The pleasure of food is the sensation of well-being that derives from the fulfillment of a natural instinct. Scientists involve two essential elements in food pleasure. They are the emotional and psychological tension created by the initial impulse or desire of that inner need. Thus, eating pleasure clearly corresponds with the two basic requirements of life, replication, and sustenance.
Along the thresholds of pleasure, two distinct worlds intersect: the internal and the external. Pleasure from within is derived from a desire to satisfy the basic necessity of existence. The pleasure from without corresponds with the means of achieving that satisfaction. We see that the senses connect both worlds. Eating for pleasure acquires enormous existential importance when confronted by the problem of the sensation or experience of living. This category of pleasure belongs to the senses that are most basic and primal to the concept of happiness. In classical Greco-Roman culture, it was held with a Greek symposium, where primal pleasure was linked to the communication of ideas. In other words, the intersection of physical pleasure with spiritual satisfaction. The biblical Book of Ecclesiastes also arrives at this conclusion. It shows the joy of feasting, and friendship is the only human alternative to the vanity of existence.
Eating For Pleasure Expanded
The superiority of eating pleasure over all other forms of pleasure is apparent. It is related to needs that are more long-term and vital, embracing the entire life span. This comes from feeding at the mother’s breast to the final moment of existence. Human beings renew the pleasant necessity of eating daily. Because it is ineligible, it also transcends any moral code. On the other hand, since humans are omnivorous, the senses must be infinitely varied for this kind of pleasurable experience. This same rationale collaborates with hedonism so fantasy can develop its maximum potential. From this comes the popular expression of “creating a need from pleasure”, which, when reworded in a more precise manner, is “creating pleasure out of necessity.” Is this necessity a requirement for pleasure? Pleasure is one of the rewards for eating.
The Common Approach To Eating For Pleasure
In the initial approach to the pleasure of food, the first signal comes in the impulse or need to eat. Later, the bodily senses direct the person to a means for satisfying this impulse. Finally, distension is created in the act of eating itself. Yet, culturally, this simple phenomenon becomes more complex than that. The stimulation derived from food directly intervenes in the need to eat to the point of provoking it.
Consequently, the pleasure of eating has evolved into an art, the art of food consumption. This comes with the goal of containing, drawing out, and directing the primal necessity of nourishment. Unquestionably, the need for satiety and satisfying the senses plays a role in the pleasure of eating.
Human and cultural contexts also add to this. Out of these conflicting sensations evolved the perceived ties between the pleasure of eating and the source of the food. This includes climate and geography as well as diverse cultural ideas defining it.
Pleasure and Culture
Contrary to popular belief, the determining factor of food pleasure is not the taste of the foods produced. Instead, it is from their cultural contexts or definitions. For example, it is not the intense flavor of a homegrown orange that pleases, but rather the idea that it is homegrown, which is a cultural value. Taste is chemical and biological; food pleasure is per-ceptional. Pleasure derived from the act of eating is beyond question. Still, its importance also competes with other forms of pleasure or interest current in a given social context. The availability of time, the relationship to other forms of pleasure, its ritualistic value, and its connection to health all help to define the hedonistic role.
Using Western civilization as a point of reference, the excess food available creates a problem. This comes in selecting and determining the line of preparation a person should follow with any given choice. That is one reason for the proliferation of cookbooks. All of this may increase the pleasure of creativity in the kitchen but not the actual act of eating. Cultures in which the sources of nutrition are more limited exhibit a realization that consumption must take place as soon as time and circumstance permit. Indeed, in primitive cultures, hunting, gathering, and eating all day long was a necessity. Thus, in those cultures, all the potential for pleasure was concentrated in daily nourishment. This was even if it was just one meal from a standard pot.
Other Societies Pleasure And Culture
In non-Western societies, the act of eating is sometimes occasional because of the sporadic nature of food gathering as well as the difficulty of conserving food in areas of high temperature and humidity. When food sources become secure and predictable, the food itself propitiates the ritualization of meals at fixed times. Mediterranean culture is paradigmatic in this regard since daily, family-oriented meals take place at set times. These times are called “sacred” because changing the fixed pattern would cause an imbalance. This imbalance would be within family relationships and personal well-being. The intimate relationship between pleasure and necessity makes it difficult to know to what extent pleasure affects such eating habits since it is normal for pleasure to accommodate itself to all nutritional possibilities.
Appreciating the determinate element in pleasure requires an analysis of all gratuitous and extraordinary factors that intervene in the refinement and culinary expression of food. Unusual or complex methods of preparation are not justified by any other reason. The inclusion of spices and additives that are purely hedonistic, extraordinary ingredients. People interact with the presence of stimulating beverages, such as wine and liquor. Many associate these elements clearly with the pleasure of food.
