Writing that Makes Sense – Part 5 – Taste

Where better than a coffee shop to write about the sense of taste? Well — perhaps a bakery, or French Cafe, or ice-cream shop — but here I am and here I will stay until I complete my word count for the day.

Taste and Smell intertwine to the point where you literally cannot taste without being able to smell. A lovely friend, Barbara Burnett Smith, author of the Purple Sage mystery series, lost her sense of smell and said that things that used to excite her to eat lost much of their flavor. If you lose your appetite when you have a cold, it could be because you’ve lost the ability to smell just how wonderful your mom’s chicken soup is.

So, Taste. What about the very thought of putting luscious berries, velvety chocolate, and grill-seared steak on the tongue makes us salivate? It’s the memory of the taste involved — and the social surroundings in which we experienced those tastes. While many of us adore chocolate, some find the taste bitter or remember well the migraine brought on by the midnight-dark chocolate they thought to enjoy. Each person brings their own memories to your pages, so the mention of something that evokes Taste can elicit very different responses from each reader.

According to the Thinkquest website the sense of Taste is the weakest of the senses. I personally disagree, but perhaps that is because so many of my social gatherings involve food preparation and the enjoyment of sharing our baking and cooking with friends and family. Those memories put the sense of taste up a notch in my mind.

While insects can taste with their feet(!), we humans have to rely on our mouths. Over 100,000 taste buds cover our tongues, sending signals to our brain to let us know what’s on the menu. When I was young, I wouldn’t touch green beans with a ten foot pole, insisting that I was allergic to them. I may not have been allergic, but I may well have been reacting to the strong taste of the vegetable. When we’re born, we have taste buds on the roof of our mouth as well as our tongues, leading us to be “surrounded” by the taste of whatever we’ve taken a bite of. Thus, the fact that I now eat beans with great enjoyment isn’t because of a medical breakthrough, but because I’ve lost some of my taste buds along life’s highway. My Uncle Ed, 96 years young, but with a failing appetite, loves his sweets. The sweet receptors are the last to go, so keep ice cream on the shopping list!

Salt and Sweet receptors reside on the tip of your tongue, leading those to be the first Taste you sense. Bitter is at the back of the tongue — perhaps the source of the term aftertaste? Sour resides at the sides. The middle of the tongue is pretty barren for receptors, so that’s where I’d put any pills before that great gulp of water washes them down the hatch.

Some taste vocab: Creamy, Delicious, Oily, Bland, Disgusting, Sweet, Sour, Spicy, Light, Heavy, Sinful, Horrid, Metallic…and so forth.

Happy writing — and tasting!

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I did not know that taste is the weakest sense! No wonder we gulp our food in this culture (and no wonder we eat MSG seasoned cardboard and think it tastes good — we’re just tasting the artificial scent, I guess)

    Thanks for this wake-up! I’ll try harder to chew eat bite 30 times and see if I can build my taste muscles.

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