After watching me eat various “questionable” foods, my friends came up with a list of edible items considered to be controversial to most people. Apparently pickles make the cut…
pickles/cornichons/gherkins/onions (anything pickled basically).
Basically anything with a strong (usually bitter) taste.
I love all of these foods, especially the pickles and I struggle to understand why some people don’t like them. Here is my experience of a pickle..
I probably ate a few as a child, but I can’t remember having any strong response to them. Then later, a small slice inside tacky McDonald’s restaurants, with their old yellow and red sticky plastic design. Best part of the experience. One day I’d eat it in the burger, waiting for the crunch, and then next, remove it with ketchupy fingers and bite off the skin around the edges. Crisp and different to the other flavours. A small green, ridged coin.
Then I moved onto little cornichons in glass jars after a holiday to France. Crunching my way through while reading the last Harry Potter book. Are they bitter or sour? I can’t quite decide, but I love the feeling of sticking my fingers in the vinegar and grasping their knobbly surface. Grotesque. But great. And now, always a jar in my cupboard, right at the back, and the smell of vinegar… Then I moved onto pickled onions..
Pickles exist to me through my senses. They are an aesthetic reality made clear through my engagement with them. And I do like to engage with them..
“The world exists through our senses before existing in a more ordered fashion in our minds and we should do all we can to preserve the creative faculty of sense throughout our lives: seeing, hearing, observing, understanding, touching, caressing, smelling, inhaling, tasting, exercising the faculty of ‘taste’, for everyone for others, for life itself.”
Condillac- Quoted in the “Sweetness of life” by Françoise Héritier.
I am not constantly thinking about my breathing or the hairs that are touching the back of my neck; if I was aware of everything my senses detected at all times, it would be extremely over stimulating. My attention is drawn to certain information that I receive and the rest makes up my ongoing “background” experience. This is how I conceptualise my sensory experience.
However, even if I am not conscious of everything at all times, it is this existential moment of my body’s engagement with everything that creates my sense of the world and my identity.
So, in this way, your identity and sense of the world are both created and limited by your sensory perceptions. Ingold discusses this in his work, “The Perception of the Environment” where he states that, “the problem of perception… is one
of how anything can be translated or ‘cross over’ from the outside to the inside, from the
macrocosm of the world to the microcosm of the mind.”.
Ingold sees the “world” as a separate entity to the person/body, and the interfaces between these two separate entities as the senses (the eye and the ear for example). He states that our knowledge comes from sensory experience and questions whether, if something exists only in our perception, it is real, or can affect us. Ingold uses the example of an approaching train. He states that you can perceive it, but how do you know if this perception is attached to the actual aesthetic reality of a train? In other words, how do we know if the sensory information we receive corresponds to any physical reality, or, if we’re getting really philosophical, that the world as a separate “entity” to the body even exists?
It is a common consensus, especially among scientists, that the sensory information we receive is the result of physical happenings, but regardless, Ingold’s debate brings a different perspective to the thinking around embodied experience and the senses. It is important to question sensory experience and to wonder whether perceptions are representative of aesthetic reality, because after all, it is supposed that everyone’s sensory perception of the world is slightly different.
Check out my next post on Synesthesia to find out more…
Ingold, T. (2011). The perception of the environment. 1st ed. London: Routledge.
Françoise Héritier (2012). The Sweetness of Life.
Photo of pickles from: http://wardrobeadvice.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Pickle-stains1.jpg