Some say that in a world of senses, taste is the queen. It is a pleasure, but also a protection that can tell the difference between what's good to eat and what could be harmful. Still, taste is so personal, that many have linked it to the personality of the individual. Some are sweet, others are not, and make acid jokes. A hateful person is said to have bitter feelings.
Taste has even led to great geographical discoveries. 500 years ago, the price of the spices coming from southeastern Asia matched that of the gold powder. This is how the PortugueseVasco Da Gama surrounded Africa, reaching India and turned back to Europe with a lot of spices. America was found because Columbus was looking for a pathway towards spice-rich south Asia.
300 years ago, European nations like France, England, Holland, Portugal and Spain entered conflict due to disputes for controlling the sources of spices. All this because of the taste of the exquisite meals...
1.Taste receptors are named taste buds and are grouped on papillae of various shapes on the tongue, mouth roof, pharynx and esophagus. The papillae give a velvet touch to the tongue. Each bud contains over 100 cells and all buds react to the basic tastes, forming a signal that is transmitted to the brain. A bud can activate several neurons and a neuron can receive signals from several buds. Each papilla contains about 100-200 buds. The sensitive taste cells have cilia.
The number of buds varies from person to person. An adult has on average 9,000 taste buds (a child even 10,000) and this affects the way the individual perceives the tastes. Some persons have maximum 500 buds. More buds means the individual perceives more types of taste. Taste becomes 'weaker' with the age.
2.Taste is a chemical sense, like smelling. There are 5 basic kinds of taste: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savoriness), like the taste of monosodium glutamate. The spicy foods (like chili peppers) stimulate the pain receptors, not the taste buds. They cause a sensation of burning on the skin, too.
3.Taste is triggered only by chemicals that dissolve in the water. We feel the taste of the dry aliments only when they had dissolved into the saliva. We feel salt rapidly, as it is very soluble in the water, while complex molecules do it more slowly.
4.Taste is connected with the other senses. What we call "taste" is a complicated synthesis of smell, taste, touch, texture, sight, chemical irritation (like the burning produced by a chili pepper or refreshment induced by mint) and temperature.
Taste receptors are connected to those for touch, thus the taste of a food is given by both its chemical and tactile traits (soft or hard, crunchy or pasty). The temperature of the food is also important in determining the taste, directly and indirectly (it influences the speed of dissolving speed of the chemicals).
When we see a warm bread, we start to drool. When we touch it, it is already too much. We salivate and feel the taste of our favorite food before touching it. In the end, people believe more in what they see than in the other senses. Try to taste an orange juice and a grapefruit juice with your eyes closed. You won't be able to see the difference. One interesting thing: people tend to avoid blue food.
Sometimes, it is hard to say if we smell or taste a certain type of food. When we catch a cold, we do not detect the taste of the aliments. But the cold impairs the nose, not the taste receptors. Still, we associate the taste of the aliments with their smell. If you try to taste with the eyes closed and nose tapped butter or grease, tea or water, they will seem impossible to determine, seeming tasteless; we will also not be able to differentiate between smashed potatoes and smashed apples.
Ears contribute, too, as they perceive the chewing noises.
5.The sweet food is best felt by the tip of the tongue, the acid one by the dorsal face of the tongue, the salty by the edges and the bitter one by the base of the tongue. The buds react to all kinds of taste, but researches showed that sweetness and bitterness are detected by certain proteins, which could be produced in different amounts on the tongue's parts.
The sweet taste is not that different from the salty one. A salty solution over the saturation level is perceived as being sweet. And if we add a few droplets of lemon, which is acid, to the food, the salty taste is increased.
The sweet, acid and salty types of taste induce electric signals in the taste cells, but the bitter taste triggers a chemical signal.
6. Some tastes are 'achieved'. You may not like at the beginning some foods like olives, gorgonzola (or blue cheese), hot spices, snails or seafood. Bitter vegetables, like endives, give a special taste to foods and salads, but you must be educated to appreciate them.
It is extremely important how and where you ate for the first time a certain kind of food. If your mother does not eat mushrooms, you will probably not eat them, too. If you have been educated not to eat some varieties of food, the best method of trying them is when you're really hungry.
The way you react to food and how you expose your children to it will shape their reactions to them.
Memory is also important in shaping your taste: you won't be able to eat for long a type of food that you did not enjoy once.
7.Besides aging and cold, other factors too damage taste: head blows, allergic reactions, infections, drugs, or chemical toxins.
8.You may have heard about 'the phantom limb' or 'the phantom penis', but there is also the phantom taste: a person feels permanently the taste of an aliment that is not present. Cancer patients following chemotherapy can experience impairment of the taste and smell senses.