Tag Archives: sensation

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TOAST: IT’S COMPLICATED

The taste test. Inconclusive verdict. More testing needed.

The taste test. Inconclusive verdict. More testing needed.

Surely nothing could be easier than making toast. In these modern times, all you have to do is drop sliced bread into the toaster slots, push the lever down, and toast will pop right up when it’s done.

It was much trickier in my childhood. Our toasters were primitive appliances, with fold-down doors on either side. They demanded vigilance and patience, with disastrous consequences if we wandered away. These were the days before fire alarms, so burnt toast could be very burnt before the smell roused our attention.

My family also had a camping toaster, a simple wire mesh contraption held over a flame. I remember the toast it made was particularly delicious—very crisp on the outside and somehow fluffier and moister inside.

Either way, there was nothing difficult or complex about toast. Or so it seemed.

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MOUTHFEEL

So many kinds of textures in this dessert-- whipped cream, melting ice cream, jelly, kiwi fruit and crispy biscuit.

So many kinds of textures in this dessert–
whipped cream, melting ice cream, jelly, kiwi fruit and crispy biscuit.

(Originally posted on Sensorium, February 3 2014)

“Most people wildly underappreciate how much their sense of touch influences what they eat”, claims Barb Stuckey in Taste: What You’re Missing (p. 82).

Mouthfeel” is the word for the touch sensations generated when we eat.

The earlier post “SWEETNESS (AND DEATH)” notes that our sense of taste isn’t confined to our mouth. We also have taste receptors in our pancreas and intestines, for instance.

Similarly, our sense of touch is very diffuse, registering on the surface of our bodies as well as deep within—and often in tandem with other senses.

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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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EATING BITTER

Bitter melons— some people crave them, and other people find them unbelievably awful.

Bitter melons—
some people crave them, and other people find them unbelievably awful.

(Originally posted on Sensorium, January 27 2014)

Eating bitter”: in Chinese culture, the phrase refers to “necessary suffering to get to a better end”—a resigned, determined reaction to the vicissitudes of life.

John Thorne, in his essay “Reflections on a Tin of Vienna Sausages”, understands the phrase in a more head-on, assertive way, as meaning “to endure bitterness by wilfully eating it” (p. 187).

Although the two interpretations are different, both of them link the emotion of bitterness with the flavour.

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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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12 THINGS I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT TASTE

Salty, sweet, bitter and sour: a balanced meal?

Salty, sweet, bitter and sour: a balanced meal?

(Originally posted on Sensorium, October 28 2013)

Strangely, Diane Ackerman’s section on taste in her wonderful A Natural History of the Senses pays much attention to food, food rituals and food symbolism (pp. 127-172), but little to the actual experience of tasting. This intrigued me, because taste is a sense that gives us great pleasure. Even so, there is a kind of irony there. We often eat unthinkingly; the true abilities of our sense of taste go unused and unnoticed.

When I began looking into taste, I soon learned a whole heap of interesting things. Here are 12 things that convinced me I needed to pay more attention to what was going on in my mouth.

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