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wundayatta's avatar

Would it be possible to have mass produced gourmet food?

Asked by wundayatta (58354 points ) January 27th, 2011

I was reading the question about what goes into Taco Bell food. It made me think about whether you could mass produce food that would taste good to a foodie. Could you mass produce any gourmet recipe?

But even if you did, would enough people buy it? Or is the mass market made up mostly of people who have never been up close and personal with an artichoke?

If you think the majority of the general population does not have the same taste in food as a foodie, and they don’t know why McDonalds isn’t just as good as low-fat, low-sugar food, why is this? Why would someone not appreciate foodie food?

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14 Answers

jca's avatar

I think Whole Foods has many prepared foods that are considered gourmet, and are produced on a large scale. Trader Joe’s as well. Whether or not that could be done on a McDonald’s size scale is probably something that some entrepreneur is working on, because anyone who does figure out how to do it would have a lot of customers. I, for one, love the convenience of a McD’s drive through and convenience but don’t like the quality and the corporate-ness of it. So if someone could duplicate gourmet quality and mass-market it, they would become a trillionaire, I’m sure!

mrlaconic's avatar

Apple bees is the McD’s of sit down. Most of the food comes pre-cooked and frozen and just heated up before it gets servered to you. So if you consider Apple Bees “gourmet” then there you have it.

Earthgirl's avatar

Some flavors require what they call “an educated palate” I guess that could be construed as food snobbery, but in reality, the more flavors you are exposed to as you grow up, I think the more you appreciate a wide range of flavors. I suppose there are people who genetically were just given picky tastebuds. Ironically the people with picky tastebuds seem to eat a smaller range of foods than your average “foodie”. Most gourmets like a broader range of foods.
Processed foods generally lose something in the texture and often have too much salt in them. I do think as jca said that Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have some good convenience foods but I don’t think most of them would live up to a foodie’s discerning standards. I just got back from Houston and they have a Mexican chain there called Pappasito“s Cantina. I had the tacos there and they were amazing. This is a fast food chain in the airport and I couldn’t believe how good their tacos were. Everything about them blew Taco Bell’s away! The shells were better, deeper and with the perfect crispy crunchy texture, the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and evenly diced and plentiful, the refried beans and rice were really good. It was like Real food. Freshness had a lot to do with it I think.
I think most people know what good healthy food is, they just don’t have time or energy to prepare it. I know that’s the case with me. I get home at 8:00 and I am hungry, my husband is hungry and I am trying not to eat junky snacks. So I have a few nuts, or some pretzel chips with hummous to tide me over and then I try to throw something together fast. I am more or less successful at the healthy part. Ha Ha. The convenience foods from Trader Joe’s really help. Like their frozen vegetable blends. I also like their stuff that isn’t so healthy! But I wouldn’t consider it gourmet in most cases. Just a cut above your average fast food.

thorninmud's avatar

A huge component in our appreciation of food is psychological. When we’re psychologically primed to expect a great taste experience, we’re far more likely to think it’s great. In my experience, foodies are often the people who are the most susceptible to this kind of suggestibility. The story that comes with the food and sets the stage for the tasting experience matters as much as the food itself.

Part of what the foodie wants to hear is how ‘out of the ordinary’ his food is. Anything that becomes mass-market will instantly lose that aura of specialness, and the foodie will lose interest.

We can, and often do, talk ourselves out of trusting our own taste buds. We’re wired to respond favorably to fat foods and sweetness. This is built-in, not learned. Favoring less fat and less sweet is something that we mentally impose over our inborn preferences. When we hear over and over from accepted authorities in the food elite that this or that way of eating shows a more refined palate, then we want to comply.

nikipedia's avatar

I think to a lot of foodies, part of the appeal is that their food is a novelty or avant-garde in some way… mass producing it would diminish that.

cak's avatar

I think it would lose it’s punch. I love trying new things. My children always though as asparagus as a snack. Artichokes don’t last in our house and rarely does a dried spice or herb enter the house. We like sniping our own fresh things.

I think, mass produced you loss some of the charm.

jaytkay's avatar

Wait. Peanut butter is not gourmet?

Imagine if peanut butter were unknown, and you invented it today. I think you could wow some foodies with it.

Cruiser's avatar

I think it can be done and it is on some levels…or many levels it already is being done, it’s just how much are you willing to pay. LiveLob.com and Omaha Steaks have been sending out high quality food for years but the costs are quite high. Don’t get me started on the Gourmet Coffee, Wine and Chocolates that are out there!

Earthgirl's avatar

Wundayatta I think the word gourmet kind of throws your question off. Gourmet means different things to different people. Growing up in white bread suburbia with very few ethnic restaurants I felt that even things which are common to me now were gourmet! It used to have a connotation of exotic or expensive ingredients. Caviar, truffles, expensive chocolate, snails. My best friend went to college and made a lot of Korean friends. She came home and started making sticky rice with seaweed wraps and eating kim chee. Our grocery store had an international section and amazingly we were able to get those things. Since moving to New York City area I have tried to sample all the new foods that I can. By eating at good restaurants I understand what good food should taste like and my standards went up. I learned about seasonings and flavors that I had never had before.
But to get back to the question of mass producing gourmet food, I think like I said the texture suffers when food is cooked then frozen, or frozen raw, then cooked. It’s really hard with some, not all, foods to retain the full flavor. The best ingredients and the freshest ingredients as well as how they are prepared are what set gourmet food apart. Sure, fast food can taste good. We all love the homey appeal of simple comfort foods that are generally easy to make. But a great chef thinks of all the variables. Hot, cold, texture contrasts, flavor contrasts, and balance of flavors. Hard to duplicate in prepackaged food. I guess it may be possible with better food technology. Of course you would still be missing the psychological component that thorninmud speaks of.

YoBob's avatar

@jaytkay There is a great scene in a little known film entitled “Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe”. One of the main characters is named “Max” and is the editor of Epicurus magazine. He storms into his kitchen and makes a big show of calling down one of his cooks for using a canned product and then goes on to rave about such commoner food such as peanut butter. He then proceeds to take a taste of something one of his cooks is eating (which happens to be his own lunch rather than something he is preparing for the restaurant) and declares it to be totally delicious. He then asks what it is, to which the (Asian) cook replies: It’s duck foot soup with peanut butter…

6rant6's avatar

It’s only a matter of perception. Any fresh fruit out of season was gourmet before long haul truckers. In some places exotic fruit is gourmet, but in places where that fruit is grown, it’s ordinary. Seafood tends to look exotic if it’s from way over yonder, but nothing special if you get it off your dock. A lot of people prefer roe from salmon to roe from sturgeon, but caviar is way more expensive. So which of those is gourmet?

Earthgirl's avatar

6rant6 Your comment reminded me of a scene in Mystic Pizza where I think it was Julia Roberts opens the family refrigerator and all she sees is lobster everywhere and she says something like “oh my g-d, not lobster, AGAIN!” They live in mystic Connecticut in a portugese fishing enclave and to them lobster is just same old, same old. Funny.

6rant6's avatar

@Earthgirl Yeah, we have a blood orange tree outside our door. Over the year, the general response has gone from “Ewww! They’re all red! And it’s blood!” to “Omygod, blood oranges! You’re so lucky, they are so good!” to “Oh, blood oranges.l I get mine at Ralph’s.”

YARNLADY's avatar

I think Trader Joe’s comes pretty close.

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