So many times I have asked someone how the food tastes and got the answer "good". But what does that really say about how the food tastes? I think we can all agree that "good" is not a taste, but still we most talk about whether it tastes good or not. In the coming weeks, I will dig deeper into this about flavors and how we experience the food we eat, with more than just our senses. At the same time, I will compile a course on the subject for those who want to immerse themselves in this. Stay updated here to get to know more! I will go back to this about what good taste is at the end, but let's first look at what we're talking about when we talk about the taste experience.
The taste experience consists primarily of what we perceive with our senses when we eat. The three senses that are mainly connected to the direct taste experience is taste, smell and touch. But we know at the same time that we also "eat with our eyes" and the noise level around will also affect how we experience the food. Then the question is whether these experiences in connection with food are about the sensory experience or is it more about expectations and the atmosphere? Because it's not really clear what is what ... So I think we need to take it one step further. The critical thing in the taste experience is the sense of taste, so let's see what that really is.
Taste is the perception of chemical substances that are dissolved in some form of liquid, with the help of sensors in our taste buds and that is food. Should it be volatile substances we perceive, then it's a scent. And metallic flavors that we have receptors for in the taste buds are not food. So there are clearly four... no five tastes that we can perceive: Sweet, Salt, Sour, Bitter and Umami.
So, taste may not be as simple as we were told in school. And then I haven't even gone to shattered the myth that we only feel certain tastes at certain points on the tongue. This is not true, as the different taste buds can perceive several tastes at the same time. Also, there may be several different receptors for perceiving what is seen as one taste, which may be one of the reasons why we experience tastes so differently. If you want to deepen your knowledge in this area, I recommend checking out this link and if you want to go even deeper, go to the reference links ... I do not know how many hours of study I have done from that page.
What can we then really say about taste? I would say that most of us perceive sweet, salt and sour as quite pleasant flavors when they are in good balance. We often favor one and might be more sensitive for someone else. I love all flavors, but am extra fond of sweets. Then we have bitterness which is often described as an unpleasant taste. I have always had such a hard time understanding bitterness, as I love certain types of bitter (as chocolate) and really dont like some others (as grapefruit). For me it is like completely different tastes and in Swedish we have two words for it: "besk" and bitter, which I perceive as different tastes. However, there is no scientific consensus on this, but it is proven that we have about 25 different receptors for bitter substances and there are over 600 different chemical substances that are perceived by these. So maybe it is possible to learn to distinguish 20-30 different shades of bitterness if you would like to... but there is no language for us to describe it. I usually describe it in a grade from green, "grassy" "beska" to blackish "earthy" bitterness. However, it is difficult to say if there are not a few minerals in there, you know the metals that were not allowed to be taste, since it's not food. Since it's very difficult to get completely pure tastes and we perceive the combination of taste, where the different tastes also affect each other.
Umami, which is the fifth approved taste, is usually translated into savory in English. Umami is also a master at enhancing the other tastes, including bitterness, which means that umami can make something that tastes good taste better, but also what tastes disgusting to taste even worse. And then we got back to what really tastes good? We all have some idea of good taste, even if it's very subjective. There are some general rules that apply in most cases, such as; you can make most things taste better with sugar, salt and fat. However I do not agree that bitterness makes things taste worse though, as this is how you can develop the full taste and make it interesting.
But it is generally about finding a balance between tastes, aromas and textures that feels good to you. There are many combinations that most people like, but at least as many as someone loves and someone else hates. Then it's not just chemistry, but also psychology. If I were to serve you a dish you normally don't like, I think I could make you appreciate it anyway, only with the help of psychology.
This about flavors is so much more than just taste and it is my passion to get to pass that knowledge to the world!
Only eat what you enjoy and enjoy all you eat!
See you next week!