Saturday, April 9, 2016
Introduction to taste with Clair Perrot: Morning Session
Claire Perrot, a taste educator in southern, France, introduced my Food and communications class to taste and tasting. After breakfast, we all gathered in a 50m2 room of the GITE, an auberge in Mouchard France. Pens and pencils out, we were ready to transcribe everything, Claire the expert, had to tell us. The first thing she told us was that senses around test tasting is multi-sensory, meaning it is essential for humans to make use of all senses for taste. She pose a question to each and every student sitting around the tiny room asking us to think about “What is the act of eating for me?” Each student contributed to this questing answering: socializing, hunger, happiness, craving, and preparation. Claire and Professor Shields, my Food and Communications professor who organized this trip, began to write categories on a large presentation tablet organizing as such: flavor, texture, survive, nutrition, routine, preparation, fuel, cooking, ingredients, reward, choice, privileged, social.
According to Claire, the World Health Organization classified the act of eating in the following diagram:
In understanding the importance of sensory in tasting, the sense of hearing was the first exercise conducted in the process of exploring the senses. We listened to sound recordings of someone biting into and apple, pouring milk, cracking of a nut, cutting of zucchini, pouring of milk on cereal, boiling water, and the opening of fizzing sparkling water. Each sound was a different interpretation to each listener. It was important to find the worlds to describe what we were hearing in order to associate our interpretations. Vocabulary is important in taste because it allows us to speak about sensation. Next, we focused on sight as a sensory for tasting. Sight was identified as the first sensorial barrier that could give us false information due to the fact that it is not easy deciding what to eat simply by looking. Color, texture, liquid, form and volume are all characteristics of sight when we look at food. “Dans le Noir,” an interesting restaurant with legally blind waiters, serves customers in a dark room with no light. The concept is for the customers to eat something they cannot see.
An example of this that Claire demonstrated to us involved our first tasting of 2 liquids. The first liquid sample was a yellow light dull color, and the second liquid sample was a pink rose color. As a taste educator, Claire instructed us to first smell, then taste. For the first sample, yellow colored, I described the smell as sweet, like a fresh apple. When tasting, the liquid tasted like apple juice. I described this liquid as sweet, soft, light, with a slight tart aftertaste. The second liquid sample, pink rose color, had no smell, in fact it smelled exactly like the first liquid. I assume it was due to the fact that the same cup was used. In tasting, it tasting exactly like the first liquid. Claire informed us that though the liquids were two different colors, they were the same juice. The color of the pink liquid was created from one drop of red coloring added to the original yellow light dull colored liquid.
The second tasting of the day involved chocolate. The chocolate squares looked like fudge, chocolate brownies. The color was dark brown, similar to the color of mud. Nuts and figs were inside the chocolate, and this chocolate smelled like pure cocoa. The chocolate had a bitter taste, hard texture when bitten into, not too sweet. As discovered was beets inside of what in fact was a cake and not a brownie. The fig can be mistaken for other fruits because it is rare to make cakes with vegetables. In seeing and eating, we are making a connection with the brain for association.
Next, we were introduced to the sense of touch for tasting. Claire ask us another question. “Do we touch everything we eat?” We all looked dumbfounded waiting for the answer, until one of my classmates answered, “Yes, we touch everything that we eat with our tongues.” We were relieved to find out there was an answer to this question that seemed to be tricky. The organ/reception of touch is the skin. We have think layer of skin on our tongues that allow us to touch our food. Temperature, texture, and form are three characteristic involved in touch. The two ways of touching are press and caress. Texture is important to touch. Claire informed us that the first sense of touch is at 7 weeks for a baby, and it occurs in the upper lip, between the nose and the lip. In developing our touch vocabulary, we used a selection of different bags to touch objects inside. We described all of the objects in our own words.
- Inside the first was an object that felt like a rock or a pumice that you would use for the feet. The texture felt rough, scrappy, and porous. It was a rock.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt hairy and round. Pressing it felt fleshy, it was firm but not solid. Edges were rough and felt like a kiwi. It was a kiwi.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt smooth, cool, waxy, and solid. It felt like it had been sliced and I felt a dry spot on the slice. There was a thick solid stem. When pressing it felt like a potato, maybe a beet. It was a round zucchini.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt strange. It felt almost like a dead animal. It felt like the tail of a rat, solid, small and rubbery. It was a turnip.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt loose. I wasn’t expecting it to be so losing after feeling the previous bags. It felt tiny, round, solid, grainy, like rice, smooth, loose freefall. It was wheat epautre.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt smooth. There was a skin on the surface. The object was round shaped like a tear drop, solid and hairy like an onion. It was a shallot.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt rubbery, bouncy, and smooth. I felt a seed inside and it was sticky a bit and slick. This was a mushroom.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt like broccoli. This object had a bumpy top and a smooth solid stem. It was broccoli.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt smooth and rubbery. It had the texture of a tulip leaf. It was solid when pressed and felt like an endive. This was an endive.
