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Alicorn comments on Experiential Pica - Less Wrong

81 Post author: Alicorn 16 August 2009 09:23PM

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Comment author: Alicorn 17 August 2009 10:55:45PM *  7 points [-]

Why the McDonalds hate? There's not that much difference between McDonalds food and what you get in fancier, more expensive restaurants.

Do you have tastebuds?

I mean, I know I'm a food snob, but... Maybe the problem is that you have a confused category of "fancy, expensive restaurant"?

Comment author: CronoDAS 17 August 2009 11:22:00PM 3 points [-]

I mean, in terms of nutrition and being a superstimulus. What you get in a fancy French restaurant is likely to be just as good - or bad - for your body as what you get in McDonalds. Heck, the fancy restaurant probably uses a lot more butter, for one thing.

In terms of taste, though, I agree that McDonalds is less than impressive - the other common fast food chains are significantly better, as far as I'm concerned. Personally, I don't notice much of a difference in the amount of pleasure I get from eating Really Expensive food (I've been to a Really Expensive restaurant once or twice on vacation) and from eating more ordinary food that I happen to like.

Comment author: kpreid 18 August 2009 12:35:57AM 3 points [-]

Neither the fancy restaurant nor the fast food restaurant is optimizing for nutrition.

However, the fast food restaurant is optimizing for cost, while maintaining acceptable taste. The fancy restaurant, though, is probably serving food that is in some way traditional (else it would be Weird, not Fancy; there are exceptions of course); that is, there is a long history of people eating it. I have heard (no sources, sorry) that any particular traditional cuisine tends to be reasonably healthful [compared to what? I forget], presumably because people have been successful living off it.

So given that, the fancy restaurant is likely to serve more nutritious food.

(I think the weakest link in this is whether the average fancy restaurant does, in fact, serve traditional-in-that-sense food, and whether the presumable skew towards the particularly appealing, rather than typical, food of that cuisine opposes this effect.)

Comment author: ChrisHibbert 18 August 2009 01:32:30AM 2 points [-]

California cuisine in particular can get expensive, and one of its hallmarks is the inventiveness of the chef in combining fresh ingredients into a new dish. So you're probably right that expensive French or expensive Italian is mostly traditional food, but there are other cuisines that aren't like that.

Comment author: kpreid 18 August 2009 02:30:34AM 0 points [-]

That's the type of exception I had in mind. Of course, “fresh” says something about the nature of the food too. (Unless you mean "novel" as opposed to "recently alive".)

Comment author: ChrisHibbert 18 August 2009 04:30:44PM 2 points [-]

The "fresh" in California cuisine is about "recently alive", though "novel" is often part of the experience as well.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 August 2009 01:05:50AM 6 points [-]

The fancy French restaurant may use more butter, but they also know about the existence of vegetables that aren't iceberg lettuce, the most ordinary of tomatoes, and onion. And they use spices more esoteric than salt, some of which have beneficial health effects. And they don't encourage you to consume your meal with an enormous container of fizzy sugar water.

Comment author: CronoDAS 18 August 2009 04:31:34PM 3 points [-]

Well, you're right about the diversity of ingredients. And indeed, the fizzy sugar water is definitely bad. I don't order it myself, though, because fizzy drinks usually give me heartburn. (I get water or orange juice.)

I just think that a lot of the food served at fast food restaurants isn't as awful as people assume it to be. At least, I think we can agree that there are things that are a lot worse than a McDonalds hamburger, which, for all its flaws, is still more like actual food than a Twinkie is. ;)

Comment author: randallsquared 19 August 2009 04:08:31AM 1 point [-]

Frankly, for a lot of people (myself included), I think increasing the portion size by 10% counts for more enjoyment than using more than one kind of tomato or eight kinds of lettuce. It's reliable in a way that adding other kinds of things isn't, since the more different things there are, the more likely it is that one of them or some combination will be unpalatable.

Please consider the possibility that some of us actually prefer chain restaurant food to "fancy Xish restaurant" food, bizarre as it may seem to you, if you don't. :)

Comment author: Alicorn 19 August 2009 04:38:54AM 3 points [-]

I think such a preference is more likely to result from an inadequate sample of fancy food (because some upscale places aren't at all good enough to justify their cost) and/or sour grapes about its expense, but perhaps some people are well-sampled and find fancy food financially accessible and still don't think it's an improvement over McDonald's. These people, I contend, do not have tastebuds. McDonald's can ruin chicken fingers.

(For what it's worth, I virtually never go out to eat at all (on my own dime): when I do, I make a point of getting mostly things that I don't know how to cook myself, such as sushi.)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 August 2009 05:38:53AM 5 points [-]

Y'know, I plain can't eat McDonalds myself. But I also can't tell the difference between low-quality and high-quality chocolate, and my girlfriend can, and she thinks McDonalds is one of the culinary wonders of the world.

It takes all sorts.

Comment author: thomblake 19 August 2009 03:18:26PM 3 points [-]

McDonald's can ruin chicken fingers.

I contend that it was because they were working outside their milieu. Chicken McNuggets are already perfect, and so one must feel a tearing at one's soul to work for McDonalds and invent another chicken dish.

Comment author: Psychohistorian 18 August 2009 02:52:54AM 1 point [-]

McDonald's is also maximizing for serving size. Fancy restaurants rarely do this; some pretty much minimize portion size so they can sell you as many overpriced microportions as possible. But a lot of fast food (and chain restaurants) sell huge, cheap portions compared to more expensive restaurants, so it is something of a case of having a whole lot of something compensates for it not being quite what you need.