Stunning photos of forked carrots and curvy cucumbers ask us to rethink how we perceive and classify food—and what that says about us.
<p> The incredible variety of colors, curves, and contours that Westphal documents offer their humble resistance to "the suppression of mutation and polymorphism in our industrial food system:"</p><blockquote> <p> The complete absence of botanical anomalies in our supermarkets has caused us to regard the consistency of produce presented there as natural. Produce has become a highly designed, monotonous product. We have forgotten, and in many cases never experienced, the way fruits, roots, and vegetables can actually look (and taste). The Mutato-Project serves to document, preserve and promote these last remainders of agricultural diversity.</p>\n</blockquote><p> Westphal's photos also ask us to think about how we perceive and classify food. As I describe over at <a href="http://www.ediblegeography.com/the-mutato-archive/"><em>Edible Geography</em></a>, although human taste and smell evolved to evaluate our edible environment, our sensory cognition is largely dominated by sight.</p><blockquote> <p> In fact, various studies have demonstrated the ways in which <a href="http://itotd.com/articles/629/the-influence-of-color-on-taste-perception/" target="_blank">taste perception can be distorted by visual cues</a>, with <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/jan/28/food-multi-sensory" target="_blank">professional wine critics led astray</a> by drops of <a href="http://wblakegray.blogspot.com/2010/06/smell-of-mega-purple.html" target="_blank">Mega Purple</a> in a Chardonnay and <a href="http://itotd.com/articles/629/the-influence-of-color-on-taste-perception/" target="_blank">diners sickened when their steak was revealed to be dyed blue</a>. No matter how deformed Westphal’s tomatoes are, cut up in a salad, they would undoubtedly taste as much (or more) like a tomato as their spherical supermarket peers. But, if served whole, would their irregular shapes, colours, and textures affect our perception of their taste?</p>\n</blockquote><p> For more of Westphal's stunning Mutato portraits, you can <a href="http://uliwestphal.de/mutatocollection/index.html">visit his website</a> (where you can also buy a print), and for more on the way European Union fruit and vegetable standards and the requirements of the industrial food system shape our produce aesthetics, check out my longer piece at <a href="http://www.ediblegeography.com/the-mutato-archive/"><em>Edible Geography</em></a>.</p><p> <em>Photo by <a href="http://uliwestphal.de/mutatocollection/index.html">Uli Westphal</a>; thanks to <a href="http://www.psfk.com/2011/02/mutato-project-celebrating-imperfect-beauty.html">PSFK</a> for the link.</em></p>
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