Taste and the Nomothetic Diet

Christopher L. Fink
Ohio Wesleyan University

Dietary health promotion often lacks reconciliation between population-level nomothetic nutritional guidance and the ideographic application of such information in a wide range of populations. While some global dietary guidelines include pleasure and enjoyment in their recommendations, the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans lacks any direct mention of these factors in promoting a “healthy” diet. Despite this, taste and palatability are often identified as key drivers in food choice, indicating support for Brillat-Savarin’s oft-cited and long-standing contention that taste “...invites us by pleasure to repair the losses which result from the use of life.” In the time since, the exploration of taste in relation to food has included aesthetic judgement and discernment, cultural pressures, exclusivity, and anxieties around body image and health, in addition to physiological/sensory aspects. Over the past five years, we have directed a community food education program in Central Ohio using the Cooking Matters® curriculum. Because Cooking Matters® classes are facilitated by undergraduate students who often come from a different socio-economic background than program participants, tensions around class identity, individual and group conceptions of health, and sensory judgements of food have often come to light. This essay seeks to explore these tensions in light of theoretical constructs of taste.

KEYWORDS: Taste, Dietary Guidelines, Food Insecurity, Dietary Health

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