You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone

As we all know, Penn State has a multitude of options when it comes to food. There are the commons, the many specialty places (i.e. the mix, the leaf, etc.), and many places close to campus. However, being the somewhat lazy college kid that I am, I tend to frequent the places that are closest to me. In my week, I will eat at the mix in Pollock almost every day; it is close to my dorm and is normally quick with the orders I choose. Now, with the second semester starting, I cannot stand the food there anymore. I have eaten my favorite combinations from the menu many times and now, every time I eat it again, it tastes bland and not exciting. I believe that I have developed some sort of sensory adaptation to the food at the mix.

Sensory adaptation is a process by the sensory receptors in the body. As a constant stimulus, like my food, continues to stimulate the sensory receptors, they become less receptive to the stimulus unless a big change happens (like they forget the cheese on my cheesesteak). This is different from habituation cause in sensory adaptation, the receptors themselves become less responsive to the stimulus where as in habituation, the brain does not send those signals to the cortex.

There are many options at the mix to choose from, from the simple chicken strips to the complex Philly cheesesteak. I have tried all of these and even tried putting different things on them or trying to eat them in a different combination, but I continue to eat my meals from there with a dull expression on my face. The food does not taste as exciting or strong anymore. I noticed this at the end of last semester as the food I kept getting from the mix almost every day began to taste more bland and generic.

My friend, and future roommate, Alex has been convincing me to try the Pollock commons. I have been going there almost every day for dinner now and even though they have different items daily, I have begun the same process as the mix. It does not help that I get the same things at the commons, salad, some pizza, and whatever thing they have new that day. I still enjoy going there because the few items that they have that change.

An interesting point to discuss is the fact that sensory adaptation can go away. If the constant stimulus is taken away, the receptors return to normal in regards to that stimulus. Therefore, I recently revisited the mix and ordered a cheesesteak. I was surprised at how much I liked it; it had a lot more flavor than I remembered. It was the exact same thing I would get all last semester but since I hadn’t eaten it for a while, it tasted so much better. I think the most appropriate saying that best sums my experience with eating here at the mix is “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

Matthew Zackschewski – mgz5020


4 thoughts on “You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone

  1. Alexandra Marie Harrington

    I can completely relate to your description of sensory adaptation. I also live near Pollock and face the struggles of eating either the mix or the commons each day. I know exactly what you mean about having to eat variations of the select foods you like constantly because there really is no other option. Before reading your post, I do not think I would have ever thought of sensory adaptation in the way you described. For instance when you said “As a constant stimulus, like my food, continues to stimulate the sensory receptors, they become less receptive to the stimulus unless a big change happens (like they forget the cheese on my cheesesteak)” I began to draw connections to how a simple change such as the cheese on my cheesesteak can be related to my psychology. Hopefully I can follow your advice and stay away from my favorites for awhile, and therefore remove that constant stimulus!

  2. Garrett Francis Swope

    Just like the others here, I too agree with your recently discovered sensory adaption. I think it is safe to say that we all at some point in the school year get tired of the same old same and just don’t look forward to consuming the food here on campus. I will admit at first I was in awe of all of the choices we have to go to and eat basically whatever it is we want. But then pretty soon after it all just got boring. That’s where the sensory adaption comes in to play. Sensory adaption really hit me hard throughout the school year and all I wanted was some home cooked meals. But like you, lately I have been trying to spice up my dining routine with some of Redifer, occasionally the Mix, and a heavy dosage of the Pollock commons dinners. So far so good.

  3. jea5240

    I agree with this post completely! In the beginning of the first semester, I ate at Fresh Express in the commons by my dorm almost every day for lunch. I got a buffalo chicken wrap every single time. By the time Christmas break rolled around, I was so happy to be going home and getting away from eating the wraps every day for lunch. Even when I returned back to school after break, I still did not want to go to Fresh Express because I had become so sick of it. But, a couple weeks ago, I went for the first time and got the same wrap as usual, and surprisingly I enjoyed it, so I can definitely relate to this post! I never really thought about it being something that had to do with psychology, but now looking at the way you explained it, it definitely does have something to do with sensory adaptation.

  4. rak5317

    I completely agree with you. All last semester I had a wrap at the mix almost every day and by the end of the semester I didn’t want to eat there anymore. I’ve barely been there this semester because of it. I haven’t had a wrap there yet, but I’m sure the next time I get one it’ll taste so much better.

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