Developing a Virtual Palate?

01 Jun

Last Monday was our 7th wedding anniversary.

To celebrate, my wife and I went to dinner in a neighboring town. Big surprise, right? You’re already wondering why you should continue reading this blog post; seems like pretty standard fare so far. (Yes, there’s a shameless pun there.)

Actually, I was surprised, as this dining out occasion led me to experience the best plate of food that I’ve had in this country.

Even more surprising? I owe it all to BBC.

No, we didn’t win some contest that paid for the dinner. I owe it to the British Broadcasting Company because they single-handedly refined my taste buds so that I could enjoy this meal at a whole new level.

Yes, watching TV has apparently improved my palate.

Sounds ridiculous. How could subjecting myself to a significant number of episodes of MasterChef and The Chef’s Protege possibly develop my physical ability to appreciate food?

There are plenty of science fiction ideas (and even realities) about 3-D television, “smell-o-vision”, and even “4-D” amusement park experiences. But a regular television program, watched on a small laptop screen…how could such an encounter impact me so tangibly?

Despite the distance–and the lack of actually tasting any of the food–these BBC programs helped develop my awareness of the issues surrounding the creation, taste, and enjoyment of food. After listening to hours of critique, my wife and I have developed a vocabulary and a bit of a discerning perspective when it comes to dining. The impact extends even further, as my wife is sometimes inspired to professionally “plate” our own humble home-cooked meals.  🙂

We’ve been educated, we’ve been shaped, by these experiences. Our virtual palates have been translated into the refinement of real taste.

This is not to say that there’s no place for actually learning by physically experiencing both good and bad food. But it does convince me that our virtual, distance experiences are real.

We make much, in this modern era, of distance communication, virtual community, and remote relationships. We talk about the ability to be anonymous or to shape ourselves into any sort of avatar that we may desire. We pretend that we can live a separated existence online, hidden by the virtuality of it all.

But I don’t think we can. Virtual experience is still experience. The encounters we have courtesy of the Internet shape us; they cannot be limited to only impacting our online persona. We cannot filter ourselves this way.

I carried my BBC experience with me into the restaurant; I couldn’t leave it behind, relegated to the couch or armchair. And for me, it enhanced my appreciation and interaction during the meal.

But just as possibly, negative virtual experiences can shape us as well.

I cannot count the number of times that I’ve heard people refer to attending “the school of YouTube.” From making balloon animals, to knitting, to fixing engines, we flock to the virtual in order to succeed in the tangible. What a marvelous opportunity! So long as we also realize that our casual, entertainment-oriented online experiences also shape our interactions in “real life.”

I enjoy my virtually-shaped palate. Now I must ensure that it doesn’t become tainted by ingesting any other sort of online junk.


Posted by on June 1, 2013 in Life


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Developing a Virtual Palate?

  1. A.H.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    You may be wondering: what was this wonderful meal that I enjoyed? It was a hummus-encrusted chicken, topped with sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber, rocket, bacon, and cottage cheese. The starter was scallops, served with butter crushed peas & bacon, and picked apple salad. Outstanding!

  2. A.H.

    June 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I just read this article from someone who gave up the virtual for a year and ended up encountering an interesting perspective on “real.” I think it echoes some of my own thoughts on realizing that we don’t easily bifurcate our lives into real and virtual.


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