The taste for food is both innate and acquired, both individual and universal, and is the product of all five senses. Through the evolution, the taste for food evolved as a defense mechanism – the brain could, based on taste, identify something as potentially poisonous to us; most people will after tasting some very bitter foods say that they don’t like it and won’t eat it anymore (among the most poisonous substances produced by plants are alkaloids, whose common characteristic is that they are extremely bitter).
Tasteful papillae in the tongue can recognize the 5 basic flavors: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami – this name is taken from Japanese and marks the flavors closest to flavors of soy sauce or raw meat. However, to taste the full flavor, the aroma of certain food, we need our sense of smell (the best example for this is the fact that if a person cloggs their nose and takes a bite of an apple and an onion, he/she couldn’t tell the difference).
Why do we love the food we love? Actually, it all starts in our mother’s womb. Babies whose mother eats garlic during pregnancy will enjoy the flavor of garlic in their mother’s milk while feeding them (in China, there are even food supplements for breastfeeding, to give milk a better taste). Children whose mothers drink carrot juice in pregnancy will probably love carrots. Evolutionary explanation for this is simple- If mom eats it, it’s safe. Even today, we do something similar. We usually see how some kind of food tastes like watching the reaction of our family members and friends – we look up to those we trust.
It is interesting to note that taste is affected by the ambient or visual component. In one experiment, the test subjects had electricity of the small voltage currents through their tongue. One group was shown images of healthy food (low calorie), and another fast food images. Each time the picture was shown, they received a slight electric shock through the tongue. At the end of the study, the group that was shown fast food pictures rated the electrical stimuli more comfortable than the group of healthy foods.
How much ambient affects the taste for food is also shown by the fact that we will eat less from red plates than other colors.
In addition to visual, the auditory component is also very important; it is shown that the chips are much more delicious if a person can actually hear the crunch.
Although the basic purpose of food is to keep us alive, its role today is quite widespread, from a top-notch pleasure for somebody, to other’s main cause of disrupted health.
As taste is so diverse, try to remember some foods you love and others hate, or maybe something you do not like and most people love 🙂