Archive for April 8th, 2017

…Cooking, as a physical activity, doesn’t come naturally to me.  It never has.  To compensate for my lack of dexterity, speed, and technique, I think about food constantly.  In fact, I’m much stronger at thinking about food than I am at cooking it.  And recently I started seeing patterns in our most successful dishes that suggested our hits weren’t entirely random;  there’s a set of underlying laws that links them together.  I’ve struggled to put this into words, and I haven’t talked to my fellow chefs about it, because I worry they’ll think I’m crazy.  But I think there’s something to it, and so I’m sharing it now for the first time.  I call it the Unified Theory of Deliciousness.
This probably sounds absolutely ridiculous, but the theory is rooted in a class I took in college called Advanced Logic.  A philosopher named Howard DeLong taught it;  he wrote one of the books that directly inspired Douglas Hofstadter to write “Gödel, Escher, Bach“.  The first day, he said, “This class will change your life,” and I was like, “What kind of asshole is this?”  But he was right.  I would never pretend to be an expert in logic, and I never made it all the way through Gödel, Escher, Bach.  But the ideas and concepts I took away from that class have haunted me ever since.
DeLong and Hofstadter both found great beauty in what the latter called strange loops — occasions when mathematical systems or works of art or pieces of music fold back upon themselves.  M. C. Escher’s drawings are a great, overt example of this.  Take his famous picture of two hands drawing each other;  it’s impossible to say where it starts or ends.  When you hit a strange loop like this, it shifts your point of view:  Suddenly you aren’t just thinking about what’s happening inside the picture;  you’re thinking about the system it represents and your response to it.
Hofstadter (yes, him again) had a different word for what I call base patterns.  He called them isomorphisms, concepts that can be expressed in different ways while retaining their core form.  He used the example of a record player.  The groove in the record, the vibrations in your loudspeaker, the sound waves in the air:  These are all different media, but they expresses the same underlying pattern.
That’s how I feel about food.  Different cultures may use different media to express those base patterns — with different ingredients, for instance, depending on what’s available.  But they are, at heart, doing the exact same thing.  They are fundamentally playing the same music.  And if you can recognize that music, you’ll blow people’s minds with a paradox they can taste:  the new and the familiar woven together in a strange loop.
     —    David Chang
From the article:  “David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine;  dtd:  August 2016
Link to the article:  https://www.wired.com/2016/07/chef-david-chang-on-deliciousness/
On This Day In:
2016 Survival Instinct
2015 Tears
2014 Bourne Again (4)
2013 God’s Protection
2012 Happy Easter!!
Edge, Class, Clash, And Flight
The Value Of Bureaucracies
2011 Logic Cuts

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