artificial flavor effect – dorito effect – fake food flavor Food for Thought

You Must Remember This: A Chip Is Not (Just) A Chip

It’s summer time – the season of outdoor dinner parties, BBQ’s, and picnics (and yellow jackets!) And surely at some of the summer gatherings you have attended, you have seen or even dug into a delicious dip served with some kind of flavored tortilla chips, or maybe even Doritos? Well, I wanted to let you know that a single Dorito (or any kind of flavored chip) is emblematic of postmodern cultural theory. Don’t know what that means? Let me explain. It’s actually pretty awesome and involves The Matrix!

Jean Baudrillard was a French philosopher who died in 2007. His work was the philosophical basis for The Matrix. Baudrillard’s basic argument is that our modern world is unmoored in anything real. He argues that everything we do, build, touch, taste are just human projections of reality, but not actually reality itself. Remember when Morpheus talks to Neo about “the desert of the real“? That has roots in Baudrillard!

So, let’s take a cheese-flavored Dorito, for example: It tastes like cheesy delicious goodness, but it’s not made of cheese at all. It’s made in a lab, by a food scientist who is an expert in manipulating your taste buds and your experience of deliciousness. And, if you eat enough of these cheese flavored Doritos, when you taste actual, real cheese (like a piece of cheddar or mozzarella), you’ll realize that the fake cheese taste of the chip doesn’t actually mirror the real cheese taste at all. Maybe you’ll even be disappointed in how real cheese tastes and prefer the fake cheese flavoring!

At the same time (and this is where Baudrillard would have a FIELD DAY), much of our food and ingredients are starting to lose their taste because of our modern agricultural mass-production methods. So, while the real thing is disappearing (meaning, the food you are buying/finding at the grocery store is becoming less flavorful), the fake thing (flavors created in labs by food scientists) endure and even eventually replace our understanding and “knowing” of the real thing. So our understanding and experience of cheese is no longer anchored in anything real, but just a projection and a manipulation of the real. The Dorito (the unreal) becomes the real.

Just something to think about that as you tuck into your next flavored chip! If you’re interested to learn more check out this super interesting article about how artificial flavoring manipulates our taste buds.

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