I just love this question. Why is there 40 kinds of mustard but only one dominant player in the Ketchup market? Why is there 40 kinds of salsa and spaghetti sauce but only 1 kind of mayonnaise? One of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell answers this in his new book “What the Dog Saw” You might know Malcolm Gladwell from his award winning book’s Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers. All of which are AMAZING books and I recommend you buy them right away, or if you live in Atlanta, I can let you borrow mine for a few days!
Anyways, In his new book, What the Dog Saw, he addresses that very issue. Basically people used to think that there was a perfect food. A perfect salsa, a perfect potato chip, but what Dr. Moskowitz, a pschophysicist, discovered that there was not a perfect food, but rather perfect foods. The best example is spaghetti sauce. The food industry in the 70s and earlier, thought that everyone wanted a thin spaghetti sauce, but actually 1/3 of the people wanted a chunky sauce, even though they would never say so in a food study panel. People don’t know what they want, you have to tell them! Here there was, an entire 1/3 of the population unhappy about their spaghetti sauce because of the assumption of perfect foods.
That’s why nowadays you have 40 types of chips, and 40 types of salsa and all this variety.. but why only 1 type of ketchup (Heinz)? The reason is two fold; 1. Heinz ketchup hits all 5 of your tastes buds: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (a savoryness best tasted as the thickness in chicken soup) which very foods do, and you start using it as a toddler during those crucial years when everything you taste, usually you enjoy for the rest of your life. As your parents give you a new food, you can create some certainty by adding ketchup to the flavor of it. Also, the flavors are so well blended together in ketchup, that it is very hard to distinguish between the different flavors themselves. Since you don’t taste any one flavor in ketchup, your palate never grows tired of it. Here you can read the entire article written by Malcolm Gladwell.
Is there a perfect beer?
No. For many reasons, which I’m sure most of your craft beer connoisseurs already knew, but here’s some science behind it, using Malcolm’s research.
1. You aren’t exposed to beer as a toddler (well you shouldn’t be at least!) so therefore you won’t develop that crucial life-long taste for it such as ketchup and other foods. It is definitely an acquired taste.
2. Usually with most beers, you can pick out individual flavors so your palate will eventually tire of those flavors and you will want something else. I love double IPA, hop bombs, but I can think of many situations where I want something a bit more sessionable.
There is no perfect beer only perfect beers, and perfect beers for certain people or situations. Beer seems to be an interesting subject, because to me I really enjoy the variety of trying new beers all the time, but my favorite fruit and juice is hands down grapefruit. Always has been always will be. I very rarely drink OJ or pineapple juice if grapefruit juice is available. The palate loves consistency but also craves variety at the same time. The next time you see someone you know drinking the same beer they always drink, before you criticize them, think about that one food item you would want to eat or drink everyday and to your perfect food is their perfect beer.
What is that favorite food item? Mine is a tie between grapefruit and tomatoes.