When you go to fast food places you can generally predict after a single trip what every future meal you have from that place will taste like. Not just the general flavor but nearly down to the exact neural firing. It’s not a matter of familiarity but something more akin to cloning. The hamburger you have from McDonalds in Washington State is going to taste exactly the same as one you have in Maine. Not a little bit, not similar, exactly the same.
This is because variability is removed from the food. The meat is ground into a paste to create, on average, a homogenized protein mixture. The milk shakes are a perfect mix of a “shake mix” and milk. About the only thing that might be varied is the fries and this ironically is varied in the way that sucks, sometimes you get floppy cold fries. But otherwise they taste the same down to the texture.
The problem is that to achieve this homogeny they must basically remove everything productive and positive about food. To be fair that is why we call it junk food, or we should, but a lot of people see it as a reasonable avenue for nutrition and often to their own physical detriment.
I want food that surprises me. I want things to be only passingly similar. When I have a home cooked meal that slight variation in how it tastes from the last time is fantastic. It helps fire my brain even better than before. True, smells often are close enough to feel the same, and those smells elicit all the memories you locked in with those foods. But the experience, the flavors washing over your taste buds. The unpredictable nature of the experience, for me, dramatically improves the pleasure.
Though it is very likely that both places homogenize as much as they can, I do appreciate that I get lots of “mistakes” when I order 5 guys or Chipotle. At both places the amount of stuff that I end up getting tends to be wildly random and because of this I can never genuinely predict what I will be eating. It is always brain bustlingly delicious, but never carbon copied.
Similarly that 1 time a year I get McDonalds and the preparations are done by someone who just doesn’t give a shit. That’s one of my favorite days. Weird proportions on the burger, sloppy preparation, those are the absolute best. I’d love to see more places where the motto is “It’s good.” rather than “It’s exactly what you expected.”