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Gourmet Food

What is gourmet food?  This is a topic we explore on a daily basis, even if we do not go to a fine classy uptown restaurant.  It is a topic some of us are intimately familiar and others completely clueless.  I had always considered myself in the later category for quite some time until I realized that what one person considers gourmet food, another person might consider it to be the equivalent of garbage. 

Take this scenario.  If you rarely have a chance to go to a fine restaurant and you are invited, you of course would expect that since it is more expensive food, the food would taste better.  However, I would argue that even “gourmet” food has its bad moments.  Expensive does not always equal amazing quality.  On the Fox show “Hell’s Kitchen” many novice chefs are competing to win the approval of a world renown chef and the many taste testers that visit their restaurant to rate the level of service.  Although most fine restaurants already established a good reputation, all it takes it for one element of the experience to change and suddenly the gourmet food turns into the main dish served at a local diner.  One element might be a tired and overworked chef.  Another element that can’t be controlled might be the fact that you like sweet versus sour foods.
Because of this, the term gourmet food is very relative.  It is relative because we all come from different backgrounds and what one person considers gourmet, another might consider “so-so”.  Someone from the India might believe gourmet to mean classy vegetarian style meal while someone from Kenya might believe gourmet to mean a classy meat dish.  This is not only due to cultural differences, but also how we accumulate taste preferences growing up.  Taste preference is not only learned, but also a genetic factor. On our tongue we have four types of taste buds:
· Fungiform papillae – which are mostly present at the tip of the tongue but some are on the sides.
· Filiform papillae – which are all over the tongue and most abundant.
· Foliate papillae – which are mostly present around the center of the tongue where grooves easily form
· Circumvallate papillae – which are found mostly on the back of the tongue
Because of the diversity of these taste buds, we all have unique experiences with food in our background.  Sometimes bad childhood experiences, such as burning a certain part of your tongue multiple times, might make you less sensitive to tasting foods that are sweet or sour.  Sometimes, if your family was big on salt, you might become less sensitive to foods that are lightly salted.  Everyone has a different experience and because of this it is almost impossible to say there is only one kind of gourmet food.  
Another way food is relative is that some people like foods cooked very well or raw.  For example, when you go to a restaurant that serves steak, the waiter may ask if you want the steak rare, medium-rare, or well done.  Rare means you hardly want it cooked at all while well done means you want it so cooked there is nothing raw about it.  If you request to have it served rare and you get well done, even though it was nicely cooked and some people would love it, there is a high chance you will be disappointed.  Rare meat tastes VERY different from well done meat.
Separate from our differences in opinion on good tasting meats, there are vegetables.  Some people enjoy raw vegetables.  Raw vegetables typically carry more nutrients than cooked vegetables, however, we all have our preferences.  For example, raw carrots are incredible for getting the nutrient beta carotene into your body.  However, when overly cooked so that even a baby could eat it, the nutrient seeps out of the carrot while boiling and is lost in the water.  Still, some people like the taste of carrots better when cooked versus raw. So next time you are eating with a friend and they exclaim “This is the best (blank) I have ever had” and you are thinking “I’ll never order this again”, do not feel bad.  Your food tasting background may be different from your friend’s experiences.  Your taste buds may have developed differently than your friend’s little taste buds.  Gourmet food is above anything else usually expensive.  A part from being expensive, your experiences with it are completely relative to the science behind your taste buds.
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