Transforming Taste: Aesthetics in Medicine and Food


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Food Studies


Taste has long been in the realm of the aesthetic. In recent years science has increasingly co-opted taste, seeking to quantify, measure, and give it language. Although scholars have examined the links between taste, eating habits, pleasure, and health, they have ignored the role of scientific advances and technological innovation in identifying and mapping consumer taste preferences. Using mineral water in twentieth century France as a case study, this historical food studies dissertation examines how innovations in chemical and sensorial analysis, along with changes in packaging, marketing, and regulation, influenced consumer taste for and conceptions of mineral water. It argues that the introduction and circulation of technologies of taste in public and private domains have literally and figuratively transformed scientists and consumers understanding of the taste(s) of water, and suggests that this remaking of the aesthetics of water offers new insights into the tensions between individual and expert health knowledge.