Ranting about the idea of delicious

Ranting about the idea of delicious

One thing you should know about me is that there’s nothing I love more than shitting on Tennessee. It’s something about growing up there and being a resentful little runt. Seeing things like Memphis in May on Serious Eats, sort of made me wish that I explored the Volunteer State more when I had the chance. Damn those redneck racists and dirt country roads from preventing me from doing all that’s good and awesome. One day I hope to rectify that personal mistake, but in the meantime, that article did stir up another thought in my mind… see, I’m a huge fan of sports. And in sports, the one question that comes up year after year is whether a team is an all-time great. For example, the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls team won 72 games out of 82 games in the regular season and went on to win the title that year. Many basketball fans consider that team one of the greatest of all time. The problem with comparing all-time great teams is that well… we all age. Michael Jordan never played against Bill Russell. But you know what? We don’t have that problem in the food world. In fact, a kick-ass recipe from 1995 could theoretically be kickass today. While we’re at it, why go just 15 years back? It could be an 1910 recipe and still be awesome. So this means that it’s easier to compare food, right?

Just think about it… at the Memphis in May competition, you often have multiple-time winners, and you have teams that compete every year. Even though we can’t compare the NBA Champion of 2009-2010 directly to the Jordan-era Bulls, we should be able to do that with recipes. But if you read James’ piece on the contest, you’ll learn that the judges have skewed towards a sweeter tasting BBQ in recent years. So what does this mean for the idea of delicious?

It’s a worthy question to ponder because when we theorize about basketball teams from one era to another, we also take into account what changes occur with the rules. We take into account how the games are judged, so to speak. Today in the NBA, there’s no stiff-arm hand-checking allowed. For non-basketball fans, this means that a defender is not allowed to put his arm on your to impede your direction at the basket. However, when Michael Jordan played, you were allowed to do that. So does this mean that Jordan would be even more dominant in today’s era? Similarly in food, would the ’95 judges treat the 2010 contestants the same way that 2010 judges treat the food? To put it simply, would folks from a different era think our idea of delicious is whack? And how would we feel about theirs?

Just reading a comment on the SE article reveals that the contestants don’t think about something like this. One commentor simply said that there’s no reason the Memphis in May winner shouldn’t be World Champions. Yes well, how does the 2010 champion compare to the champions of years past? In sports we never know what kind of adjustments Jordan would make if Russell guarded the rim on the way to a trophy. We also don’t know what kind of adjustments a whole team would make when faced with a opponent with their own agenda. In food, the winning recipe is probably never shared at competitions like this and there’s probably variations and adjustments year-to-year.

Of course this puts me in a weird spot because I’m trying to tell people about what’s delicious. Restaurants probably can’t achieve the consistency the way that competition chefs/cooks can, due to the fact that the volume at a restaurant is so many times higher. Thinking about this more, I feel like a competition for food cooking is more like a March Madness tournament. Even though each year you crown a champion… you never get to compare champions to champions. The recipes are never the same and our idea of delicious evolves over time. If I can just eat something good in the moment, then it doesn’t matter how things compare.

note – the pictures are of a random diner that served brunch. Omelet and huevos rancheros.

Posted by Danny on May 25, 2010 at 6:17 pm

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