Subjectivity Vs. Objectivity (4/27)

So this week we spent a good half hour discussing the quality or “goodness” of wine and drinks and food in general, and whether similar foods are actually perceivably different or the differences we attribute to them are merely cultural placebo effects, or even just lies.

The way that wine is perceived today really is, at least in my perception and opinion, quite esoteric. For example, I often wonder if an expensive bottle of wine from Spain is really that different from an expensive bottle of wine from France or Italy. I have never tasted wine, and I don’t think I will until I’m at least 21, but to be honest, I think the difference, if there is one, will be about as big as the difference between the wine from the grapes grown on the south side of the mountain we were talking about and the wine from the grapes grown on the north side. It’s the same with a lot of foods. Take caviar (caviar from salmon in Alaska and Russia is perceived as better than caviar from salmon anywhere else, not even to speak of sturgeon caviar). Also, lobster. We talked about this in class. Maine lobster is (perceived to be) better than any other lobster, even if it was caught in Newfoundland or off the coast of Virginia. Is there really a difference that is detectable by human senses? Maybe a miniscule one.

But so what? What’s wrong with the cultural perception that food (and other products and even people for that matter) that is essentially the same is better when it comes from one place rather than another? I believe that many of these things (lobster and blueberries happen to be the staples here) give a place its character. Maine wouldn’t be Maine without its lobsters, and my home in the western mountains wouldn’t be… complete without the weekly wild blueberry harvesting trips in the summer. Is the pizza in one town better than that in another town 10 miles away? Probably not, but I will never in my right mind buy pizza from that other place, because I am loyal to my own community. It’s things like these, the food and the culture that give people pride in saying “I’m from Maine”, or Massachusetts, or France, or Australia, or Russia, or Nepal, or wherever. I think the world would be a bit more dull if everything was looked at and judged by the number of calories it has, or its chemical composition.

Next time I go home, I will make a special trip to Portland to buy a few pounds of Maine lobster, because even though it may not be any different from the lobster caught a few hundred miles from here, it embodies the personality of where and how I live.

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