Why so many flavors?

Buffet

[Flickr: Commons Image]

Humans, in fact most animals, could survive given the bare essentials of nutrition: Some grains, some beans, some earthy greens and maybe a few eggs. Pretty basic, nearly tasteless stuff. So, why do we have such refined sensibilities with regards to taste (and smells)?

There are literally millions of ingredients, spices, recipes, mixtures, and cooking methods all producing exotic, intoxicating, alluring odors and flavors. It seems overkill. Thousands of culinary media stars (over the years) continue to entice us with the promise of just one more umami taste, one more Maillard enhanced sensation. Sheesh! Talk about the absurdity of The Excess.

If I were designing a brand new biological creature I’d focus on a binary eating process:

  • Will this kill me (or make me ill), or not?
  • Will this enhance my nutritional energy quotient, or not?

There, done.

With such a process, a vast swath of beneficial food stuffs now opens up for such a creature to leverage. Think: super goat. The whole concept of “squeamishness” would vanish.

“Oooh, I can’t eat that.”

“Well, sure you can. It won’t kill you, or make you sick, and it will keep you alive for another day and a half.”

Does today’s food culture seem excessive and absurd to you?