Some people will say that we eat to live, and while that is technically true, many more people will tell you that we eat to taste. Cooking shows, that teach us how to blend great tasting food together, are becoming increasingly popular as we discover the wonder of taste when food is perfectly balanced. However, even though we are all seeking the ultimate taste from our cooking, very few of us are actually using the sense of taste to its full advantage!
We can sense five basic tastes. They are sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and savoury. Certain combinations, such as sweet and sour or sweet and salty, work really well together and thrill our sense of taste.
Where Does Our Sense of Taste Come From?
Our sense of taste comes from the papillae (where taste buds live) on our tongue. There are three primary papillae.
- First, the vallate papillae form a v-shape on the back portion of the tongue and detect bitter and sour tastes.
- Second, the foliate papillae are on either side of the tongue, and they detect sour tastes.
- Lastly, the fungiform papillae are located on the tips and surface of the tongue, and they detect sweet and salty tastes.
Inside papillae is our taste buds. It is interesting to note that our taste buds actually transfer messages to the brain about what we taste, and our brain has the final say in the taste experience. You can even trick your taste buds with your mind. For example, if you convince yourself that the banana you are about to eat will taste bitter, and you are really convincing, then you may experience a bitter taste!
Taste buds are not the only things that play a part in determining how food tastes. Chefs and scientists alike know that, in reality, all of our senses play a part in our sense of taste. Flavor physiology, and how the combination of taste, smell, texture, temperature, appearance, and our mind can help to determine taste, is part of the curriculum for chefs in training. Even your memory can affect the way that apple crisp tastes to you. Knowing all of this information gives us a good indication as to how to heighten the sense of taste.
Tips To Heighten The Sense of Taste
- First, and probably most importantly, you have to limit sensory distractions. Many of us will eat supper in front of the TV, and before we know it our food is gone, and we barely even tasted it! Distractions cause us to use our senses for things other than taste. Therefore, if you are using your mind and sight to watch TV, and your taste and smell get put on the backburner, then you are not going to taste your food to its full-potential taste. It is best to eat at a table without any distractions.
- Second, you have to be willing to smell your food. About 95% of what we think is taste, is actually smell! You can experience this for yourself by plugging your nose while you eat. You will notice that you barely taste your food, if at all. This is why when we are sick, with a stuffed up nose; our taste also seems to be sick. So, make sure you are eating food that smells appealing to you and contributes positively to your overall experience of taste.
- Thirdly, make sure that your food is visually appealing. If you are eating something that looks like a pile of poop, it can be very hard to allow your mind to convince you that it is something that tastes good.
- Fourthly, you may want to try a fast of sorts. Our pallets are dulled because of all the high additive and high-salted food we eat. If you allow your palette some time in between eating, and then experience a whole, fresh food after some time has passed, you will notice that the taste is exceptionally good, even if it is just a tomato. A fast is great, but if you can cut out food that over stimulates your taste buds altogether, like processed food, then you will notice that food starts to have unique and special taste again, and not just fried or salty.
- Lastly, to heighten your sense of taste during a meal, you may want to cleanse your palette in between courses. This is something that food judges often do to bring their palettes back to life, and experience the full taste of food without the previous food affecting the taste. You can clean the palette by having a drink of sparkling water or a citrus flavored drink that is not too sweet. You may even want to have some lime, grapefruit or mint sorbet on hand. This trick is used in fine dining restaurants.
In the end, if you want to heighten your sense of taste, then you have to remember that all of your senses are responsible for the flavor you experience. Limit sensory distractions, smell your food, eat food that is visually appealing, and clean your palette in between foods. This will all help you to experience the taste of food as you never experienced it before!