By Hlamvu Yose, Meagan du Plooy and Ncebekazi Ntsokota
Professor Henrietta de Kock’s Scifest lecture on food senses on Wednesday changed the way we perceive food. We do not eat just for the sake of eating, she explained. Food does so much more for us by stimulating all five senses without us even being aware.
De Kock (a food sensory scientist and associate professor at the University of Pretoria) also made it clear that the taste of food is important to everyone, regardless of their economic status. The lower income community spends 30% of their budget on food and beverages, while the higher income community spends just 5% of their money on food and beverages.
Although lower income people focus mainly on important foods such as carbohydrates and proteins to extend digestive processes, to take hunger away and for nutrition, stimulating their sensory organs is still important. Generally, however, taste becomes more important than smell or touch.
The five senses of the tongue (sweet, sour, bitter, savoury, salty) are not just found on specific spots, but rather all around the tongue except for the middle of the tongue. The reason many think that the tip of the tongue detects sweetness is due to the fact that sweetness as a taste is heightened on the tip, while bitterness is heightened on the back edges of the tongue.
Meanwhile, the nose is not used for smell. It heats air and, De Kock said, it’s “a good accessory for your face”. The sense of smell is actually on the sinus region between our eyes. Try to eat a sweet with your nose closed, you will realise that sweetness becomes the only taste in your mouth, but as soon as you open your nostrils the smell of the flavour comes out.
De Kock proved to us that food is all about the sensory organs coming together in your mouth to create an amazing taste.
Did you know?
- Mushrooms and tomatoes have MSG, a natural flavour enhancer.
- Food sensory scientists study chemical reactions that takes place in food when you process it.
- Sorghum is a weather ‘all-rounder’ staple food.
- The brain uses touch to localise a smell.