Everything you thought you knew about the fun in your food
Every once in a while, you encounter someone who reawakens your passion for food. Not someone whose culinary prowess blows you away, mind you, but rather someone who never quite got what the fuss was about. No, no, no! In times like those, most foodies rise to the challenge to try to prove those poor souls who have yet to discover the joys of food wrong. And all smoke and mirrors aside, flavour is the one thing that sets an uneventful dish apart from an unforgettable one. In short, flavour is the soul of a dish, capable of reawakening long-forgotten childhood memories or creating new ones through smell, taste and texture. But how much do we really know about the way these three senses come together with every new mouthful?
PINCH OF SALT
The way we perceive taste is heavily influenced by how much naturally occurring salt there is in our saliva. The less saliva you produce, the better you can taste the saltiness in foods.
ON THE NOSE
Smell and texture have a huge impact on how we perceive taste. We experience smells more intensely than tastes, so our first impression is usually the way something smells. Even when eating something, the odour of the food travels up to the nose through something called the nasopharynx, so our sense of smell is constantly engaged. When your nasal passages are congested or you’ve lost your sense of smell, your ability to taste will be severely impacted.
Texture and temperature, although they have no direct link to flavour, also have a big impact on our perception of how something tastes. You might not eat certain foods, like oats or rye bread at all, simply because they’ve got a grittier texture. In the same way, cold teas or warm fruits might put you off because you’re not used to consuming them at that temperature.
THE HUNGER GAME
How hungry we are can also have an impact on taste. Sweet and salty flavours become more pronounced when we’re hungry.
LIKE THE CORNERS OF MY MIND
Our memories of certain foods can trigger nostalgia, which has a much greater impact on our perception of taste than we realise.