Masterchef relies on the refined palates of the competitors and judges – but can you learn to refine your sense of taste to Masterchef standards?
The sad news from the outset is that you can’t learn to be a “supertaster”, as they are born and not made. Supertasters have much larger than average numbers of taste-buds, and so are much better able to distinguish individual tastes. The downside of this is that they tend to be much more sensitive to bitter tastes, and so use more salt to counteract this.
While you may not be a Masterchef standard supertaster you may be surprised at just how extensive your sense of taste is. We’re all aware of four basic tastes – salt, sweet, sour, and bitter – and you may be aware that the idea that they’re connected to different parts of your tongue is mistaken.
There is a fifth taste that is becoming increasingly well known – umami, from the Japanese for savoury. Thought of as modern it was actually discovered over a century ago, and forms the basis of monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Japanese culture has also identified a sixth taste – kokumi, meaning “mouthfullness”. Oddly for a taste it actually has no taste of its own. Instead it makes food feel richer and more satisfying in the mouth.
Linked to kokumi is a seventh taste called oleogustus. This is the taste produced by triglyceride fats, and gives food a creamy, viscous feel in the mouth. Oleogustus is also linked to bitterness, as overly high concentrations of triglycerides make food taste unpleasantly bitter.
There is an eighth sense of taste that identifies metallic elements in the mouth. Sometimes this can be as a result of dental fillings or as a side effect of some medication. It’s most useful though in identifying blood in the mouth as the result of illness or injury.
And if eight aren’t enough there’s a ninth taste that you have – chalk. There are taste receptors specifically for calcium, and it’s this that gives bismuth and some indigestion remedies their distinctive taste.
So whilst you may not be a Masterchef level supertaster at least you’ve finished this article with more than twice the number of tastes as most people will have started it with.
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