Taste as an aesthetic relationship do you think it is the part of a philosopher to be concerned with such so-called pleasures as those of food and drink —socrates
For me there is no radical distinction between the grand discourse on the task with all its dignity and the reasons for wanting to go out to dinner with someone. They are not homogeneous questions but i would not mark out a true opposition. A taste for the secret the project this essay stems from a long exercise of observing the ways in which people encounter food and perceive it. This is a particular project that i need to clarify from the outset: the main topic of these pages will be how food is absorbed and assimilated according to an aesthetic approach. The meaning of aesthetic in this framework will become clear along the way starting with this introduction. Allow me to anticipate a bit here by exclusion.
My concern in this essay will not be food as an object in itself for example i will not inquire into the quality of food with regard to sensory profiles but rather the experience of food—in a comprehensive and articulated sense. Condensed into a short and somewhat arcane formula the essays basic thesis could be put as follows: taste is situation circumstance and ecological experience. An ecological experience is what i call here an aesthetic relationship. The title of the book refers to this formula even more synthetically: taste as experience an explicit homage to john dewey who is one of the most important points of reference in this book and in particular his art as experience.
Shall use taste here and not tasting as experience as one would normally expect for reasons i will explain along the way. So what does it mean to say that taste is properly understood through experience or rather that taste is an aesthetic relationship such a question cannot be answered with a pithy statement or a short definition. One needs patience and a spirit of observation. Understanding taste is a matter of learning to observe: to observe others but also oneself because taste concerns everyone. Taste is not just a sense nor is it only an emotion or an opinion. above all taste is not a thing. taste needs to be tried and tasted.
Taste like theater involves many actors and its procedural and dynamic nature comes together in scenes of particular meaning as in a theatrical scene. I have my primary scene from which this idea has grown. A behavior i have always been attracted to and which still fascinates me is the facial expression of people ordering croissants and other pastries for breakfast at a coffee shop in the morning. There is hardly ever a neutral facial expression. Very often the facial mimicry anticipates the satisfaction of a craving by way of a vaguely complacent look cast on the object to be eaten accompanied by the mere hint of a self-satisfied smile.
Sometimes this mimicry is joined in a single inseparable moment by a shadow of guilt or dietary discomfort which that interlocutory glance always reveals. This simple and everyday act caught my interest and i started comparing it with similar expressions such as that on the face of someone choosing from the menu at a restaurant or of people ordering an inexpensive meal at a fast food restaurant after having stood in line for a long while. over time i put together an archive of images made by differences in intent in intensity in tone or in gesture. this now well-seasoned archive is the original source that sparked my thoughts on taste.
It is the backbone of this book grounded in the participation in and fascination for everyday and ordinary life. In two previous works i endeavored to reconstruct a genealogy that would establish a link between modern philosophical aesthetics and gastronomy and organized a specific topic that could comprise this space previous studies within the viewpoint of relational aesthetics that characterizes taste. I will offer here a critical reflection on gustatory attitudes as aesthetic encounters—or at least as the most common and important ones—onto which my comprehensive theoretical proposal is grafted. It assigns an important and unexpected role to the experience of taste for food but not in an exclusivist sense. This is not a book in praise of gastromania. it is not about praising the experience of taste as something exceptional and rare or about understanding it as an instrument of power for individual claims of superiority or narcissistic exhibitions of skill.
My proposal to value taste as an aesthetic relationship goes in a different direction. drawing on the work of philosophers such as epicurus and montaigne intend to promote a more flexible and comprehensive approach one that aims to be open nimble and nonspecialist an approach that strives toward wisdom as explain in the last chapter. Believing in the value of food and taste does not mean subscribing to an exclusive lifestyle nor does it imply becoming a food fetishist or a finicky food extremist obsessed with greed and gluttony. rather believing in the value of food and taste means having understood how it becomes possible to explore at least a large part of the sphere of everyday and ordinary human relations from a vital and fruitful perspective through the experience of food.
This ambitious project aims to define a philosophy not of food but rather with food interpreted above all as aesthetics of taste: experiencing food and drink is ipso facto the comprehension of our ecological situation how we face the environment how the interconnections between us and the objects we eat taste and incorporate affect our being. In the first place i will try to answer two basic questions: how do we perceive food and drink what are the presuppositions the potentialities and the limits of such perceptions in addition to the primary scene mentioned above i must add that many years of convivial professional and theoretical practice within the gastronomic scene have provided me with a plethora of different approaches to eating and drinking.
Furthermore many years of teaching wine tasting have allowed me to verify and also to directly experience the expectations and intentions that produce such approaches as well as peoples ensuing tics and aberrations. I found several of these aspects philosophically interesting and worthy of closer reflection. Two other factors also stimulated me one professional and one personal.