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Americans' bizarre relationship with the color of their food

from The Atlantic

There are many parts of the world where, for much of human history, food was likely a dull visual affair. Take Tuscany, the culinarily renowned region of Italy that the writer Bill Buford muses on in his book about cooking, "Heat." He details a near-monochrome local cuisine that has been passed down through the generations: Crostini with chicken-liver paté? Brown. Beans? Brown. Roasted pork, veal, sausage? Brown, brown, brown. Even the vegetables: Buford classifies Tuscan artichokes and olives as "green-brown," and more amusingly, the porcini mushrooms as "brown-brown." Over the past 150 years, food companies and marketers in other parts of the world have taken eating in a more visually thrilling (if a little disorienting) direction. They have used dyes to alter mass-produced foods — sometimes to make them less natural-looking, sometimes to make them more natural-looking (pickles made greener to fit with consumers' expectations). Both intentions are, upon further inspection, sort of strange. The first one is odd because it's not entirely clear, even to researchers, why anything with some abnormally bright colors would be appetizing at all, given that when, say, the color blue appears in nature, it's often a sign of spoilage or poison. And the second is a paradox: How could a food be made to look "more natural" by virtue of artificial additives? more

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