Have you got Good Taste?
We all have different perceptions of taste. We all know someone who has a sweet tooth or others who prefer more savoury salty foods. It all comes down to various factors which can affect the way we perceive taste.
Here are some of those factors:
All cooked foods, and many raw foods too, tend to emit a fabulous smell which, if you are particularly hungry, can make you literally salivate! The smell is from tiny aromatic particles which then go on to evaporate. The combination of taste, texture and smell give your brain the information it needs to identify flavour. How bitter, salty, sweet or sour, spicy, creamy and its temperature is determined by the taste buds. However, it is the air which enters the process via the nasal passage also plays a part by providing the smell providing the final piece of information the brain requires to determine flavour.
You can try to test this by popping a sweet in your mouth and holding your nose. You will be able to determine its texture, consistency and its sweetness but you will not detect its flavour! Now stop holding your nose and you will be able to enjoy the whole taste sensation! Now we know why people hold their noses when they are taking a foul-tasting medicine!
Temperature of Food
We all know that some food, for safety reasons, must be cooked at a certain temperature for a specific length of time. All harmful bacteria are killed in this process so it’s always advisable to check for and follow the cooking instructions on the packaging. However, have you ever tried to eat food straight from the oven and found it to taste differently? Well this could all be down to the fact that the high temperature causes a disguise for the taste perception providing a warning to stop burning the mouth. A study on the electrical activity of taste nerves conducted by Karel Talavera Pérez, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the University of Leuven in Belgium found “the perception of taste decreases when the temperature rises beyond 35C”.
Everyone has preference as to how some foods should be served. Some like a long cold beer whilst others prefer its more bitter flavour as it warms up. Others prefer cheese at room temperature because it is sourer than when eaten cooled straight from the fridge. So, it’s clear that taste receptors send stronger electrical signals if food is warm.
Age comes into it too!
Straight to the point…. in your 40s your taste buds start to decline with the exception of sour tastes which are less affected. As you age your capacity to taste saltiness, bitterness and sweetness declines considerably so as you approach your 70s you will require around 3 times more sugar to get the same perceived sweetness as you would have done in your 30s!
The Pangs of Hunger
We are more sensitive to sweet and salty foods when we are hungry – hence the need to reach for a bar of chocolate or bag of crisps! The exception is the perception of bitterness as this is not affected by hunger.
Pregnancy hormones can affect taste. This can either be a reduced sensitivity to saltiness to ensure you take in more salt or the presence of a metallic taste.
Fancy a cigarette?
If you smoke you are more likely to have limited taste perception for sour, bitter, sweet and salty perception because the chemicals inhaled affect the taste buds.
Studies have found that obese people have less or damaged taste buds, so they will have less capacity to perceive sweetness, saltiness and bitterness.
This goes back to our first point really. If you have a cold or flu your nose becomes blocked and you are more likely to be breathing through your nose. You therefore lose your capacity to smell and we need this in order to be able to perceive taste.
Those who suffer from cancer and anorexia may also find they have reduced taste because their body is not a healthy. Treatment for cancer can also have an adverse effect on taste.
Taste buds need liquid or moisture to be able to detect a flavour so if you have a dry tongue you would not be able to taste dry food.
The thinner the consistency of the food the easier it is to detect flavour.
Please join us on a course here at the Gascony Cookery School as there is never be shortage of flavours – your taste buds will be put to the test at every opportunity! Take a look at our courses, availability and more information by clicking here.
Dave, Vikki & Bernard