Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Post #1700 - A Matter of Taste

According to the counter on my Blogger desktop, today is my 1,700th post. Great Caesar's ghost! - this is an occasion that calls for a post full of deep thoughts, insightful observations on human nature, and intriguing philosophical discussion of the important issues of the day.

Or, I could just write about taste. Not necessarily good taste, but taste nevertheless.

I call your attention to this fascinating article from yesterday's online Washington Post: Taste Buds Are Just One Reason Why We Love Some Foods and Hate Others.

When we taste something, we're actually using all of our senses ... how we perceive the taste of something combines not just the basic tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, "unami" ("savory") or a combination thereof), but also its smell (there's a reason we avoid rotten eggs), appearance (does it look appetizing?), feel (all things considered, we don't like to eat things that are slimy, for instance), and sound (if it's supposed to crunch when we bite it and it doesn't, something may be wrong). All of our senses combine to generate what we think of as the taste of something.

The basic tastes convey specific meanings to us: if something is sweet, it probably contains sugar we need for energy; if it's sour, it may be a warning that it's spoiled or unripe. A savory taste could indicate a food high in protein, while a bitter taste may warn of something that's poisonous, as many poisons are bitter. A salty taste indicates the presence of sodium, which our bodies need for many basic functions.

There are many other things that bear on how we perceive the taste of a particular food. The article discusses research which shows that we may tend to like the flavors of the foods our mothers ate while they were pregnant - these flavors may pass through amniotic fluids and, later, through breast milk, possibly signaling to the baby that if it was good enough for Mama to eat, it must be safe and wholesome.

Some tastes appear to appeal to have a cultural basis (we tend to like the things the people around us like) or a sexual one (research shows that, yes, women tend to like sweet things more than men do).

In the end, how we perceive the taste of various foods is intensely personal. I love Brussels Sprouts and asparagus and don't like beets; I enjoy steak but detest liver. Others may have the opposite opinions. And, of course, if you don't know how else to describe the taste of something, you can always say it tastes like chicken.

And, lest I go too far and transcend the bounds of good taste, I'll just quit here.

Have a good day. Enjoy a tasty lunch. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

I think its true about people liking the foods that our mothers ate while pregnant. My mother claims to have had a block of cheese EACH DAY when she was pregnant with me. And today, cheesy foods are my hip's greatest enemy!

Mike said...

'I love Brussels Sprouts and asparagus and don't like beets; I enjoy steak but detest liver.'

4 out 5 ain't bad. No BS.

Also -

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Happy 1700th, Bilbo