January 20, 2021

Interiorities of taste – The Province

The fusion of the sense of taste with smell produces the flavors of food and beverages. However, the fundamental importance of smell in the production of flavor is often not recognized because we are not fully aware that it is the combination itself that promotes it. Neither taste nor smell alone has the quality of taste. In fact, the most important odors that influence flavor are the aftertaste; retronasal olfactory images interact in the brain with a wide range of stimuli, including sound, touch, and the mechanisms used to chew food. Precisely a retronasal smell, according to the author of Neurogastronomy, brought one of the best visual images of universal literature in Proust and the construction of the memory of Combray. It all started with a sensation of the taste of your cupcake dipped in tea.

The relationship with flavors in food and drink: an entertaining multi-sensory and interactive process


Taste is largely a consequence of smell; but very few are aware that the first is an invention of the brain that arises from smell and taste. There is the old experiment of placing a candy on the tip of your tongue and pinching your nose at the same time. If you successfully block the air from entering your nostrils, you won’t notice that the candy is sweet. If you then let go of your nose and let air in, it will suddenly return its flavor. Shepherd tells how this simple move determines that there are no flavors without smells. The ability to identify them in any type of food comes from the sense of smell.

The flavors of food, especially those derived from sugar, salt and fat, are essential to nurture our desire to continue eating. We can quickly get used to a certain one and consequently our desire to consume, for example, chocolate can quickly decrease. Fast food producers are the first bent on introducing new flavor molecules to maintain commercial interest in a product. The cortical centers responsible for food waste are the same ones that drive the craving for cocaine or any other drug.

Our conscious perceptual worlds are therefore a consequence of the brain’s combinations of sensory information. This combines taste and smell to give us flavor, as well as the amount of light reflected at different wavelengths to offer us color. In another famous 2001 experiment, wine tasters used very different terms to describe the taste of a red compared to a white. To do this they colored the white wine with a tasteless red tint. When tasters were asked to describe the result, a panel of fifty-four university students enrolled in the Faculty of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux, all of them experienced in this type of testing, described the artificially colored wine using the same terms. which they had previously used to refer to real red wine.


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