Reader Susan writes:
Taste and flavor; two words that are often used interchangeably. Discuss.
Are you kidding? I can hardly wait! Technically speaking, the word “flavor” is more narrowly defined than “taste.” Sensory researchers define flavor as the set of sensations that occur on the tongue. Taste, on the other hand, is what happens on the tongue, in the sinuses, the ears…the whole shootin’ match. And it’s all related to chewing.
Chewing, as we all know, serves a vital functional purpose, to break up food so it can pass easily into the esophagus. But oh, it’s so much more than that. The act of chewing not only helps us “hear” what we’ve put into our mouths (as discussed in one of last weeks’ posts), it liberates essential oils and other volatile compounds, freeing them to pass upward through the nasal fossae at the back of the throat and into the nasal cavity. Which is where the magic happens. I’ll have much to say about that, but for now I wish to emphasize that the slower and more deliberately one chews, the smaller the pieces of food get in the mouth and the more essential oils are released.
Which raises a very interesting point about eating. Specifically, that the style in which one eats drastically impacts one’s experience. Slow eaters tend to not only chew more extensively, they also secrete more saliva, which further breaks down the food in the mouth, releasing still more volatile molecules. The added breathing that occurs during this slower mastication process also circulates those volatile molecules more extensively, and the sensory experience is heightened.
Fast eaters lose out on much of this, plus they tend to eat more, since satiety or “fullness” is communicated to our brains by our tasting mechanisms and not, as most people think, by our stomachs. The end result is that the fast eater takes in more calories, but enjoys them less. Oh, the irony.