Let’s propose to my brother-in-law to choose between a package of snow-covered donettes and a lobster stew. Most likely he will choose the donettes. Does this mean that buns are better than stew? Probably not. In reality, his choice gives us little or no information about the quality of the available options, and tells us more about the criteria of those who value. The same would happen with a child to whom we gave a choice between a bag of ham-flavored wavy potatoes and a plate of boiled green beans, seasoned with a drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil and a crunchy touch of salt crystals. .
If we transfer these examples, which are taken to the extreme, to the general plan, in the summer season, where clients of all types, classes and conditions travel from one place to another and choose and value restaurants and dishes of all kinds around the world, we will find a huge mass of different opinions and judgments, a multitude of seasoned and biased palates, each one of them according to their own experiences, preferences, philias, phobias, pockets and addictions, ready, almost always and openly, to forcefully affirm “this it’s good and this isn’t”, “this deserves five stars, this one, one”, happily; all of them very convinced of having clean glasses and impartiality on their side.
It is very curious, because with this matter of opinions we are faced with a philosophical problem that is older than hunger and that has not yet been categorically and definitively resolved: since Aristotle and Plato, sweeping the entire History of Philosophy, the old debate between truth and opinion lives on. We have not resolved the distance between reality and perception, we do not know if what we perceive on the palate are, in fact, ham-flavored potatoes or the shadows projected by something unknowable against a wall, distorted by our emotions and memories, by our training and culture , or by the environment itself in which we feel them. No one can know if something is delicious because we like it or if we like it because it is delicious.
We know the multitude of ways that the brain has to deceive us, we know that it prefers efficiency and speed to the truth, and that it tends to discard information and simplify based on our previous beliefs. We are incapable of affirming not only that it is possible to abstract from the biases that distort our way of seeing the world, but that there is an objective, real reality, on the other side of our perceptions.
Who can say with certainty that they are not asleep and dreaming? Who is sure that they are free of biases? Who knows if the “ham taste” is not just electrical stimuli sent by a computer to our brain? Both Matrix and Calderón de la Barca, as Francis Bacon believed that life is only a dream! And that metaphor lives on.
In my opinion, oh, the paradox!, an opinion is nothing more than a stone in the bed of a river, on which I lean today to read the world and advance until tomorrow. And the curious thing about stones, like opinions, is that they do not move, they are the x-ray of an instant, the crystallization of the criteria of whoever observes at that specific moment, and once used to advance, they inevitably fall behind and become on the way to the past. An opinion that is more than a tissue is an obstacle. That is so, or we would never learn anything.
“Experience has to be useful for something” some will say, “having eaten a dish many times has to give you certain criteria when judging if it’s good or not”, and I tell myself that a cow can spend its whole life eating I think without accumulating any kind of knowledge about him; Like my neighbor, he has spent his life enjoying the same brand of frozen Roman squid that his mother gave him for dinner as a child, and today, fifty years later, he only knows them the first day, nor them , neither to squid as a species, nor to the fabulous world of batters, and my neighbor sentences, without blush, that the homemade battered squid that they serve out there are worthless. Is right? Well, probably a mixture of yes and no, because he has his reasons for thinking how he thinks, and because perhaps there is wisdom in putting happiness, pleasure and memory ahead of cold reason, that life is four days. What I find truly exciting about this situation is his ability to provoke questions in me.
When, from time to time, I manage to escape from everyday life and meet my sister for dinner out, the scene always ends the same: the waiter explains the dessert menu, Anna asks if the flan is homemade, he proudly answers yes, than “of course”, and she opts for ice cream. For Anna, the flan called to reign above all possible flans is the Chinese Mandarin that came in little blue packets and that Aunt Margarita made us when we were little. The closest alternative to that flavor from her memory is the fine texture and excessive sweetness of supermarket flans. The others don’t like them.
With each passing day I am more convinced that a prosperous restaurant is nothing more than a pact between diners and restaurateurs who share the same affiliations and deviations. A dance for patients where each psychopathic diner can find an orchestra that plays to the sound of their own illness, and dance. Life teaches me that the only reasonable way to take an opinion is lightly, including —above all— your own.
It would make me immensely happy that ham flavored potatoes really existed in this world!
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