Cultural Differences In Eating For Pleasure
The islands of Asia, especially Japan, have developed the visual elaboration of food into an art form. In the cultures of coastal regions with a mild climate, spices, and herbs magnify the aroma of food. Alternatively, in the industrialized West, closely managed food production and fixed consumption times have altered pleasure with precooked or packaged meals. While this promotes growth for the food industry on a mass-market level, the elements of joy are diminished. Some examples of these elements are visual, as in Japanese dishes that resemble ikebana; intense flavor, as in the excessive heat in many tropical cookeries; the rich aromas of Mediterranean home cuisine; and the infinite varieties of elaborate desserts available in all cultures. Yet food pleasure is mutable and a contradiction from the fact that even popcorn eaten by the television is pleasurable.
Each individual has their own pleasure values for food and alcohol, which for some is an actual addition, such as chocolate, and for others, a natural dimension of the extended food experience. The latter evolves into such things as wine as an aperitif before the meal, wine to embellish consommés, fish and meats, sparkling wines for celebrations, and sweet wines for dessert. Arguably, wine is not necessary for food pleasure. Cultures that prohibit alcohol demonstrate this. The point, however, is that its delights are cultural, and where alcohol is perceived as part of the eating pleasure, it is employed to enhance it.
The evening meal has become, by definition, the most hedonistic, although the motives that give rise to this type of food pleasure may be pretty diverse, such as business gatherings, a sentimental or romantic rendezvous, or celebrations and anniversaries. The classical symposium of the ancient Greeks has been preempted by restaurants and hotels, especially those meals of a ritualistic nature.
An example is wedding banquets, which are common and are becoming more and more similar the world over. Humans added specific religious life-cycle observances, such as baptisms, communions, circumcisions, funerals, and the like. Industrialized countries banished the pleasures of food and eating to the position of last. Behind such factors as dieting for better health or weight loss, fear of contaminants, and minimal time in preparation and consumption. Many define this by the various artificial “styles” of consumption created by the food-packaging industry in such labels as “home style” and “Oriental style.”
The Ritualized Pleasures of Food
Ritualized pleasure may be defined as the pleasure derived from the time designated for eating over the course of the day, and it varies significantly from one culture to the next. Europe defines it as breakfast, dinner, and supper, and some cultures also add optional meals in between. Two of these would be the light aperitif and the late afternoon break or snack. Both follow purely hedonistic impulses, both are defined by economic status, and both are limited by such considerations as care of children, the sick, the elderly, or workers who may require more nourishment due to third labor. The aperitif has a more social and hedonistic quality since alcoholic beverages play an important role.
The Pleasure of Beverages as Food
The problems alcoholic beverages pose derive from their double roles as mood-altering drugs and as hedonistic elements of food consumption. To begin with, the higher the alcoholic content, the more likely the beverage will be employed as a pleasurable drug rather than as an adjunct to food. Wine, with its infinite variations of aromas, tones, textures, and alcoholic content, is the beverage most used for pleasure at the table. People view wine without a doubt as the most hedonistic association. Not to mention its intimate relationship with Judeo-Christian culture and Greco-Roman culture. In the modern era, it is expected to enjoy a glass of wine with raw almonds or other nuts on a charcuterie board. These are practices that still carry on today.
Liquors have a double origin in that they are often derivatives of other beverages of lesser alcoholic content, such as beer and wine. One of the significant contributions of human ingenuity to the search for pleasure was the discovery that alcohol could be extracted from seemingly unlikely substances. Such is the case with liquors from cacti, milk, honey, seeds, or indeed any nutrient-containing carbohydrates with alcoholic fermenta. These types of beverages with higher alcoholic content are the most distant from the pleasures of the table. This is because they are most like drugs, and many were, in fact, first employed as medicines. Many intimately view wine as associated with gastronomic culture.
Pleasure for Pleasure’s Sake
Human beings are the only animals capable of detaching themselves from the pleasures of the natural instincts that sustain life. Food is a vital necessity. This creates expectation, which induces excitement. Pleasure, separated from need, is aimed more at taste than smell, more at the scarcity and cost of the food item, and more at the capacity for satiety, including the dimension of danger.
The history of elegant and refined food is written with rare and costly materials, which become the criteria for cultural values. The Romans prepared dishes appreciated because of their rarity, such as peacock eyes, which later seemed absurd and repugnant. They greatly valued foods that were scarce in the past. Humans now view these same foods as vulgar because they are everywhere accessible. This commonness lessened the pleasure of their consumption due to the loss of their exotic and sumptuous qualities.
Finally, the ultimate forms of food pleasure come to the element of extreme danger. Mushrooms have always posed a significant risk due to the possibility of poisoning, especially in earlier periods. This fear has not detracted from their gastronomic interest; instead, the risk has made them all the more attractive. Risk has achieved an even higher level of refinement in the consumption of fugu. This is a Japanese fish that poses sudden death due to the presence of dangerous toxins in the entrails. A dish composed of this species of fish and prepared by a certified chef is a luxurious delicacy in Japan. The Japanese view it as a mockery of fear experienced in the tingling it causes to the lips and mouth. Here, the delicate meal passes beyond the boundaries of mere satisfaction. It is no longer food; it is a victory over death.
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