One part of Jessica Harris’ In Sorrow’s Kitchen that was something I had never heard before was when the mother pulled her daughter aside and told her that instead of seeing the pain and suffering that many slaves had experienced she saw talent, artistry, ability, industry and, amazing grace. This was something frankly I had never thought of before focusing on the positive outcomes and triumphs of the slaves instead of focusing on their suffering. A little later on in the story Harris explains that some slaves were given land to have their own garden on and after working in the fields they were allowed to grow their own food. This was a time for slaves to have some pride in their own work and showcase their farming abilities. Their abilities were good enough that there are records of Jefferson purchasing what the slaves had grown in their garden. This connects back to my earlier point of looking at the successes of the slave instead of their sorrows. Instead of seeing that the slaves were forced to do more work after an already long day in the fields working, by being allowed to have their own gardens was a chance for them to have some control over their lives and express their feelings though growing what they wanted like and what food meant something to them.

Korsmeyer contrasts aesthetic taste and gustatory taste.  She argues that gustatory taste is subject and different for everybody, so a food may have good taste one person and bad taste to another.  Aesthetic taste, on the other hand, is objective.  A person either has good taste in clothes, food, ect, or they do not.  Gustatory taste is more applied to food while aesthetic taste is applied to people.  I believe the reason that aesthetic taste can be objective is because it must be compared to something, usually a social norm.  Gustatory taste is subjective because it is measured on an absolute scale.  American food tastes good, but, in the western world, Americans are seen as having a poor taste in food.  Fat, sugar, and salt are what the body craves and those are what American foods are made of.  But American lacks a real food culture, and so the food lacks finesse and suffers from lowest-common-detonator effects.  It is seen as cheap and processed.  Richard Ligon was able to write three pages just about pineapples with great detail and enthusiasm.  But to most Americans, food isn’t about having an experience.  Food is about consuming energy.  To me personally, that is what food is more often than not too.  I could eat the same thing every day and do eat the same thing most days.  Yogurt and granola for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, and then baked chicken and green beans for dinner. This attitude towards food is reflective in our history.  When the first settlers came to America, they weren’t looking for an experience or a sense of community and history in the food they were eating.  They were looking for not dying.  And the same held true for the American who expanded westward over the following centuries.  We really haven’t been able to get away from that constraint until the last hundred years.  A hundred years really isn’t enough time for a national food culture to develop (not even mentioning the many other factors that play a part).

Taste is a subjective, individualized, sense that proves very tough to describe to somebody. Society has created words to describe different sensations but even with those words the full experience of taste cannot be described. Take for example the pineapple excerpt from A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, which tries to fully explain the wonders of a pineapple to someone who has never seen the fruit back in London. The excerpt goes into vivid detail about how the food is grown, when it is ready to be eaten, and how to properly eat the pineapple. Much like the persimmons poem trying to explain persimmons to someone who may never have seen or heard of the fruit, the author Richard Ligon attempts to explain the sensation of eating a pineapple. “It is so violently sharp… before your tongue have made a second trial upon your palate, you shall perceive such a sweetness to follow.” The sharp to sweet experience of eating a pineapple is very distinct to that fruit making explaining it to someone who’s never had it rather difficult. The act of trying to explain taste to someone is something that Richard Ligon and other writers can’t fully do with words. Sure common words such as sweet and sharp can be used to give a sense of what might you expect from eating a pineapple, but without actually tasting it yourself you will not be able to fully understand the flavor. That’s because taste is subjective to an individual unlike our other sense where everyone may experience sound, touch, and sight in the same ways, taste is something that is completely subjective. This is looked at in Making Sense of Taste where Carolyn Korsmeyer says, “ This very subjective bodily sense (Taste) appears in a variety of traditions to offer a way of exploring elusive and otherwise nearly ineffable aesthetic values.” Meaning it is difficult to just flat out explain a taste to someone so rather language has created words to symbolize certain experiences when eating. Like a “sweet” taste which may mean something completely different to each individual person. Trying to explain something foreign like the persimmon or the pineapple then proves to be very difficult as the full experience of taste cannot be given without someone actually tasting the food for themselves.