- Inside the second bag was an object that felt rough, tiny, salty, grainy and miniscule.
After experimenting with our sense of touch for tasting food, Claire gave us three reasons why we do not like food. These reasons are due to culture, individual physiological difference, and habits. She expands on this through the sense of smell. In experimenting with the sense of smell, we used our nose to smell thin sheets scented paper attempting to group the smells into families and sub categories.
- The first scent smelled was similar to Lemongrass, essential oil. The family that this belong to was fruity with a sub-category of citrus.
- The second scent smelled was similar to lavender, flowery, bouquet and nature. Family of floral.
- The third scent smelled was similar licorice, seedy, and nature. Family of earthy.
- The fourth scent smelled was similar to old peppermint or something old in general. No family could be identified.
- The fifth scent smelled was similar to honey, earthy, bees, insect and pollen. Family of floral.
- The sixth scent smelled was similar to allergies, and maple sap. This was a distinct smell for me due to my allergens. Family of earthy/flowery.
- The seventh scent smelled was similar to spicy, licorice, pungent. Family of earthy.
The third taste of the morning involved us pinching our noses to sample a food. This sample was described as tasteless, crunchy, juicy and neutral. There was no aroma’s. Aromas occur inside of the mouth. We are able to smell through a process called the recto-ulfactive path that connects the nose to the mouth. The mouth traps molecules and is taken trough this path and out through the nose; what we call smell. In keeping with vocabulary we abstained from using the generic world smell. Instead we referred to the two processes as odeur, when the molecules enter the nose from outside, and arome, when the smell is sensed from within the mouth.
Finally we arrived to sense of taste to describe taste. In a way this seemed a bit contradictory, to describe taste as taste. In identifying vocabulary as previously discussed earlier in the training, we defined saveurs as what you recognize onli yon the tongue. This includes vocabulary such as salt, sour, bitter, sweet, fat, acidic, or umamai (what we taste in water). Texture sensation exists because of tactical temperature, texture and form, tactical sensation is the first thing that you will describe, when tasting, through the skin of the tongue and the whole mouth. Armoe, or what we smell in the nose is described as trigeminal sensation. This vocabulary included piquant (onion), brulant (chili), refreshing (mint), astringency (red wine). Astrigency can be described as a sensation you get on the tongue after rubbing a dry almond on the tongue, you will normally get cotton mouth. Through chemical sensations, the sense of smell in the brain is the same place as the treatment of emotions in the brain.
In describing taste we sampled 6 liquids using the vocabulary under the category of arôme and saveur to describe taste. Clair made the mixtures but did not tell us what was mixed within each liquid.
- The first liquid was clear, it smelled like dirty dish water. It tasted salty, astringent and round.
- The second liquid was clear. It smelled like the same dirty water, it had a bitter taste, acidic and sour. In Japan, there is a balance of saveurs. In Italy, they love bitter. We have to learn to like bitter, it is not natural for us to like.
- The third liquid was clear. It also smelled like dirt dish water. I couldn’t taste anything; however, it was supposed to taste bitter.
Quinine, lucine is a different molecule responsible for bitter sensation. Taste is in the relationship between the taster and what is being tasted, according to Claire. There are many things involved with the relationship of taste.
- For the fourth liquid, Quinine was added to the liquid mixture for this sampling, this added bitterness to the liquid.
- For the fifth liquid sampling, this also had a bitter taste, like Umami (in other words, Claire said that were tasting the chemical MSG)
- The sixth sampling of liquid was sugar water, however, I did not taste the sugar.
We continued experimenting with taste through the use of lemons picked from the garden of Claire daughter. The first tasting of lemons we proceeded to observe with sight, describing the lemon as wet, shiny, translucent, white towards the inner part, yellow towards the outer part. The smell had was described as a psychological association, meaning it reminds me of pledge. The taste of the juicy and fleshy part was acidic/piquante, with short strong taste. In this example, taste is made up of what Claire calls aroma (arome) and savor (saveur). Next we added salt to a second slice of lemon. This salt, that came from the Sahara, or region of Timbuktu, had a specific mineral on the salt. The smell of the lemon did not change, however, with the addition of the salt the taste is different, as I could tell that the salt reduced the acidity and bitterness of the lemon. Next we sampled dried strawberries with salt. These dried strawberries were prepared by Claire, and the salt came from England. The odor the dried strawberry resembled very much the smell of porporri chip-wood. It looked dry, dark and color of deep faded red. There was a sweet and salty saveur that was picked up on the tongue.