In search of the sense of taste [SXSW 2021] Bigumigu

Plant-based foods and meat substitutes continue to grow. One of the most assertive brands in this field. Impossible foods He was invited to the Web Summit last year. SXSW 2021 was on our agenda with a session focused on vegan products. Approach vegan food with a new perspective So vegan“What is taste?” session; Food technologies, sense of taste and smell were discussed.

As defined by Rachel Herz, an academic known for her studies in cognitive neuroscience; not a single thing; It is formed by the combination of many different influences. Besides sweet, salty, bitter and sour flavors, fragrance is of course the main factor that comes to mind when it comes to taste. However, there are textures, emotions and even memories. All of these come together to create a taste experience for us.

One of the leading companies in the field of herbal technologies goda. Motif Foodworks Jonathan McIntrye, who participated in the session on his behalf, explains his work to increase the nutritional value and taste of food. He says that the most important topic in this field is being able to unravel the secrets of food and understand its nature. Topics such as the chemistry of a food, its structure and how it is perceived by people play an important role in the recreation of that food.

Stating that herbal foods are not giving very satisfying results at the moment, McIntrye finds that mostly vegan products are not enough in terms of taste. It states that vegan food manufacturers should focus on offering a new food experience by improving its taste and texture, rather than offering a meat alternative to hamburgers. Therefore, without comparison, people’s perception of a new and tasty food may be different than it is today.

Dominique Crenn, the founder of the world-famous 3-Michelin-star Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, looks at the subject through the eyes of the chef. Crenn, who was adopted by a French family when he was a baby, knew different cuisines of the world as a child with the influence of his mother and realized his interest in cooking. Known for his creative vision, Crenn; He explains the importance of opening up to different cultures while cooking and that is the essence of his brand.

Taste, not just taste and smell

Emotions have a huge impact on how we enjoy a meal. Here too the experiences learned come into play. We tend to eat comfort foods that our mother lovingly prepared in our childhood. When we come across food that resembles them, we feel a sweet sense of nostalgia. Crenn exemplifies this when a Ukrainian guest who arrives at his restaurant starts crying while eating. Something about that plate reminded her of the food her grandmother made in Russia, even though it was a dish she had never tried before. In short, memories and emotions are important in terms of taste. Therefore, the environment, social relationships and entertainment when eating also affect the experience.

Hertz explains that in terms of taste sensitivity, there are three types of people in the world, each of us genetically falling into one of three types: super tasters, taste buds, and bland. Super taste buds don’t like extreme flavors, as they feel all kinds of flavors much more intense. Go for milder options rather than too bitter, too sweet, or too sour. On the contrary, those who can’t savor the flavor are trying to capture that sense of taste by making extremely hot and spicy selections because they don’t taste the flavor very easily.

Although this part of the work is genetic, of course, taste is not just about this; There is also a place for learned experiences. Social and emotional experiences affect a person’s perception of that food. So a super flavor taker; If you eat a very bitter spice with a spoon, you may not like it, but when you add that bitter to a meal and serve the food in a happy and comfortable environment, the same person can learn to like it.

An example of how our perception affects taste is given by lobster. Lobster, which is abundant in the Boston region of the US, was not initially perceived as a major food product due to its abundance. It was even seen as a kind of punishment food that was given to prisoners. However, this has become history and lobster has become today’s expensive, gourmet luxury. So the question here is: Will eating lobster on days when lobster looks bad, and will eating lobster today change the flavor we get from that food?

Appearance, smell and texture

One of the most important parts of a meal is its visuality. Crenn is not a visual and content dish in this sense; says you are trying to present a story. Also, textures play a very important role. McIntrye tells us that we don’t usually find a dish that tastes good, but we don’t like the texture. The third important factor is, of course, the smell, because what gives flavor to a food is its smell rather than its taste. Hertz says that if we closed our noses and eyes and bit into an apple and a potato, we would not be able to distinguish their taste.

Picture: Atelier Crenn

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