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Chicken, Cucumber, Avocado, Salad with Tomato and Olives. And a nice ear of corn to boot!

Tasting: Or What Causes Our Mouth To Do The Happy Dance?

Making crackers is all about taste. In order to have a successful product, it has to taste good. Seems obvious, right? But the sensation of taste is a complicated thing. Like our other senses, it’s something that can be honed and developed, if one is so inclined. This gets us into cognitive and perceptual science; one of my fascinations during the career that encapsulated the third half of my life. The other three halves are stories for another time.
Taste, as a sensation comes mostly from receptors on the tongue and in the mouth and throat. This system gets a big assist from the olfactory glands; our sense of smell. Fun fact, the sense of smell is the only sense that has direct wiring to the brain. This is why our smell sense memory can be so powerful. Anyway, the sense of taste as we know it has receptors for five different tastes. These are Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, and Umami. In musical terms, you’d say that your mouth works with a pentatonic scale. Five notes from which to compose your flavors. The jury is out regarding specific locations of these receptors on the tongue, though some feel that there is a “map” of areas that have an abundance of a certain taste receptor. Suffice it to say, to really taste, you need to move the food around the mouth so that all of the regions of the tongue and mouth are engaged with the object of the tasting. From personal experience, it can be said that there are tastes that occur at the “front” of the mouth, and others that occur at the “back” of the mouth. Taste sensations also have the tendency to bloom in the mouth; meaning they develop over time if one pays attention to them. As this is being written, I’m experiencing the lingering bloom of an astringent apple slice that was lightly coated with salted caramel sauce that was the end of a meal that occurred almost forty minutes ago. Seems we have the ability to hold on to sensations if we are so inclined, for good or for ill. As often as possible, I choose for good when I can.
Which brings up the point that tasting is a skill that can be developed. It requires a willingness to slow down and experience the flavors of our food in a thoughtful and mindful way. Going down this path opens one to more subtle flavors, and to food combinations that create culinary chords that are new to us. Our cracker flavors were developed with this in mind. We don’t want to bonk you on the head with an overwhelming flavor. We want the flavor to bloom in you mouth, and to not fight with the other foods you might be eating alongside our crackers; which is called flavor pairings. In a good flavor pairing, the foods combine together to create a greater sensation, much like musical notes combine together to make a chord that just works nicely with nothing dissonant or scratchy. Flavor pairings can be based on experience, culinary research and training, or on personal or cultural history. In this regard, we cannot underestimate the impact of history on our assumptions of what tastes good. But that ’s a topic for another time..

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