Food Lesson #21

“Mark!”, you exclaim, “What’s the difference between a taste and a flavor?!”. Well, first of all, let’s calm down. A taste is something that can be sensed solely by your tongue. You have five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (more on umami another time). A flavor, on the other hand, is something that is received by both taste and scent.

Hold your nose and taste lemon juice: simply sour. That’s lemon taste. Now taste it again with your nose open: you can sense the lemony zest and citrus power of the fruit. That’s lemon flavor.

As for visual aids, here’s a diagram of where your tongue picks up tastes:


And here’s a diagram illustrating how tastes and flavor (odor) interact:

Taste + Odor

Notice the taste “mouthfeel” in the wheel: that’s umami in a nutshell. It’s the fullness in the mouth / heartiness / proteiny taste that adds sensory heft to any dish. We all love umami, let’s not lie.

Mark posted this on February 15, 2008 and is filed under Quips n' Tips.

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