John Locke’s discourse concerning thoughts in Book II of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is certainly an interesting one. Locke spends much of his time in that first chapter of Book II discussing the nature of our thoughts and the frequency of them. In fact, he spends most of his time explaining his rationale for countering the notion that the mind or soul is always thinking. In the context of food, we can focus on his discussion of when and how we form ideas to lead to understand the important place of taste, and food, not just in society but in human development as well.

According to Locke, ideas are imprinted on our minds as we grow and experience our surroundings in the world from childhood to adulthood. Locke states, “But all that are born into the world being surrounded with bodies that perpetually and diversly affect them; variety of ideas, whether care be taken of it or no, are imprinted on the minds of children. Light and colours are busy at hand every-where, when the eye is but open; sounds and some tangible qualities fail not to solicit their proper senses, and force an entrance to the mind: but yet, I think, it will be granted easily, that if a child were kept in a place where he never saw any other but black and white till he were a man, he would have no more ideas of scarlet or green, than he that from his childhood never tasted an oyster or a pineapple has of those particular relishes” (Locke, Section 6, Chapter I, Book II). It’s not hard to understand that these first impressions on the mind are those relating to the senses. If we narrow Locke’s philosophy to taste, then we can understand that, according to Locke, even before we really begin to think, we are already experiencing taste, among other senses. Such an understanding is helpful in framing our perspective with respect to food and its importance in culture and societal development.

We can also look at cookbooks in the same light as general thoughts and impressions. Since tastes, as all other senses, are, in Locke’s words, “imprinted on the minds of children” by “bodies that perpetually and diversly affect them” – external surroundings – we understand that such tastes are subjective to different locations and cultures, seeing that such external surroundings differ between locations and cultures. Now, this isn’t much of a concern for local cookbooks tailored to a local audience, but it certainly is a consideration for authors of national and international cookbooks. We can analyze transregional or national cookbooks not only on the basis of the author’s history/experience and included recipes, but also on the basis of how the included recipes respond to the various audiences, particularly with regard to language, ingredients, and even the names of certain dishes.

While it focused on thoughts and matters of the mind (and soul), Locke’s reasoning demonstrates just how integral our interaction with food (through taste) is to our development as rational individuals and, by extension, to our development as a society. There is one small point that Locke fails to mention. In the last section of his chapter on Ideas, Locke makes clear that the mind cannot refuse the impression of “the objects of our senses” on itself, that we have no choice but to receive these impressions and to therefore have perceptions of ideas based on them. What Locke fails to mention is that, because the function of the mind is to receive impressions based on the senses, the mind is not biased with regard to certain imprinting objects. That is to say, while the mind cannot avoid impressions or remove them and make new impressions, we can adapt to changes in our environment, changing our own perceptions as our minds are imprinted by the new environment. In relation to taste and the consideration of transregional or national cookbooks, this means that tastes can change after exposure to different foods. So while certain authors might be concerned with tailoring dishes to a broad audience, it may not be wholly necessary to appeal to different regions’ tastes since tastes so easily change.

During my first reading of the Pineapple excerpt from Ligon’s A True and Exact History of the Island Barbados I noticed a massive alignment between this piece and the Persimmons piece from the first day of class. In a way, this correlation is expected. Both authors are attempting to describe their favorite food to people who have probably never experienced it properly. Ligon and Lee rely on a wide range of senses to describe the fruit while creating an almost sensual description of the way it’s prepared and eaten. Although it’s true that these pieces are connected through purpose, structure, and surface level content, Korsmeyer’s essay allowed me to experience Ligon’s work at a deeper level of appreciation.

Korsmeyer’s essay, Philosophies of Taste: Aesthetic and Nonaesthetic Senses, spends its first section discerning between the sense of taste and the conceptual notion of taste. When attempting to define aesthetic taste, Korsmeyer references John Locke, “Simple ideas are mental images of shapes, colors, texture, taste, and so on, and in combination they become components of complex ideas” (Korsmeyer 47). Although Locke never directly focuses this notion on the sense of taste, this connection can be indirectly seen through Ligon and Lee’s pieces. These authors provide a painstakingly holistic description of their food to convey the full experience from eating these fruits. This detailed analysis demonstrates the ability for humans to combine senses and experience the conceptual notice of “taste” even through meals.

