The Incompatible Food Triad

Interesting article by George Hart (via: Kottke) regarding food pairings. Mr. Hart investigates if it is possible for three food substances to be incompatible when all three are together, but when only two of the three are paired they produce a sublime taste.

It’s an interesting theory and one I think all chefs or foodies would be interested in.

There are many ways to interpret this “going together” but an example solution would be three pizza toppings—A, B, and C—such that a pizza with A and B is good, and a pizza with A and C is good, and a pizza with B and C is good, but a pizza with A, B, and C is bad. Or you might find three different spices or other ingredients which do not go together in some recipe yet any pair of them is fine.

I learned of The Incompatible Food Triad problem from the philosopher Nuel Belnap when I was a graduate student in the late 1970’s. He mentioned it in discussion while we were at a dinner together. In the intervening years, I have occasionally passed it on it at various dinners to my colleagues and graduate students, always without success. Recently, (at a wonderful dinner in southern Spain with a colleague, two graduate students, and a vast platter of tentacles and mysterious seafood,) I realized it has been twenty-five years with zero progress. It was time to start getting serious about finding a solution! First, a Google search found no references at all. Three billion web pages, and none discuss the question. Then I contacted Prof. Belnap to see if he had found a solution in the intervening years. He tells me that has made no progress either. He also informed me that he learned the problem from the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars over a dinner, and that he suspects Sellars is the originator but can not be sure.

According to the article, no progress has been made in this philosophical food theorum. Many have tried, as you would see by scrolling down on the page, but many have failed. So, are there any food combinations that you think might work in this problem?

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