‘What Is Taste? Making the Connection’

Being a real food lover, I recently received the ideal present from a family member, Gordon Shepherd’s excellent book Neurogastronomy.

He explains the anatomical taste – and his conclusions are truly amazing!    A must-read for anyone who wishes to gain more in-depth knowledge on trends in nutrition, dieting, obesity and the difficulties we have in making healthy food choices.

It takes the reader on a journey in which they learn about the various impact food has on our lives, usually in abstruse ways that we don’t even realize is happening, such as the flavour recognition centres in the brain, and the cultural impact food has on music, art, and literature.

Taste is the way we like (or dislike) foods when we are eating.  Or is it?   If you consider the matter, as we have only 5 taste sensations on the tongue (sweet, salt, sour, bitter and savoury), it is unlikely that the traditional view of taste related to the mouth has much effect on the myriad of taste sensations that we experience.  Similarly, we are often told that taste is really determined by our sense of smell, but you virtually never see anyone smelling their food as they are enjoying a hearty meal.

In fact, taste is mainly made from the sense of smell, but not through the nose, but instead through the back of the mouth to the smell sensors at the top of the nose, which he calls the ‘retronasal’ route.   Every time you breathe out, some of the air in your mouth is forced up behind the nose and it is the chemical odours from eating which are identified by the smell receptors at the top of the nose.

But it’s much more complicated than this!    The brain then creates an image for each flavour, so that you just have to have a whiff of one of your favourite foods for the brain to recognise the smell and conjure up the pleasurable image of the flavour – which you then crave.    Fast food companies employ an army of food chemists whose sole occupation is to artificially create invisible smells which are designed to stimulate your flavour senses in the brain!

So the next time you think of the food, your brain stimulates the flavour image and you have happy thoughts of eating!    You never really knew how clever the humble hamburger could be!    Chocolate really can be addictive!

Published by Columbia University Press available from Amazon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *