Why your brain can taste

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  • I'm sure you've been there. A bite of mother's pea soup evokes fine (or less fine) childhood memories. The sense of taste is one of the five classic senses of man. The primary, fundamental flavours are: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Umami gives the impression of heartiness.

    Onno Stienen of ONOFF SPICES often uses fermented ingredients. Rene Redzepi (chef/owner of restaurant Noma) states: "By working with fermented ingredients you get a lot more umami in your dishes". According to some researchers, there is a sixth taste: fat.

  • But there is much more when it comes to taste. When tasting, the perception of the structure (crispy or limp, tender or tough), the temperature and the spiciness of the food also play an important role.

    In his book "How the brain constructs taste", neuro biologist Gordon Shepherd shows how your brain creates a complex taste image based on countless impressions. It starts with a memory of the food that activates the salivary glands. As you bring the food to your mouth, you see the colors, the shapes and smell the smells. Then the chewing, the sound and the feeling in the mouth give even more information.

    The taste buds (receptors) on your tongue perceive the primary flavours and as you chew and swallow, volatiles are released into your nasal cavity. Finally, your brain combines all sensory information into a taste experience. "We think taste comes from the mouth, but most of it comes (...) from smells, which are recognized by receptors in the nose. This is how we build up a 'memory' in the brain for later taste experiences."

    onoff spices

    ONOFF SPICES makes natural and organic ready-to-use Thai soups, curry pastes and wok sauces for European gourmets. The production is sustainable, with an eye for nature.

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