I remember hearing that there’s a huge distinction between taste and flavor for food. While taste is the physical sensation that food creates on your tongue, the flavor is a combination of taste, texture, heat, aroma, and all other conceivable senses when consuming food. Although these terms are often found used on Food Network or unironic foodie blogs, they also find their way into our everyday lives. If my roommates forget to drink the leftover coffee from when I get up in the morning, I’ll occasionally heat it up again and drink it. Not surprisingly, it was disgusting even though it tasted the same. The heat and aroma from the freshly brewed cup are such an important part of the experience that the physical taste of the coffee is almost meaningless. Locke argues that it takes training and experience to appreciate beauty, but human experiences with food show that we’re naturally wired to understand an entire experience, change specific elements, and communicate with senses.

In our reading regarding Philosophies of Taste, lots of different models were discussed to distinguish between Taste (aesthetics) and taste (gastronomic) using metaphors which convey “a conceptual and experiential process that structures our world.” I propose a scientific description of Taste and taste that should represent their similarities in a functional, rather than metaphorical method. We can, for example, compare food culture (which results in its members finding the taste of said food delicious) to aesthetic perceptions of a culture and find that both are organized around a functional outcome of deliciousness in food and beauty in art.  Although this link was pointed out by Locke: “Deliciousness and be equated to beauty,” my argument opposes his and others’ previous philosophies of Taste vs taste; I propose a functional (and to support Hobbes, a rather selfish) value of beauty and flavor.

Let us being with the basics: conservation of energy plays a major role in how an organism functions and survives. For example our minds are wired to maintain a greater input than output of energy. One vivid example of this idea is that we consume food which provides us with the energy (in the form of calories) and our bodies will store any excess energy consumed as fat for future use (to ensure that we do not run out). At the same time our bodies do not use more energy than what is needed to function: we watch TV, drive cars rather than walk, ect. We derive pleasure from doing as little as possible, so much that we often procrastinate with our work or choose easier alternatives (more on that later). We also derive pleasure in form of delicious flavor from foods that we consider high energy (lots of calories) such as pizza, hamburgers, soda, orange chicken, and steak! These behaviors are shaped by what is called operant conditioning, where we act in ways which are positively reinforced and avoid acting in ways which are negatively reinforced. Simply put, we eat yummy food because it taste good and we relax because it feels good.

Other than shutting down and relaxing body controls energy output by minimizing the mental effort with exert. There have been numerous studies on a model called “the path of least resistance” in which we make choices and act in ways that require the least amount of cognitive effort. Cognitive effort, by the way, increases the amount of energy we use as it requires a higher frequency and intensity of neural activity. One way our mind can avoid this increase in activity is by having high density neural networks, which form from multiple exposures and experiences with a stimulus. An example of this is the mere exposure principle*, which states that the more we are exposed to a stimulus the more we like it, because every consecutive exposure is easier for us to identify and neurons need not use as much energy. To summarize: the more we are exposed to a stimulus, the less cognitive effort we need to exert, the more we like it, it is Tasteful. At the same time, higher calorie food tends to taste better. The functional results of our tastes and Tastes are that we consume more energy and excerpt less energy respectfully. These senses act as positive and negative reinforcements to ensure our behavior follows a formula for energy conservation, simple as that.

Now to return to Bourdieu’s claims that different social classes (and cultures) have different tastes in food and different Tastes in art. Bourdieu makes an excellent point that different groups have different experiences, which means that they were exposed to generally different stimuli from their occupational environment to their culinary ingredients to their recreational activities. Food culture developed to provide economically stable, calorie sufficient meals and with long exposures these staples could well have become acquired tastes and parts of traditions. Now these tastes can change with the environment, such as in Mary Rowlandson’s tale since the inputs for food are often controlled by external factors. Aesthetics on the other hand focus on being able to observe stimuli that are stable over time, since they provide the highest possible expose, which is why we often assign aesthetics to music and physical objects of art such as paintings, poems, and sculptures. Different experiences influence which stimuli people will be exposed to, resulting in individual “subjective” Tastes. Yet at the same time many people live in a similar environment and have just slightly different experiences, which leads to there being a general acceptance of what is Tasteful in a culture.

 

*Note if you are interested in how these “mere exposures” accumulate over time, apart from the physical or stable over time presence of a stimulus (for example an Oscar in the Archives), I suggest watching this video on Ziph’s Law. Another interesting source is how “Mere exposure” in the long term results in what/who we perceive as beautiful.

