“Immerse yourself in the realm of the senses!” You might wonder what this has to do with food and drink. It’s quite simple: food is much more than a source of energy and nutrients. Eating and drinking also involve the experience of taste and pleasure. A key requirement for culinary enjoyment is the perceptive sensitivity of our five senses: taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing.
Our senses scrutinise the foods we eat, in a manner of speaking. They tell us a great deal, for example, about their palatability, freshness and ripeness. For example, we recognise a ripe tomato from its colour: a deep red means it’s ripe, whereas green means it’s unripe. And what do we learn from touch? The smooth, firm feel of an apple tells us it’s fresh. You can “hear” the freshness of asparagus: rub two fresh asparagus spears against each other and they will squeak. Smell also tells us something about the edibility of foods. We can immediately detect rancid fat and refuse to eat it, while the fragrance of fresh herbs whets our appetite for a delicious Mediterranean dish. These examples illustrate the wealth of information and emotions we receive and process from our senses.
Did you know that our senses have an important influence on our dietary habits? Although we are born with a love of things sweet and an abhorrence of things bitter, our food preferences and aversions are shaped by various experiences during our childhood. We develop preferences, for instance, from repeatedly eating initially unknown dishes and food items that we perceive as wholesome. These are referred to as learned taste preferences. They have a strong influence on our dietary habits and determine how varied our diet is. Take your time during meals and pay attention to what your senses are telling you.