Taste And Flavour.

According to Ayurveda, humans can detect six flavours, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent (hot and spicy as in chilli peppers) and astringent (light and dry as in pop corn).  I am fortunate that I do not have any medical condition that prevents me from enjoying all the tastes, though not at the same time.

In the Western system however, “Taste” refers to our five sensitivities — sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami. I had to ask the meaning for the last from Google uncle .

When you bring “Flavour” into the equation, it  is a “hedonic” sense involving smell, texture, and expectation.  The problem usually is with the last.  I know / knew a large number of people who are never satisfied with what is offered on the table.  They will always find fault because, they had expected something totally different from what eventually was produced.  This is true for even cooks who do not like what their concoctions turn out to be!

Both the words “Taste” and “Flavour” however, are used in different ways to describe phenomenon other than that for the palate.  For instance, “he has a taste for the bizarre!”  I wonder how that would taste on someone’s tongue! “The flavour of the local slang in the larger linguistic study is conspicuous by its absence.”   I can however understand the statement “Taste for the good things of life.”  Here, as long as it restricts itself to food and drink, it makes sense, but when it includes say, furniture, mistresses etc, I am stumped.

When it comes to “Taste” or “Flavour” in any sense, I am what is known as Ashutosh in India.   How about you?


16 thoughts on “Taste And Flavour.”

  1. I was brought up basically on meat potato and veg but have always yearned for the more exotic and explorative foods. Particularly the different culinary experiences of India and its many cuisines.
    Luckily we have a few fairly authentic Indian sources here and I do make the odd dish here.


  2. There is a saying “you are what you eat”. I sincerely hope that’s not true. Otherwise I’d be a vegetable. And bitter. And sour. The Angel most certainly pungent (the amount of hot – chilli etc – he can stomach and craves has me in awe).

    “Umami”. How very interesting you had to google it. It’s that indefinable something in a cook’s armoury; the unique quality of being undetectable yet rounding off a dish’s taste. Anchovies. Thai fish sauce. It’s there yet it isn’t. Magic.


  3. Andy likes very plain food — when in doubt, leave the flavor out! He’s easy to cook for, and I’m not a foodie except to be sure to eat nutritiously. We seem to be doing fine.

  4. Yes, it’s interesting how “taste” has come to mean so many different things. Like a taster – a sampling of something; a taste of victory (or defeat); someone with strange tastes; good and bad taste. Whereas “flavour” is not so versatile. I must say if I lost my sense of taste and couldn’t appreciate what I was eating I would feel pretty bereft.

  5. a girl in my office fell down a flight of stairs in her home. they were carpeted but her head hit the wall at the end on the landing where it turns. that’s apparently what did it. she survived the fall and her life was saved but her senses of taste and smell were both gone.
    I remember she said that taste became “texture” to her. chocolate (she had loved it) became like cardboard if it wasn’t melted but she couldn’t smell it.
    she sensed moisture in salad. and the crunchiness factor of various vegetables. she could sense actual hot and cold but no heat from spices.
    otherwise there was nothing! what a thing to have to get used to.
    she grew so thin we all became worried for her. she moved away so I don’t know how she’s doing today. she had enjoyed cooking and baking.
    I’m sure she had to give that up. very unusual and sad! all from a fall.

    1. There was a brief period when I was marketing some products to the fishing communities and visited many of their coastal villages escorted by a seasoned veteran Sales Executive who had the single most important qualification to hold that position. He could not differentiate between different smells. This was particularly advantageous in Indian villages, where the overpowering odour is that of dried fish and prawns. And, he was/is a total vegetarian. He continues to be a good friend today and I always tease him about this unique trait.

    2. A very sad story indeed, Tammy. Both taste and smell are so important to stimulate “appetite” which makes us want to eat. If all you are largely left with is “bland”, food just becomes about fuel rather than enjoyment I am not surprised she fell off the flesh, just coasting along on the minimum the body requires. Cruel twist that it will have taken her enjoyment of cooking (and nourishing others) off the boil.

      On the other hand, if forced to choose which of my senses to give up, I’d say that both taste and smell are more expendable than, say, sight or hearing.


      1. absolutely agree!
        I haven’t seen her in years. and she married and I don’t know her last name now.
        I think losing sight would be the most horrific. I love to read and I’m a very visual person. more even than audio.
        I wonder if hypnotic sessions might have helped her. it’s an area I wish they would investigate for people like her. not sure how it could be approached. but interesting.
        but then Rummy your friend has made it into a lucrative trait! although I’m sure it’s important in telling if food is ‘off’ or not! good thing he’s vegetarian!

  6. some of my concoctions at home, don’t always look all that tasty – but then I find that they are…and I wonder how I “made it” as the next time a similar concoction is different.

    I think taste has many similarities to “look” – somehow you believe from the look of a dish it’s going to be great tasting…

    I’m not a spicy kind of person, but I do try at times to take something like very small amounts sweet chilli sauce or similar.

  7. Hi Rummy,

    “Here, as long as it restricts itself to food and drink, it makes sense, but when it includes say, furniture, mistresses etc, I am stumped.”

    Synesthesia is very common in literature, as a figure of speech. It is one of my favourites.


    1. Whatever floats your boat Max. Thanks for reminding me of the word synaesthesia. One of my favourite characters in fiction is Amos Decker who is blessed with this condition.

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