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Food for Thought: A Gastronomical Theory

A God of Cookery does not learn recipes, but rather principles that can be applied in the implementation or creation of any recipe.

What makes food good? I see good food as a combination of elements that form an eating experience.  While they don’t constitute a Comprehensive Ultimate Theory of Cooking, I keep these elements in mind when I’m preparing a meal.


Food touching sensors on our tongue produces a powerful sensation we call “taste”.  It is the most predominant element of the eating experience, and most of us think of taste when we think of good food.  But even taste can sometimes take a back seat to the other elements.  In the right situation, a glass of water can kick the shit out of frim fram sauce with the oss-en-fay with chafafa on the side.


How wonderful it is to walk into a house that is filled with the aroma of great food! Most herbs don’t actually have much taste, and are used primarily for their aromatic quality.  I once saw a chef who would light a stem of rosemary on fire and place it on the dish before it is brought out to guests.  They must have smelled their dishes coming long before they even saw them.

Smell is closely related to taste.  Our nose is detects many of the same particles that our tongue does.  Evolutionarily, taste and smell worked together to ensure our survival.  We detect airborne particles and non-airborne particles to determine if something is edible (usually tastes good) or not (usually tastes bad).

The immense impact of aroma on taste is apparent when we have a stuffed up nose and everything tastes bland.


I would say that we enjoy the texture of food as much as the taste and aroma.  If you’ve ever had an overdone steak or spinach that’s been boiled to mush, you’ll appreciate how the texture can completely destroy food that otherwise has great taste and aroma.  Our tongue and inside of our mouth are very sensitive to touch and can detect many different textures.  Celery, apples, fresh lettuce, deep fried items, and crackers are all crunchy, but all in different ways.

We can also play with texture contrast.  For example, putting little crunchy things in predominantly mushy things (e.g. pine nuts in a potato salad) can bring an otherwise dead dish to life.

This is why babies (and certain adults) put everything into their mouth — it’s a sensory experience.  This sensitivity is also what makes French kissing so fun!


A hot burger fresh off the grill tastes better than a cold burger.   Chilled veggie salad tastes better than one at room temperature.  Cheese at room temperature tastes better than straight out of the fridge.  Why?  Different foods have different textures and give off different aromas (or different amounts of aroma) at different temperatures.  And we already know how important these aroma and texture are, right?  This is why good restaurants warm plates for hot dishes, chill plates for cold dishes and most definitely chill their beer glasses.

As with texture, temperature play is also a common technique.  Hot fudge on ice cream, anyone?


I once ordered a samosa and, not wanting to get my hands greasy, I ate it with a fork and knife (I sincerely apologize to my Indian friends).  The owner of the restaurant was kind enough to teach me how to fully enjoy a samosa. “You have to pick it up in your hand and bite into it. And don’t be shy, take a big bite.”  He was right.  When you bite into it as opposed to cutting it, you experience the texture contrast between the skin and the filling.  The potato fills your mouth with its texture and the aroma of the spices really comes out.  The shape of the samosa is perfect for this, with enough body to bite into.  If we made samosas in the shape of a small spring roll, the effect would be lost.


I used to think, “Who cares what it looks like, as long as it tastes good.”  The thing is, appearance affects taste.  Why else would top notch restaurants spend so many resources on beautiful plates and food presentation?  When we see something that looks delicious, we start to salivate and our brain get into “eating mode”.  They say that sex is all in the mind.   Wet dreams certainly support that statement.  I think the same is true for food.  With sex or food, our brain receive signals from all our senses, including vision, and determines whether the things we are sensing are “good” or “bad”.  Visual appeal is very much a part of enjoying food.


We’ve slaved for 2 days preparing a feast from scratch, even milking the cow and collecting the prairie oysters ourselves.  But where are we going to eat?  In between the piles of paper covering what used to be a dining table?  Clean up a bit!  How can you enjoy the meal when you accidentally sit on a misplaced anal plug?  What about outside on the patio?  We can enhance our culinary efforts by simply choosing where to sit our butt down (which for some of us, might actually be that anal plug).

As we know from English class, “setting” doesn’t just refer to the place, but also the time and situation.  Is it a family gathering, like Thanksgiving?  Then maybe it’s not the right time to debut our most avant-garde sardine intestine ceviche creation.

Or perhaps we’re trying to seduce a potential mate?  Then maybe we need something a bit sexier than fried chicken — and go easy on the garlic.   Sensual foods that feel good on the tongue are good for this situation.  Perhaps sushi, or fondue…or sushi fondue!  The sensual nature of the food will begin to arouse feelings “in that direction”.  If we feel bold enough, we may even forego the use of plates and cutlery, if you know what I mean.

People Spend Hours Looking for Instant Food

Thanks to Shirley Braden at GFE[/add_caption_link]. (No, not that GFE.)


How harmonious is the food with the taster?  This is a reminder that each of us is different in our likes and dislikes and the same food tastes different to each of us.  A person with a poor nose may not appreciate aromatic dishes as much, but enjoy foods with good texture contrast.  A person who’s been out in the sun all day might prefer a cool salad instead of a hearty creamy lasagna.

Ever have cravings? I think these are our body’s signals telling us that it needs certain nutritional elements that are contained in the craved food.  Pregnant women are notorious for eating things they normally don’t.  There is a lot going on in a pregnant woman’s body and her nutritional needs are probably different than when she is not pregnant.

I made a vegetarian tomato based pasta sauce before, using the same recipe as a meat version, minus the meat. The aroma and taste was great, but there was just something missing.   It didn’t quite have enough “umph”.  Then I made a vegetarian Thai curry, and that was spectacular.  I did not miss the meat a bit.  The reason is that the Thai curry has coconut milk, which is quite fatty while the tomato based sauce minus the meat has virtually no fat.  My body just knew the difference and the two dishes tasted different.  For the same reason, olestra chips start to lose taste after a while because our bodies catch on that, “Hey, I’m not really getting any fat from this.”  I’m not saying that adding fat to everything will make it taste better (although, some would argue with that), I’m saying that our body knows what it needs and the more harmonious the food is to what we need, the better it will taste to us.

Sometimes the effects of harmony or disharmony aren’t felt until after the meal.  Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) makes things taste great, but when we use too much, it causes dehydration which causes headaches, dry mouth and other symptoms.  About 6 months after I went vegan, I ate a McDonald’s burger and the first bite was absolutely fanfuckingtastic! Then about half way through…ugh…major disharmony.

Eat.  Pray.  Love.

So that’s how I’ve enjoyed cooking, made a lot of people great meals, and gotten laid  a few times in the process.   Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, I’ve found that thinking about these things as I partake helps me enjoy the meal more.  Bon appétit!

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