Saturday, 5 May 2012

A couple more articles I read this week

An interesting article from The Independent on the science behind flavour.  The thing that I found most interesting from it was the sections about how we perceive things to taste differently based on how they're described and on how they are presented (their example was coffee in a flimsy cup Vs coffee in a proper cup).  I think this most often happens to me on holiday - like most people, I've had the experience of trying an amazing local liqueur on holiday, bringing it back only to find that it doesn't taste the same at home.  Somehow everything tastes lovely in Italy or France when the sun is shining and your wine glass is full.

On that note, another article from The Independent on the differences between the way that French children are treated more as adults in the food department and encouraged to try different things than British children tend to be.  My (East African Indian) family was much more similar to the French in this sense than the British.  I still find the concept of "childrens' food" somewhat bizarre.  Growing up, the norm was for children to eat whatever the adults ate but, if needed, with a different balance - e.g. if they were struggling with the spiciness of a curry, they'd be encouraged to add more yoghurt or rice or use more bread, but not to eat something totally different.

In particular, I notice huge differences in the realm of vegetable eating.  British and American parents often seem to treat vegetables as "medicine" - "it's good for you, eat it" or "I've hidden it in some cheese, eat it".  Growing up in my extended family, vegetables were just food.  They were an integral part of the meal, not something shoved to the side.  I also think that the article picks up on something important when it talks about mealtimes/snacks - I grew up with the idea that you ate at mealtimes, not between meals, unless there was a special reason to do so.  Mealtimes, sitting down, with a proper plate and utensils and proper food, all of that changes how the food tastes, bringing it back to the first article's point in some ways.

Also, between meal eating is a major reason why we are becoming more obese.  According to an analysis of USDA food consumption data by David Cutler at Harvard University, 90 percent of the increase in calorie consumption in men in the United States since 1977 has come from between-meal eating. For women, it's 112 percent -- calories from meals have actually gone down. (Journal of Economic Perspectives "Why have Americans Become More Obese?" Page 101), via the No S diet page

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