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Taste What You’re Missing

March 21, 2012

Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Getting More from Every Bite

How food tastes is much more complicated than I thought. Did you know when you “taste” food about 90 percent of it is experienced by our sense of smell and only 10 percent with our taste buds? But delve even deeper and that equation holds true only if you haven’t taken into account your other senses of touch, hearing and sight.

Barb Stuckey’s new book Taste what You’re Missing- The Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good is a must for any food lover. Barb, a food developer extraordinaire at Mattson one of the largest independent developer of new foods and beverages, takes a complex and technical subject of how we taste and presents it in a straightforward and engaging manner. It’s fascinating. I spent all day Sunday on the sofa reading.

Individually we all taste things a bit differently. I might like things sweeter or more bitter than you. Genetics, biology, your brain, and even the number of taste buds on your tongue all play a role in how we experience taste.

Barb dissects the senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and sound and the role each plays in what we taste. We all know we smell through our noses. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies or roasted chicken can entice us from across the room. But did you know that smells are also sent from your mouth to your brain once the food is inside your mouth and you have begun chewing? Barb calls this mouth-smelling. We experience textures by touch. Think of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and how all those nuts and chocolate chunks feel in your mouth. Sight often overrides our other senses when eating. If apple juice is served in an orange glass we may think its orange juice. Fajitas served sizzling hot leave a taste impression before we even put them in our mouths.

Barb describes the basic five basic tastes of salt, bitter, sweet, sour, and umami and provides exercises for us to isolate the different tastes and senses. How to recognize what umami tastes like and how the aging of cheese or roasting of tomatoes changes that flavor. Cane sugar, Splenda, Stevia are all sweet but their profiles are all different so they taste completely different.

Are you a tolerant taster, a taste or hyper taster? (With some blue food coloring and a reinforcement label you can find out.) This too influences how food tastes.

Tastes and senses all work together to create the taste of food good and bad. Barb helps us understand each of them so we can increase our overall appreciation of food and make our food taste better when we are cooking in the kitchen.

If you want to hear Barb talk about the science of taste, come tonight to Omnivore Books at 6:00 PM.

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