Fascinating Facts about Taste and Smell

Taste and smell often overlap.
Although I usually associate taste with how the food feels in my mouth, where I sense flavors, textures, and temperature, 80 percent of overall taste comes from our sense of smell.

Heated food gives off more vapors than cold food.
Which explains why freshly-made bread hot from the oven smells better than day-old bread.

Garlic, coffee, and chocolate are perceived mostly by smell.
I can see why the aroma of a garlicky dish or a cup of coffee influences our tasting it, but chocolate surprised me because I don’t think of it as an aromatic food. When it’s heated, however, in the form of chocolate chip cookies with melty chips, or hot fudge drizzled on ice cream, or brownies that are still warm, the aroma permeates the whole house.

Hot Fudge Brownies.
Hot Fudge Brownies.

Memories attached to smell are most vivid and easiest to recall, especially if the association is negative.
Which explains why I gag at the idea of eating cold butter.

Plumper people have fewer taste receptors for sweets than thinner people.
This was a new one to me. Researchers in Buffalo concluded that “trouble detecting sweetness may lead obese mice to eat more than their leaner counterparts to get the same payoff.” If we apply the logic to humans, perhaps it could explain why people like me put more sugar in their coffee.

Habitual exposure to smells can cause desensitization.
I can attest to this fact. Once when we were visiting my in-laws, who lived near a paper mill that spewed foul odors, my father-in-law stepped out on the balcony, breathed deeply, and said, “Smell that wonderful fresh air!”

The Paper Mill
The Paper Mill

The universally most pleasant aroma is vanilla.
No wonder malls are sprinkled with bakeries, perfume shops, and candle stores. Just goes to show that the taste of vanilla doesn’t always overlap with the smell of vanilla.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberry
Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberry

Personally, I like vanilla only in food. How about you?

Posted on July 28, 2015

2 thoughts on “Fascinating Facts about Taste and Smell

  1. Very interesting post! I didn’t realize vanilla was so universally liked. But it makes sense!

    I’ve been live-trapping groundhogs on our farm and it has been a challenge to entice these well-fed animals into the trap. Why should they go into that cage for food when they have acres and acres of delicious alfalfa? But a friend of mine recommended vanilla, so I put a few drops of it on some broccoli and had a groundhog in the trap in just three hours! It must have been a case of the smell being better than the taste, though, because he didn’t eat the broccoli. Oh, and don’t worry… He has a nice new home in a local state park!

    1. Oops, I meant to reply earlier. Sorry, Laurie. I loved your your experiment with putting vanilla on broccoli, although it made me wince because it doesn’t sound good at all to mix the two. Glad it did the trick, and I’m glad you relocated the critter.

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