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Claiming to be food-tasting expert: With only three kinds of taste buds?

So far, textbooks tell me that mankind enjoy only three kinds of taste buds: Sweet, Salty and Sour.  I have tasted these attributes in food. They are called basic taste dimension, and I am wondering “are there other taste buds that particular people might have and the rest of us normal people are denied of?” How can 3 kinds of buds generate hundreds of attributes and a dozen of dimensions to evaluating competing food products?

For example, you are handed a questionnaire asking you to evaluate a food product relative to its texture…Am I evaluating food or fabrics? How am I to understand the meaning of texture in a field that is out of my expertise?

Can you believe food-tasting experts evaluate mayonnaise product on a 15-point scale according to these “dimensions”:

1. Appearance: color, chroma, color intensity, shine, lumpiness, and bubbles

2. Texture: adhesiveness to lips, firmness, denseness..Ten attributes just for textures. Are tasting woody and “wine”y acceptable attributes?

3. Flavor (14 attributes): aromatic,eggy, mustardy…

4. Chemical-feeling: burn, pungent, astringent…

How sweet, how caramelized, the citrus character (lemon, lime, grapefruit,orange…)

The computer will churn out results on every attribute and it is up to the kinds of expert to figure out what are essential and critical.  A statistical computer analyst might extend his interpretation of the results according to particular protocols of tasting techniques by naive tasters, or the food-taster expert his judgment by actually tasting the food and figuring out the competing best product and offering recommendations…

Gail Vance Civille and Judy Heylmun of (Sensory Spectrum) based in New Jersey are food-taster experts. Heylmun says: “We did Oreos and we broke them into 90 attributes. It turned out that 11 attributes are probably critical…”

Heylmun went on: “Give me cookies and crackers and I can tell you what factories produce them and how they were reworked…”

Reworked food products are recombined leftover of rejected ingredients from product batches into another product batch (recycling process?)

Food experts are excellent figuring out the “difference” between Coke and Pepsi for example.

The two female food-tasters conduct “difference study” on a scale of 1 to 10, called Degree of Difference (DoD) to compare similar food product.

For example, the is a difference of 4 between Coke and Pepsi, 8 degrees between Lay and wise’s salt and vinegar potato chips..

Coke or Pepsi might change taste after some time of not being consumed: aging, level of carbonation, vanilla turned pruney..

Food experts are excellent in the food triangle testing technique. You pour Coke in two glasses and Pepsi in a third glass.  It is extremely hard for naive tasters to get it right. Why?

You need to be a taster expert so that the sensory memory learn to become resilient to the first impressions. And the best way to become an expert is to know the vocabulary in the tasting industry and understand what each word means and “taste”…

Do you think it is a good judging technique for taking a single sip?  What a single sip can tell you about Coke and Pepsi? That one is sweeter than the other or more sour (citrus?)  What if you were asked to drink two liters of each drink? Or to take home an entire carton to taste in comfort and leisurely?  Do you think that your judgment would be different? How much can you withstand a very sweet drink, a very sour drink in the long run…?

Suppose you have a highly developed tasting skills, but you have no idea how to explain what you are tasting? Is you judgment of any utility?

Food-taste expert have developed a taxonomy of the various dimensions and attributes to evaluate.  And it is this knowledge that permit food-taster experts to differentiate among shades and levels of the basic tastes buds combination.  They have acquired a particular sensory tasting memory to verbally discriminate among varieties of foods…

Actually, many of the attributes accounts for the smell memory, the seeing memory, and the touch memory when tasting food.  I think that the smell contribute more to the taxonomy than even taste in differentiating among food.

For example, suppose your smell is blocked out in the tasting evaluation, do you think that tasting judgment would be the same to you, or the food would taste good?

Actually, evaluation of food should focus more on health and safe consumption.  Cancer, cancer, cancer…cancer taste good.

Note: Article inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell 


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

March 2021
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