The Curious Case Of Taste – Restaurants, part 1

The internet is a wondrous and zany experience for me.  When I want information on any subject I can use it with a high level of confidence that I’ll be able to find what I’m looking for.  The trick is to be a savvy editor though because let’s face it, there’s a lot of information out there that may not be exactly what I need.

Recently I’ve been scanning websites, looking for the favorite restaurants of certain cities.  You know, top ten lists, review sites, online magazines and so on.  Obviously naming any one thing “The Best” will always elicit an uproar from the masses, intent on beating that choice into submission in favor of another choice, and restaurant allegiances are no exception.  What interests me is the recent phenomenon of popularity based on reviews by the masses; those of us without a “cultured palate”.
This idea of taking advice from anyone and everyone is a fantastic glimpse at democracy, but it’s only as viable as the number of reviewers who participate and the details they may provide in their descriptions.  After all, I doubt any of us would read a one-star product review on Amazon with the description “Sucks!” and mark that as “helpful”.  To my mind, if you’re going to review something online you should feel a compelling obligation to provide details about your own experience.  That’s what I try to do anyway.  If you’re not willing to reach out a little it begs the question; why bother to review it at all?
I can now muddy the waters further exponentially by introducing (for example) the concept of cultural differences in taste.  Thinking about why something tastes good to us is directly linked not just to our perception of the flavors.  The texture of the food  is important.  Our previous experiences are important.  The way the food was prepared is important.  The freshness of the food is important.  I propose that nailing down “good taste” in food is, to quote Donovan, like trying to catch the wind.
So we are forced to fall back upon the concept of different strokes for different folks, and that is a good thing.  Acceptance of diversity is difficult for most of us because we are predisposed to like the things that are familiar and dislike the things that are unfamiliar.  It often takes a great deal of courage for someone to take that first bite of squid, or try a taste of Korean kimchi.  For myself that is the adventure.  I now leap at the chance to try a new dish.  I taught myself to be intrepid, knowing there would be flavors and textures I don’t care for.  I encourage you to do the same.
Over the course of this series I’ll be delving into a variety of restaurant reviews and giving my own opinions.  I welcome your comments as I move forward, fork in hand.  ~TH~

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