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Food, the Senses and Taste

As the multisensory enters the mainstream, going from ASMR videos on Youtube to major advertising campaigns, awareness of the role our senses play in how we interact with the world has never been so high. Eating is of course a multisensory experience, as we engage with the visual, olfactory, haptic, taste and even auditory aspects of what we consume and produce. Explore some of our content that opens up discussion about the senses, and what that means for how we eat.

Wat Si Muang (Simuong) buddhist temple. Buddhist monks having vegetarian lunch in monastery. Vientiane, Laos..

The Aesthetics of Food

Does food have an aesthetic, and can it even be an aesthetic object? Explore with Jakob Wenzer in Food Words how, in the history of the hierarchy of the senses, visual and auditory are at the top while taste and smell have traditionally been relegated to the bottom. Food has been endlessly scrutinized in relation to its symbolic, visual powers in art history. But can the academic study of food extend to an appreciation of the other senses?

taly, Po Delta, Saluzzo, Vicinity Cuneo, Battery Pig Farms. An image of a pig along with her piglets.

Remembering Through the Senses

You may be familiar with Marcel Proust’s story of eating a madeleine and its evocative taste triggering an essential memory of times past. Work along with David Sutton in Remembrance of Repasts to learn how food has long featured in anthropological work as a means to create commensality, and how this links to taste and memory.

Pamela Anderson unveils her new PETA ad, which features her nearly naked body covered in paint markings at Covent Garden on October 24, 2010 in London, England.

Taste and the Tasteful

Would you eat jellied eel? How about fermented cabbage? Maybe those foods elicit feelings of disgust, as one person’s luxury is another person’s turn-off. But how does taste become enshrined within culture? This key question is one that is posed in the introduction to Making Taste Public: Ethnographies of Food and the Senses and scrutinised in the case studies that follow. The chapters consider taste as a social construct, and challenge the idea of taste as an elitist subject for discussion.

 Holstein dairy cows are seen in their barn after being milked at Armstrong Manor Dairy Farm on September 4, 2018 in Caledon, Canada.

The Invention of Taste

We often pride ourselves for having ‘good’ taste whether that be in food, art, fashion or other social aspects of life but what does that really mean? In The Invention of Taste, Luca Vercelloni explores the history of taste from Renaissance Italy through to modern day, tracking its transformation from a simple biological sense to an expression of sensibility.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) supporters dressed like zombies pretend to gorge themselves on a victim during a Halloween themed protest against consumption of animal meat in Hollywood, California, on October 26, 2017. The protest was to remind passersby that animals are made of flesh and blood like humans.

Case Study

Join Alex Rhys-Taylor as he takes a sensory tour of East London in Food and Multiculture, and explores the material culture of the city. Rhys-Taylor shows how a multi-media ethnographic approach to his research opens up the multi-sensory, and argues that it is through smells and flavours that a new space comes to feel like home, and helps different immigrant population to shape their cultural identities.

Images above are courtesy of Getty Images.