The Pleasures and Memory of Food and Meals



Pleasure is a fundamental part of eating, and the principal determinant of what we consume, given availability. Food and pleasure were originally linked, in evolution, to promote our response to tastes predictive of nutrition. However, both food and pleasure have been extensively elaborated by the process of cultural preadaptation. As a result, food now serves many functions besides nutrition, and pleasures come from a wide variety of sources. The act of eating is hence embedded in a rich set of contexts, and its pleasures extend beyond sensory pleasures to esthetic and mastery pleasures. In the modern developed world, a food-seeking organism that used to be concerned about finding enough food has been placed in an environment with abundant, inexpensive, palatable food, and few constraints on consuming it. Obesity is a likely result; however, cultural/traditional mechanisms, acting largely through the environment, may be able to control this situation. A number of European countries, notably France, have coped better than North America with the persistent conflict between health concerns and thin ideals on the one hand, and the pleasures of eating on the other hand. The pleasures of eating can be parsed into experienced, remembered and anticipated pleasures. Remembered and anticipated pleasures (e.g., food experiences) are an important part of our lives. The mappings from our actual experience to our memories and anticipations are often distorted. This distortion can result in additional problems having to do with optimal food choice in the modern world. Still, relatively affluent humans can maximize their pleasures of eating without maximizing their waistlines by eating modest amounts of delicious foods, eating slowly, and thus savoring the experience of eating. In addition, they can savor the anticipation and the memory of positive food experiences.


Food Choice Sensory Experience Chili Pepper Food Experience Sensory Pleasure 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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