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July 15, 2007 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Do You Taste What I Taste? - The first of Slate's 3-part series on the physiology of taste [parts 2, 3]
posted by Gyan (13 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It tastes... pretty ripe
posted by growabrain at 9:44 PM on July 15, 2007

Oh dear. Are we gonna start talking about garlic here?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:42 PM on July 15, 2007

Does it taste like a 9v battery?
posted by chillmost at 11:40 PM on July 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Not a supertaster here. I've spent time with some supertasters (you meet a lot of folks in culinary settings as a jazz musician) and it's clear I can't do what they do.

I am a confirmed saccrophobe (my word). I have a very strong sugar aversion. It actually hurts my tongue and throat to eat it (no other digestive effects). Seriously. Candy bars are pain.

So after this wine and cheese thing some "supertaster" I'm hanging after a gig with one night hears my lament and says I would probably enjoy sweets when paired with citric acid. So he gets the chef to (who's also having after-gig beverages with us) to mix lemon juice with cane sugar. Wow. Made total sense to me. For the first time in years I could eat sugar w/o my tongue recoiling. Then he sent the chef after some pineapple.

Now I've eaten lots of pineapple, but never connected the fact that I can't tolerate sweets yet enjoy pineapple. So the "taster" explains that while my mouth hates sugar, the acid of the pineapple offsets the sugar and lets me enjoy a sweet I can tolerate.

Who'd of thunk it?

He then hepped me to Braeburn and Gala apples. For that alone I'm grateful.

I still use mild salsa as spaghetti sauce: no corn syrup.
posted by sourwookie at 12:13 AM on July 16, 2007

I am the same way to a lesser extent. I don't have a problem with natural sugars in moderation. I have yet to meet a fruit I dislike, but cannot tolerate foods with artificial sweeteners or any of the various corn syrup additives. The latter especially, I can pick out immediately as a mild burning, almost astringent, sensation on the tongue and throat. The horrible thing is that corn syrup is used as an additive in so many things these days. And candy bars, forget it!

I have taken to shopping primarily at health food stores, and these new healthy super-marts that are based on the Whole Foods recipe of success. One glorious thing about them is that hardly anything they sell has artificial sweeteners or corn syrups in them. Spaghetti sauces, even things like yogurt, pudding, and juices are palatable again. They even have some chocolates that I really like. Granted they are in the +85 darkness range and nearly more bitter than sweet!

Interesting bit about the acids though. I never made that connexion either. While I like all fruits, I definitely prefer things like oranges to things like apples; and much prefer to sprinkle dried cranberries on my cereal over sultanas.
posted by AmberV at 2:44 AM on July 16, 2007

At the risk of dwelling, Luca Maroni has this stuff pretty much figured out.
posted by progosk at 4:18 AM on July 16, 2007

I'm definitely a supertaster and have a very perceptive nose - sometimes I feel that I may have missed my calling in a perfumerie or laboratory. I am the person that enters an office and knows that hidden in a drawer nearby is a slightly overripe banana, or who greets friends with a hug and says "oh, did you just go to the diner?"

One of my favorite pieces on this topic is an essay by Calvin Trillin, a humorist and food and travel writer. His piece for the New Yorker, "The Red and the White," set out to investigate whether a rumor he had heard was true - that even wine connoisseurs can't tell the difference between red wines and white wines without color as a cue. The article doesn't seem to be available for free on the New Yorker site, but I did find a link to a copy of it.
posted by Miko at 7:44 AM on July 16, 2007

Synesthesia tangent.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

What color is the sky on your planet?
posted by Grod at 8:17 AM on July 16, 2007

Interesting that they spend most of the second page talking about smell.

I'm completely anosmic -- no sense of smell at all -- and I've often wondered what effect that has on my sense of taste. I'm certainly able to taste things, and different foods taste different. However, talking to "smellers" (as I like to call the rest of you), it seems like food texture is at least as important as taste to me, while that isn't necessarily true for most folks.

Also, for what it's worth, wine tastes just awful when you take away all those fancy bouquets, full bodies, and rich fruity aromas.
posted by Robson at 8:58 AM on July 16, 2007

Thanks, Gyan. Whenever a discussion on "why does something taste differernt to me than it does to you" comes up, someone will inevitably trot out the supertaster concept, as if that definitively answered all such questions. Nothing could be further from the truth, as this series of articles nicely demonstrates. There are many, many differences in taste perception between individuals, and supertaster vs. taster vs. nontaster barely scratches the surface.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2007

That is great, DevilsAdvocate.

It's like SUPERTASTER!! is the only thing in people's meme buffer these days.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:01 AM on July 17, 2007

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