The joy of life. Taste and Society: The Pleasure of Life (I)

Taste and smell are the foundational elements of Homo sapiens. The two sensors, whose functions are intertwined to the point of inseparable, control our entire existence, starting with nutrition and reproduction, as well as emotional, cultural, aesthetic relationships and emotions, and increasingly the economic and social relationship.

Taste is essentially a complex chemical meaning, essential to our nutritional behavior and metabolism. The sense of taste, which begins in the oropharynx, travels rapidly through several shunt pathways to the brain, where the chemical stimulus is transformed into a sense of taste in the single nucleus of the brainstem.

There are three psychophysical criteria that determine an individual’s taste perception, the quality of the taste stimulus, its intensity and hedonism. The gustatory nervous system can perceive an infinite number of flavors within a continuous multidimensional taste space.

Apart from the sensor, taste also has a symbolic meaning, because, as we see, taste also has polysemous connotations. Michel Onfray enlists taste and smell in the secret of transcendence.

“Taste” – “Good taste”: These are expressions used to identify people who have a knack for nuance, discernment, who are aware of the quality of an object, thing, work of art, etc., and how to present it. Himself in society, his clothes and his behavior. Good taste is a subjective process that depends on the intelligence, culture and social culture of the individual. Semanticly, the expression “taste” should be understood as a human and social phenomenon that makes the transition from innate – hereditary, that is, sensual – to moral, aesthetic and cultural.

“To have good taste” thus means to have the ability to feel and discern the beauty or imperfections of a work of art. Good taste is part of the norms of civilization and the culture of society. Fungal taste refers to and is limited to common natural foods and drinks (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, water).

Throughout life, taste develops, is taught, mastered in accordance with the availability of individual taste, on the one hand, and food experience, education, culture, social rank, and hedonism, on the other hand. The food habits of the community, its natural resources and the degree of its civilization are considered important factors affecting. Until puberty, the child accepts foods with a certain taste according to his genotype. It is about the usual basic taste, which adapts only to a few foods. The variety of food is affected by the so-called fear of taste. For this reason, it is carried out gradually and with a well-established scientific rhythm. At puberty, the fear of the taste of food disappears, and the adolescent begins to discover a certain taste pleasure that goes beyond the basic foods to which he is accustomed.

The basic tastes, scientifically established by Chevreul in 1824, are four: salty, sweet, bitter, sour. Gustatory neurosensory receptors on the tongue, oral mucosa, and pharynx have a specific projection area, specific to each one.

Food processing, the industrialization of the culinary arts, and the pursuit of “improvers”, including taste, helped the emergence of a new taste, the fifth. It’s called umami, was discovered and described by Japanese nutritionists, and its taste sensation is similar to that of sodium glutamate.

The rationale for researching and discovering this taste begins with the scientifically proven idea that the flavors of savor can be varied, amplified, and combined in infinite shades and intensities, depending on the inclinations and hedonistic sensibilities of each individual. The taste sensor, once enriched, is stored in memory in the form of a taste ideogram. Everyone has his own taste space and his own taste ideogram, in addition to his hedonistic inclinations. For this reason, it is not possible to determine the criteria for taste, since aftertaste is considered a non-transmissible sensation.

Taste sensitivity is formed, developed and learned. Education as a whole also refers to the education of taste. Primitive, uneducated taste pauses and hesitates in shawarma, while cultured taste flirts with fine gastronomy. Therefore, we can call taste a socio-cultural reaction, suitable only for elaborate and trained sensory behavior. Brillat-Savarin was convinced that “the number of flavors is unlimited, because each soluble body has a special taste that is incomparable to others.”

So there is no consensus. Eating behavior influences taste and contributes to the formation of taste ideograms. As Priat Savarin pointed out, “Smell and taste are really one sense. […] The mouth is the laboratory and the nose is the furnace.”

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