Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do by John Prescott. Hardcover book published by Reaktion Books 2012, 208 pages with a few black and white photographs.
“The human tongue has somewhere up to 8,000 taste buds to inform us when some thing is sweet, salty, sour or bitter — or, as we usually think of it, delicious or revolting. Tastes differ from one region to the next, and no two people’s seem to be the same. But what is it that makes certain people love Roquefort cheese and others think it smells disgusting? How do our experiences of food as infants and even in the womb affect our food preferences? Are cravings for particular foods really a sign that we’re lacking the nutrients that can be found in them? And why, even when we are completely full, do we always have room for dessert? In Taste Matters John Prescott tackles these conundrums and more as he explores why we like the foods we do.”
Over the last festive week, all of my (up to) 8,000 taste buds have been extremely busy enjoying the holiday season, which is why i've chosen to write about this book at this point in time. Fortunately there was no sausage or cheese on sticks at any of the four celebratory dinners that I attended and indeed, I don't think I saw any tinned pineapple plattered out anywhere. There was though, a similarity between all of the meals of which I partook. All four had turkey, ham, roast vegetables and salads, followed by overly sweet desserts including trifle on 3 occasions. (For some unknown reason I didn't see any fruit mince pies on offer this year... very strange.)
The reason I've written about all of this is that this similarity in food between four unconnected meals (completely different groups of people) is obviously due to not only culturally and geographically significant festive eating rituals, but also a matter of taste. I didn't hear anyone complaining about any of the foods on offer, so I think I can safely say that everyone found the plenteous spreads to be tasty... or maybe everyone was too polite. This generalisation of taste appreciation covering all four meals is based on the joy felt by my own 8,000 taste buds on all four occassions.
So why did we all like it? I guess the answer is in this book.