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Novelty, Chewing Gum and Saturation Points

Heston Blumenthal is an award-winning chef who is pioneering a more scientific approach to food. Egg and bacon ice-cream, liquorice pasta all sound disgusting, but he seems to be able to trick the brain into thinking they're nice. Certainly his Fat Duck restaurant at Bray is rolling in Michelin Stars.

Recently, he wrote a piece in the Guardian about saturation points.

The more I learn about the world of flavour - how we perceive it, register it, react to it - the more factors come into play, and the more complicated and fascinating it becomes.

One thing I discovered recently was that our taste receptors can become saturated if exposed to a flavour for too long. I already knew that the brain can become tired of registering one particular flavour. That's why chewing gum seems to stop tasting of anything after a while. It hasn't, in reality; it's just that your brain has got tired of it and wants to go on to something else. (You can test this by taking the gum out of your mouth, saving it, then chewing it again after an hour or so, or after chewing something else.)

It's fascinating stuff. Certainly, it struck me as an all too familiar dynamic, and a sweet metaphor for various things.

Rich Hall, for instance, picked up on a similar theme in one of his sniglets

Snacktrek, n.:
The peculiar habit, when searching for a snack, of constantly returning to the refrigerator in hopes that something new will have materialized.
It's only really a gut feeling, but I suspect there's real value in working out how best to balance this process: when to search and when to think. If you've hit a saturation point, go searching (for anything, if you go with the hare brain, tortoise mind approach). And if you find yourself snacktrekking, time to sit down and actually use that brain, time to go back to what you've got and chew it over.

None of which is particularly new. But I can't help wondering whether many approaches to innovation are actually encouraging snacktrekking. Maybe hardwiring some indicators into an news aggregator - stopping would this flip-flopping between saturation points and snacktrekking, saying here's all the news you've got, it's all you can deal with, get thinking - maybe that might constrain the process, and maybe that constraint would make you more creative.


- Heston Blumenthal has written a little on the science of food at his Fat Duck site.
- Geeta at the Original Soundtrack reports on the dangerous combination of chewing gum and music.


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