One of the anonymous posters (729) at Philosophers Anonymous notes that in gastronomy, the locution "deconstruct" refers to a chef's separating out taste components of a classic dish into distinct components, and then putting the separated ingredients together in a visually stunning way that recovers the flavor of the original dish. This is one of the basic tropes of molecular gastronomy following Ferran Adria's el Bulli (in the U.S. most famed with Grant Achez at Alinea in Chicago).
So here's one question. What makes a deconstructed dish different from the original dish. Certainly they look radically different. And the textures can be quite different too. But another difference is that when you are eating a deconstructed dish you more vividly simultaneously taste the separated components as well as the flavor of their combination (the original dish). The deconstructed dish ends up being something like a meta-commentary on the way distinct flavors achieve aesthetic balance in traditional gastronomy.
This is a really interesting case for the metaphysics of emergence in a lot of ways. I think haute cuisine has always had this norm of creating emergent flavors out of flavors that the discerning palate can differentiate. It's sort of a game to be able to guess what the ingredients are, but a major part of the gastronomic thrill is experiencing the new properties that are created by their skillful combination.
Since I've been reading Noel Carroll's excellent The Philosophy of Horror, this has particular salience. Carroll's final view is that the paradox of horror is solved in a "co-existentialist" way, where the pleasure qualia (innate fascination with the repulsive and metaphysically peculiar, the play of curiosity from plotting devices) and pain qualia (unpleasant emotions) are distinct and added up so that the pleasure outweighs the pain. He notes that in some instances one might want to think of the paradox being solved in an "integrationist" way, where the kind of pain is part of the pleasure, but the only example he comes up with are teenage boys who watch particularly gory horror for the meta-pleasure of finding themselves to be able to take it without being scared or sickened.
But if you look at the phenomena of the delicacy, you often see the repulsive and the pleasant combined in ways that I think can only be accounted for in an integrationist manner. Take the humble Durian fruit, whose custard-like interior is both deliciously sweet and smells nauseatingly like decaying dead mammal. I don't think there is an innate fascination with tasting road kill. So you don't get the analog to our innate fascination with viewing the repulsive. But at the same time, if you could separate out the custardy sweetness and get rid of the repulsive aspect, it would no longer be a delicacy and epicures would not be interested in it. The same holds for stinky cheese, such as Epoisses [And one can't say that Epoisses just seems stinky to Americans because we weren't acculturated (maybe the repulsiveness of fermented bean curd to Americans can be accounted for this way?). In France you are absolutely not supposed to carry this cheese on the train because the smell is so awful.]
Somehow the repulsive and non-repulsive combine in many delicacies to give rise to emergent taste profiles in a thoroughly integrationist manner.
Two questions- (1) Are delicacies analogous enough to horror films to undermine Carroll's co-extistentialist response to the paradox of horror? I do think it's clear that the paradox of repulsive delicacies requires an integrationist response. (2) Why don't skilled chef's ever deconstruct these kinds of delicacies? Clearly people couldn't eat them if you managed to separate out the flavors. Imagine a little piece of delicious custard with a tiny piece of a vomitously smelly part of a rotted dead animal in the middle, set out in a visually beautiful way. No chef does this. Somehow repulsive delicacies are the limit of deconstructed cuisine. I think this is because if they were deconstructed we would immediately go into co-existentialist mode and the pain qualia would win out. Part of the aesthetic appeal of such dishes then is I think just this tension. The integrationist mode wins out. Again, I wonder if horror movies and other kinds of distressing art are analogous. If they are, then Carroll's theory needs to be expanded significantly.