The Art and Science of What We Eat
By: John McQuaid
Publication Date: 01/15/2015
My Rating: 4 Stars
A fascinating and deeply researched investigation into the mysteries of flavor—from the first bite taken by our ancestors to scientific advances in taste and the current “foodie” revolution.
Taste has long been considered the most basic of the five senses because its principal mission is a simple one: to discern food from everything else. Yet it’s really the most complex and subtle. Taste is a whole-body experience, and breakthroughs in genetics and microbiology are casting light not just on the experience of french fries and foie gras, but the mysterious interplay of body and brain.
With reporting from kitchens, supermarkets, farms, restaurants, huge food corporations, and science labs, Tasty tells the story of the still-emerging concept of flavor and how our sense of taste will evolve in the coming decades. Tasty explains the scientific research taking place on multiple fronts: how genes shape our tastes; how hidden taste perceptions weave their way into every organ and system in the body; how the mind assembles flavors from the five senses and signals from body’s metabolic systems; the quest to understand why sweetness tastes good and its dangerous addictive properties; why something disgusts one person and delights another; and what today’s obsessions with extreme tastes tell us about the brain.
Brilliantly synthesizing science, ancient myth, philosophy, and literature, Tasty offers a delicious smorgasbord of where taste originated and where it’s going—and why it changes by the day.
A special thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
TASTY, The Art and Science of What We Eat, by John McQuaid, is an exploration of taste, mysteries of flavor, senses, and a blend of culinary history from our ancestors to today’s “foodie” revolution.
Taste is often dismissed as the most primitive of the senses, yet it’s really the most complex and subtle sense of them all. The author explores flavor and where it came from and where it is going.
Readers learn taste is a whole body experience, and breakthroughs in genetics and microbiology are casting light not only on the experience of French fries and foie gras, but on the mysterious interplay of body, brain, and mind.
Reporting from kitchens, supermarkets, farms, restaurants, food corporations, and science labs, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John McQuaid tells the story of the still emerging concept of flavor and how our sense of taste will evolve in the coming decades. The author also explores how deliberate manipulation of flavor influences virtually every aspect of the human experience.
I am very fascinated by foods, as have severe allergic reactions to many foods, additives and preservatives, so on a very strict diet. To the point, I am unable to drink wine, eat sugars, no processed foods, no meats, or gluten, or dairy; a strict vegan. In addition, am unable to dine out due to the preservatives in foods, highly sensitive to chemicals and allergic to most medications.
Was very intrigued, unlike smell, the sense of taste is less emotional than existential. The author compares the unity of taste and smell in flavor is like a good marriage. The differences are profound, but each partner has complementary strengths and weaknesses. Flavor is only one in its array of sophisticated cognitive responsibilities, which include decision making. It’s the brain’s food critic, connecting to areas governing emotions and judgment, and anatomically structured to process pleasure and aversion. Some of this may explain our tendency to rank favorite or most-hated foods; our brains are literally organized this way.
From flavor cultures, the tongue, the birth of flavor, to seduction, flavor sits at the intersection of all the sciences. “It is driven more by forces outside kitchens than in, but chefs and artisans do have one thing working for them: the mystery at the heart of flavor has never truly been cracked. Science has still not explained how flavor can encompass the whole range of human experience—pleasure, joy, disgust, pain, memory—continually hammering these into something new with each new dish, each sip.”
A very informative book and analysis of food production, DNA, flavor manipulations, and how such motivators and chemicals affect the brain and body, as well as our overall health.