You have no idea what you’re putting in your mouth

Pax Arcana

A few weeks back, a pair of high school students in New York bought sushi at a bunch of different restaurants and takeout joints and sent them to a lab for DNA testing. The results showed that many of the samples contained an entirely different type of fish than was advertised (say tilapia instead of white tuna).

The revelation prompted many of Manhattan’s finest restaurateurs to blow their toques in defense of their own product, which they insisted was never mislabeled. Taking things a step further, these fellows insisted that real connoisseurs could never be fooled by imposter fish.

“It is impossible to mislead people who have knowledge,” said Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.

Edward Dolnick has a great theory about this attitude in the New York Times. Basically, the more you think you know about something, the more likely you are to be fooled:

Experts make the best victims because they jump to unwarranted conclusions. The savvier they are, the quicker they jump, because they see at a glance which way a story is heading. In 2002, for instance, a French wine researcher named Frédéric Brochet gave 54 experts an array of red wines to evaluate. Some of the glasses contained white wine that Mr. Brochet had doctored to look red, by adding a tasteless, odorless additive. Not a single taster noticed the switch.

In another study, participants were asked to rate strawberry yogurt tasted in an unlit room. Many praised the strawberry flavor. Very few of them recognized that it was actually chocolate yogurt.

Just something to think about next time you eat yogurt in the dark, you sad, sad person.

Fish or Foul? [New York Times]

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