Link and Quote: On Food Flavor(ings)

“The consumption of food flavorings may stand as one of the modern era’s most profound collective acts of submission to illusion. When you watch a movie or look at photographs or listen to an iPod, you tend not to forgeFat that what you are taking in has been recorded and re-created for you in some fashion. Flavor additives are no less a contrivance; in fact, flavor re-creations typically have less fidelity than digital photography or MP3s. They more closely resemble paintings: subjective creations, made by people who work in competing styles. There are the hyperrealists, who strive for molecular-level precision; the neo-primitivists, who use centuries-old palettes of extracts and essential oils; the Fauvist types, who embrace a sensually heightened sensibility. Placed in the context of art history, the flavor industry today would be in its modernist phase, somewhere in the waning days of Cubism, for even the most outlandish flavor concoctions take direct inspiration from the real world. Whereas a perfumer can invent commercially successful aromas that are totally nonrepresentational — a Pollock in a crystal bottle — the flavorist must still respect the deeply held conservatism that people tend to hold when it comes to putting food in their mouths. Snapple’s use of kiwi-strawberry flavoring in a juice drink may seem unusual (and the sum flavor of it may barely approximate real strawberry combined with real kiwi), but we can imagine that the flavor is authentic — that it captures some platonic gastronomic truth.”

The Taste Makers
by Raffi Khatchadourian

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