Should You Get Another Order of That Incredible Mushroom Dish?
The choice isn't as simple as it sounds.
Recently, Michael and I were eating out with friends in a Chinese restaurant on the island of Penang, Malaysia. The food was excellent. But we’d finished everything we’d ordered, and Michael and I were still hungry, so we decided to order a bit more.
We’d really liked the mushroom dish we’d just had. So the choice before us was:
Should we order that mushroom dish again?
Should we order something different — perhaps the other mushroom dish on the menu, which included tree ear fungus?
Should we order both dishes?
I can’t speak for Michael, but I hesitated to choose #3 because it seemed like such the American thing to do.
Of the remaining two choices, the first seemed the most obvious.
I love mushrooms, and that first dish had been especially good. Mushrooms possess a rare “fifth taste” — apart from sweet, sour, salt, or bitter — called “umami,” which in the original Japanese, means, “essence of deliciousness.” It’s the meat or “brothy” flavor also found in fermented soy or fish sauces.
Are mushrooms one of my comfort foods? Research tells us that certain foods trigger positive memories and emotions, and high-sugar and/or high-fat foods also activate reward centers in the brain. Maybe mushrooms do that for me too, because they taste so rich and meaty, even though they have virtually no fat.
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So if we ordered the mushroom dish again, I’d get to experience that same incredible flavor a second time, right?
Research also tells us that food literally tastes less good the more you eat of it — that the first few bites of something are always the best. This is called “sensory specific satiety,” and it’s why we eat so much at Thanksgiving and at all-you-can-eat buffets — because there is such a variety of different food choices.
It’s also why, even though we might feel stuffed at the end of a meal, we always seem to have room for dessert. Dessert is something new.
You can’t step in the same river twice, you can’t go home again, and you can’t experience that first amazing bite of those incredible mushrooms two times in the same meal.
And then there’s the whole other issue of expectations.
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