiety, complacency as well as the cementing and retrieval of memories, good and bad and best fail us. Especially when we have to divide it all by hard earned dollars.
Anxiety requires highly attentional stimuli. Extraordinary denotes the more attentional, but sometimes the ordinary at the edge of our harmonic bounds can also do the trick. How much money to do you have to solve the problem? The extraordinary typically always costs more.
Complacency seeks a break from the plebeian and ordinary. Even things that are “good” can be ordinary and not fight complacency. Best is a shot in the dark and too general. We use the word best too often without specifying an objective which happens to cripple the term.
Cementing and retrieving memories requires unique and singular experiences both symbolic and sensory. Counter intuitively, we are slowly learning that memories are best retained by accompanying them with extra data of a certain relationship. Relational pairing and techniques like the mind palace are used by those that turn remembering things into a sport. Good and bad cannot help these objectives but rather only the ordinary and extraordinary.
Good and bad divides things across harmony but always across the line of harmonic and inharmonic which is limited. Once you can successfully work solidly in harmonic territory, where do you go? The ordinary and extraordinary divides things by the frequency of occurrence which allows them to make divisions within the harmonic. I’m sure I could enjoy all of your red wines but which do you think is the most extraordinary?
Back in the 1990’s maybe we needed oversimplifications that were divided across the harmonic and inharmonic because many restaurants served flawed food and drink. We aren’t talking the realm of acquired tastes, we are talking ignorance and lack of control. The modern food movement, with an emphasis on increasing control via food science, is making flawed food less relevant. People are also rapidly acquiring acquired tastes. As the food movement advances, we will need oversimplifications that can help use say in fewer words: I’m sure I would enjoy it all but which selection will I remember forever?
Bad habits die hard and often it will feel like we need our “flavor lawyer” to edit our speech, but I challenge you to invest deeper into thinking about your inevitable oversimplifications and pick the right word for the right job.
I drink ordinary wines when that is all I can afford (quality for purpose!) and I seek out extraordinary wines when I have a certain itch and I’m having trouble remembering my fast moving life. There is no such thing as bad bourbon. Any distiller will tell you that. Bourbon also can’t be good if it gets me in so many fights. Bourbon can only be ordinary or extraordinary.