The Theory of Deliciousness is a term I learned the evening I created this blog (July 19 2016), from this great article on David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness, from Wired Magazine. It basically gives his theory on some complex guidelines he has for creating what he hopes to be the next delicious dish for humans despite their backgrounds, cultures, etc.
My Theory of Deliciousness is the presence of balanced contrasting features in one creation to enhance the impact of each feature through a simultaneous presence of the opposing feature. Think “sweet & sour” in Chinese cuisine, for an example. You can appreciate something more if you knew what the opposite of it were like, or had it there to contrast against at the same time. Think of how much better success felt when you had failed numerous times before compared to easy success on the first try. The only difference is no flavour would be considered bad at all times, even if some may be considered negatively most of the time, like bitterness that might be comparable to failure. Each has their own value, especially in certain situations.
Balanced contrasting features means there is more than one example of each feature, and more than one feature with contrasting examples. You can’t have contrast with only one thing. There has to be at least two. Features, in the plural, also means more than one feature. Finally, balanced means no example of a feature is so overwhelming that you can’t detect the other one, like something that is way too salty. You need to be able to know all the examples exist to be able to contrast them.
What counts as a feature? Only a handful, but enough variations in that handful to have a lot of variety.
- Flavour. The most common and obvious contrast is flavour, like sweet & sour Chinese cuisine, or hot, sweet and sour soup from Vietnamese cooking (my ethnicity).
- Texture. Contrasting texture of the components in a dish can add variety to the eating experience. A simple hamburger could be an example, with soft buns and meat patties, crunchy lettuce and pickles, liquid like condiments, etc.
- Aridity. How wet or dry is something? The hamburger example also works well here. Dry bread, wet condiments like ketchup, juicy meat patties that’s in between.
- Aroma. Smells from the food. This may be the weakest of contrasting features I have in my food, but it’s usually only lack of contrasting aromas, not a lack of aroma. I use widely available fresh spices often to add aroma to my food.
My Theory of Deliciousness is an expansion of what I think makes Vietnamese cuisine so delicious. I am Vietnamese by ethnic descent. I grew up with Vietnamese food in the home even though I have lived in Canada since I was eight years old. While many of my favourite things in life available in Vietnamese versions, like music, are not Vietnamese, Vietnamese cuisine remains my favourite, even if I rarely make any of it. That’s what happens when your Parents were such great cooks you don’t feel like making second rate versions of the same food for yourself. I have identified what I think makes Vietnamese cuisine so appealing to so many around the world, and that is its contrasting flavours in most creations. The names of a few common Vietnamese dishes should give you that idea, like hot, sweet and sour soup, or salted lemonade. Most other dishes feature the same contrasting flavours property, just not in the name. My Theory of Deliciousness just expands the features involved beyond flavours, to include texture, aridity and aroma, as described in the previous paragraph.