On a Beach Walk: No. 49 (Taste)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Take your pick – think about your favorite food – or your most recent meal – or what are you going to eat at your next meal. Better yet, how would you describe its taste? Think beyond a mere similarity and contrast statement as it tastes like chicken.

Taste is not superfluous – taste is both serious and fun. Chefs pride themselves on achieving a certain taste in their culinary creation, yet how many of us take time to taste beyond the obvious that is associated with chewing and swallowing?

We make conclusion statements as I like it or not – but can explain why? Can we distinguish and describe flavors? That’s when taste is serious and fun!

I think about how taste serves as a protection mechanism against poisons while serving as a basis for cravings. Babies not like bitter, but over time, the same person may end up enjoying coffee.

I think about how a sommelier is trained to distinguish flavors in wine – while to some wine drinkers, simple terms in tasting notes as fruity, dry, oaky, citrus, and more may be reasons to like or dislike a wine. In school we learned about taste as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Today, we add savory (umami) to that list. However, have you ever tried to describe the taste of a cherry to someone who can’t distinguish tastes? Better yet, to someone without a sense of taste?

Taste is serious and fun – yet to living things with that ability, taste is about meeting nutritional and survival needs. For we humans, taste starts with nerve endings primarily located on the tongue.

I like black licorice – and that means I also enjoy raw fennel – but that distinct taste is not for everyone. On the other hand, I consider the taste of caraway seeds as evil – but others love it. I didn’t enjoy sauerkraut as a kid – but today I have ways of accepting the taste. So I wonder, how much of our personal preferences lie in our DNA versus how much is learned?

I’m of Italian descent, so some automatically assume I’m a lover of garlic. Well, that’s not true for me, but I also believe garlic’s overabundance in food masks other flavors.

The sense of taste delivers the joys of culinary delights. The sense of taste distinguishes excellence from mediocrity. The sense of taste is an important aspect of what makes a meal memorable. Yet, taste is personal – but deeply personal for those who use it.

As I walk on the beach, there are days I believe I can taste sea salt from the ocean in the air – then again, maybe that’s the smell influencing that thought. Nevertheless, I like walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.