A Chowhound Gene?
I am in a quandary. I wonder if there is some sort of a Chowhound specific predisposition that my DNA chain might be missing. For example, I had a wonderful meal a few weeks back at Mexico City, as did my friends who have similarly refined tastes. The majority of the board participants find it akin to pig slob. On the other side of the coin, I just had a really substandard dining experience at Opus, which seems to be the cause célèbre of the ‘hounds as of late. And maybe even worst of all, after three attempts to find the inherent magic, I have given up on Pinkberry.
Now I know I have good taste, which is totally subjective. Good food on many levels makes me happier than almost anything in the world. I have had an adventurous and sophisticated palate from a very young age. I was reading cookbooks as a kindergartener and Ruth Reichel and MFK Fisher as a teen. So, why are some of my key experiences seem to be so incongruous with the status quo on Chowhound? Inquiring minds (and taste buds) want to know.
there does tend to be a herd mentality that can be a bit tough to get around. there are a few places constantly attacked or praised to the heavens on the boston board, and i'm on the other side of the fence. opinions are like you know what, and everybody's got one. i'll try anything anyplace, but as soon as it goes in my mouth i make up my own mind. lots of people have trouble agreeing to disagree, and instead counter with, "well, you're wrong." not very constructive or conducive to anybody else adding a dissenting voice.
what's fun about this site is the obvious enthusiasm everybody shares. i don't have to agree with them, but i appreciate their excitement!
I think the OP is right that taste is subjective. Who defines what is in good taste?
Perfect taste can be the most boring thing in the world, too safe, humorless, lacking any spark of creativity, much less pleasure. A palate should be educated and beyond that the enjoyment of fine food is an art. Not everyone can do it.
I find it interesting to read these boards and see repeat postings from the same people with their views of restaurants I know well. After awhile, I come to know their approach to food as much as if I knew them personally. If they love or hate a restaurant that I've never visited, I can pretty well guess from their description how I might react.
The same holds true with the Home Cooking, Not About Food and other boards. People's attitudes toward all things food-related, track after you read enough of their postings. Do you want to eat at their houses? Are they creative, inventive cooks or will everything taste the same day in, day out? They know one way to cook a duck and brussels sprouts can only be roasted. If you have fresh mozzarella, where's the tomatoes? Then I know if I want to try a method or recipe they post.
Some Chs have fallen head over heels in love with food and want to know everything about it. Others don't seem to recognize they've walked in in the middle of a movie, that there's a story that developed before they got on the scene and that what's hot now will soon fade as have so many previous fads.
That which is basically delicious is always desirable. Learning to appreciate good innovation without following mindless fashion is the goal of a educated palate. Finding great joy in even the most simple things is the art.
If you read these Boards every day its easy to forget it's a slice of life...not the whole pie! Shared opinions, food debate is fun, entertaining, even enlightening..but its not definitive or necessarily accurate 100% of the time, nor should it be.
Eat what you like, share your tips, laugh, play...but don't mistake CH as gospel. What makes this site so delightful is the commitment people have to it.
I believe at the core of a CH is the desire, nearly uncontrollable need to DISCUSS food. Where else are you going to find 200 posts on the topic: ISO great chicken soup! (bg)
Totally unrelated to the OP's original query, since I think that has to do more with how single-minded and sometimes bandwagonesque people are in their opinion of places-- I know I have in past posted what I thought was a well-thought-out review that slanted to the negative and have been swarmed with people trying to talk me out of the bad experience that I had. It is frustrating, but you learn to accept it.
At any rate. I can't taste Chantrelles.
At first I thought it was just a bum batch of them. Then I asked and people said, "No, they have a lovely flavour." And I asked "Lovely in that they taste like nothing and everyone has decided that, in this case, nothing tastes lovely?" No, I was assured, they have a nice discernible taste. So I had some on a plate at a restaurant once. My boyfriend ate one and I ate one. He tasted Chantrelle, I tasted nothing. And I do love mushrooms of all sorts, so it was a real disappointment to me. It's gotten that I won't order anything where Chantrelle is the noted flavour source, because it tastes very bland to me.
Some of my favorite restaurants are constantly attacked, but I've stopped caring. I think a lot of it is that one vociferous person will say some is absolutely amazing (or conversely, the worst thing ever) and others join in. It's daunting to add your opposing opinion to one of those posts.
In addition, a lot of posts tend to get kind of esoteric (e.g., posts about Mexican food in Boston often veer off into the "there is NO authentic Mexican in Boston, therefore it is all horrible" territory). Usually I'm just looking for something that tastes good, no matter how authentic the style or premium the location or ingredients.
A CH I respect greatly once told me his theory, which seemed to work well. He said it goes beyond learning and eating good food. Anyone can really do that. But what might make CH's special at it's core is that we might be more likely to be super tasters. So we CAN appreciate complex things, and things that are bland or 'common' might taste bad to us. Here's an article on how you can test if you are super taster... I think it would be interesting to find out! :)
As much as I like this theory, I'm pretty sure it's wrong. For a long time, my friend and I believed I must be a super taster, using much the same logic. At one point, however, he mentioned this possibility to someone who actually knows a couple of confirmed super tasters. The latter's reaction was to express sympathy for my plight!
It turns out that super tasters are the LEAST likely to be chowhounds. They experience flavors so intensely that they typically shy away from flavorful foods in favor of the bland. I think it's related to why kids who are picky eaters can still grow up to be chowhounds. It's not that your palette is more sensitive as an adult -- quite the contrary. You just aren't tasting the things you hate as intensely, which allows you to experience other flavors that were previously overwhelmed.
My understanding is the same as that of a and w's.
Since all of us CHs would like to think that we are able to experience complexities of flavors more precisely than the general population, some people jumped on the word "supertaster" as a way to describe the skill.
Apparently, according to prior postings on CH, it's actually a physiological problem that causes some people to experience one of the basic tastes (sweet, salty, etc.) out of proportion to the others. Ten of us could eat the same dish and nine would find it delicious and well-balanced while the tenth (the poor supertaster) would consider it too sweet because those sensors in his mouth were overly stimulated.
True supertasters tend to prefer bland food in self defense because nothing ever tastes really right or balanced to them.
Well, you could consider that you have some fundamental flaw which others don't. However, I would suspect you are not really that different. Let's face it, all the people that post on Chowhound do not make up the universe of sophisticated diners or people with identical tastes. Everyone has been to rave restaurants and walked out at some point and said...hmmm, I don't get it!
Variety is the spice of life. I've long given up on going with the majority as far as food is concerned. Fortunately my husband and I agree on most foods but we find ourselves on the far fringes of the distribution when it comes to general opinion. Doesn't worry me a whole lot.