I’m sure you know that we all have five senses: Taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. Even though the senses of taste and smell are separate, they are so close to one another that they are intertwined. Taste and smell work together to help you fully experience food.
Let’s find out!
You have somewhere between 5,000-10,000 taste buds that detect tastants, the chemicals in your food that are sweet, salty, bitter, sour, or savory. The nerves in your taste buds then send messages along your cranial nerves to your brain.
Your taste buds can detect five different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (www.innerbody.com). While your tongue tells you which category food is in, your sense of smell aids you in deciphering specific taste differences. When you take away your sense of smell, your brain has a much more difficult time determining the difference between specific tastes, especially if you cannot see the food!
Activity: In the following activity, you will see why it is difficult to determine similar foods when you lose your senses of sight and smell.
YOU WILL NEED:
- An assistant
- Glass of water
Here’s what to do!
- Peel the potato and the apple.
- Cut a small piece of apple and a small piece of potato. Make sure they are the same shape and size.
- Have your assistant tie the blindfold around your head so you cannot see. Have your assistant hand you a piece of potato or apple, but do not have them tell you what it is.
- Hold your nose so that you cannot breathe out your nostrils and eat the first piece. Make sure you hold your nose the entire time you are chewing and swallowing. Take a drink of water to clear any remaining taste out.
- Hold your nose and eat the second piece.
- Take your guess... which was the apple and which was the potato?
- Part of what made this so difficult to discern the difference was that the texture of the potato and the apple are so similar. What other food items could you compare? Make sure you choose items that similar in texture AND category of taste (sweet, sour, bitter, salty).
- For example, you could use:
- ketchup vs. steak sauce
- juice vs. kool-aid
- chocolate pudding vs. vanilla pudding
- lime jello vs. cherry jello
- carrot vs. broccoli stalk
Another way you could do this is to mix water with other flavorings to represent salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. For example, you could create salt water, sugar water, lemon water, and coffee. Have your participants close their eyes and see if they can identify each drink. Record your observations.