Category Archives: Food and Health

We need food. But what, exactly, is good for us?

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HUNGER AS A METAPHOR. OR NOT.

I once stole a piece of salami from an ashtray ...

Terry Durack’s confession: I once stole a piece of salami from an ashtray …

Hangry.”

That is, hungry + angry. As researcher Amanda Salis confirms, the physiology of hunger creates emotional effects.

The human brain, she writes, “is critically dependent on glucose to do its job.” Without glucose,

you may find it hard to concentrate, for instance, or you may make silly mistakes. Or you might have noticed that your words become muddled or slurred […] Another thing that can become more difficult when you’re hungry is behaving within socially acceptable norms.

As a result of brain chemicals triggered by hunger, some people “tend to show high levels of impulse aggression.”

That can certainly be unpleasant in the office at that dangerous period around 3:30pm, but imagine the impact of those physiological reactions in an extreme situation.

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SOUR, THE MOUTH-WATERING TASTE

Pickled in vinegar ... make your mouth water?

Pickled in vinegar … does this really make your mouth water?

(Originally posted on Sensorium, May 4 2014)

“Sour is the Basic Taste that makes our mouth water the most”, says Barb Stuckey in Taste: What You’re Missing:

This happens because a supersour food enters the mouth with more acidity than the permanent resident, saliva, which rushes in to try to manage this huge change in acidity in the mouth … Once there’s enough saliva to dilute the sourness, the waterworks stop. (pp. 227-228)

I thought that was interesting, but it was only the start of a fascinating exploration of sourness.

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SALT, THE DISREPUTABLE FLAVOUR

Many different kinds of salt are sold at the supermarket these days. Which is kind of strange, given salt's bad reputation.

Many different kinds of salt are sold at the supermarket these days. Which is kind of strange, given salt’s bad reputation.

(Originally posted in Sensorium, March 10 2014.)

The labels are everywhere on supermarket products. “No added salt”. Or “Reduced salt”. And it’s common knowledge why that is.

Salt—which used to be so highly prized—is now considered mighty unhealthy.

So why does my small and limited local supermarket stock a whole range of different kinds of salt? I can buy the regular iodised kind, sea salt flakes, and preloaded grinders filled with exotic varieties including pink Himalayan, blue Persian, smoked Cyprus and black Cyprus. That’s a lot of choices of something as elemental as salt.

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SWEETNESS (AND DEATH)

Beardsworth and Keil point out that there is often “moral ambivalence associated with sugar and confectionery”.

Beardsworth and Keil point out that there is often “moral ambivalence associated with sugar and confectionery”.

(Originally posted on Sensorium,  December 17 2013)

In an earlier post (“Twelve Things I Didn’t Know about Taste”), I wrote that, apparently, cats can’t taste sweetness.

For humans, however, the desire for sweet is powerful and complex.

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