I recently stumbled across this article on the Smithsonian website:( http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/jemima-code-unveils-200-years-african-american-cookbooks-180956629/?no-ist ) and was shocked to discover how perfectly it lines up with our current “Consider the Cookbook” unit in class. A food journalist named Toni Tipton-Martin has written a new book called “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks” that takes a close look at how cookbooks by African Americans, for African Americans (and others as well) have changed and evolved during the past two hundred years. She specifically cites Malinda Russell as a sort of “jumping off point” for African American cookbooks and claims that of all the cookbooks she studied and compiled into her book, Russell’s was the most impactful. Tipton-Martin stresses that a traditionally major part of African-American cooking was using whatever was on hand to feed families as well as communities, if the need arose. I think that this historical and cultural aspect of cooking has forgotten its roots a bit and become largely generalized as “Southern cooking”.  As a native Georgian with parents whose cooking skills tend more towards the northern and midwestern parts of the country, I’m always on the lookout for tips and tricks to making good, authentic, “Southern food”, but more importantly, the reasons WHY preparing a dish a certain way classifies it as “southern” as opposed to some other regional cuisine. I have several cookbooks in my collection that claim to be composed of “tried and true Southern” recipes, when in actuality a good deal of them seem to be simply stereotypes of “Southern food.” Yes, fried chicken made with a cornflake coating is what is considered “southern” but it’s the reasoning behind the usage of ingredients and preparation methods that I find to be lacking. I think Tipton-Martin’s book seems to have a bit more of the history that I’m looking for, and perhaps I’ll browse through a copy next time I find myself curious about the backstory behind shrimp and grits.

“The man who is economical, is laying up for himself the permanent power of being useful and generous.”

– The Frugal Housewife, Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy (1829), Lydia Maria Child

Overlooking the gender inequality sprinkled atop all of these pre-21st century pieces, Lydia Maria Child expresses a useful sentiment of frugality as a means to maintaining a comfortable life and living within your means. Even today, in the current economic climate, her advice is still sound. I am convinced that if she were alive today, she would be a heavy user of mint.com, an online personal finances manager.

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Mint is used to track and automatically sort your expenses so that you can become familiar with your spending habits and see where you may need to cut back or vice versa. It also allows you to make a budget and receive alerts and tips on how to save.

Based on the focus of the introduction, Lydia would find an application like this an essential tool in everyday life.

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/food-nearly-60-percent-of-college-students-food-insecure-013014#2

As a student who eats at the dining hall or the numerous restaurants around campus, I do not understand the difficult experience the students who cook have to deal with daily. Due to the fact that our class project includes students having to create a historic dish with foods readily accessible to students at Georgia Tech in student living facilities, I decided to look into statistics about cooking amongst college students. The results were quite appalling. Majority of college students find it challenging to access healthy and affordable options around college. Obviously, the main reason behind the high number of unhealthy options is the fact that managing a balanced diet is quite expensive. However another reason contributing to a poor eating lifestyle could be the fact that majority of students are cooking illiterate and low on time. These issues can be solved by the more widespread use of cookbooks on campuses, which will introduce students to healthier and more convenient options.

This is a trailer for a new movie called Captive. The movie is about a man, charged with rape, who escapes the courthouse, where he is being tried for this crimes. As he escapes, he takes a young woman captive in her own home. This trailer harks back to the captivity of Mary Rowlandson that we looked at in class. Both these stories have very strong connotations to religion. The lead characters in both the stories look towards God in their time of need. Rowlandson believes that God is testing her, almost damning her for her sins for being a bad Puritan. The lead character in Captive, Ashely Smith, also believes that God is testing her and will eventually help her through this difficult time.

Another common notion between the two stories is that the captive influences the captor through religion. In the movie, Smith reads the Bible out loud to her captor, Brain Nichols. Rowlandson, on the other hand, is given a Bible by her captors. Both the captives use the Bible as a starting point of getting to know their captors more. Both Rowlandson and Smith get to understand more about their captors. We see Rowlandson becoming more and more integrated into the Native American society while Smith begins to learn more about Nichols’ life. The two ladies also start to see their captors as the human beings they are. Rowlandson starts to realize that the Native Americans are more human than she was taught to believe. Smith also realizes that Nichols is a human being who has made mistakes. She believes that it is her duty to help her captor mend his ways. The two ladies learn a lot more about human nature and human beings from their experiences with their captors. It is almost as if they become more human themselves.