89. Tasty Bites!


Eating is one of the greatest sensual pleasures in life. The taste of the food is the main reason why we like or dislike the food. How do we taste what we taste?

Taste is determined by the minute barrel shaped taste buds, 9000 in number, located on the upper surface of the tongue. There are a few taste buds on the soft palate at the back of the mouth and a few in the throat. The tip of each bud has 15 to 20 receptors—cells linked to nerve fibers that carry taste impulses to the brain.

These taste receptors have only a very short life. They are completely renewed once in a week or so. Older people have lesser taste buds and are unable to relish their food, the way they used to do! Children have very sensitive taste buds and this explains why they dislike spicy food.

Taste buds can detect only four basic tastes—sweet, sour, salty and bitter– depending on their location. The tip of the tongue is sensitive to sweet things; the sides to the sour things; the tip and the sides to the salty things and the back of the tongue to bitter things.

Enjoying the flavour of the food involves additional factors like the sense of smell, sight, temperature and the texture of the food. When we suffer from severe cold, food loses its flavour.

The actual mechanism of the tasting process is vague. Taste is probably the result of a mild chemical reaction. The molecule of the food forms a bond with the molecule of the surface of the taste cells. This excites a nerve fiber giving rise to a new impulse. The central nervous system relays these sensations to the brain. It identifies the taste and associates it with the particular food.

Whatever may be the process involved in tasting, one thing is certain—without our ability to taste, food would lose all its charm.

Visalakshi Ramani

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