Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My taste buds, they are a-changin’

My taste is definitely changing… or evolving… or something like that. I used to not enjoy cheese, but now I love it. I used to love chocolate cake, but now I could go without it. Whether my taste is conscious or not, I’m worried that my buds are maturing less like a fine wine and more like a shriveled up grape (that would be a raisin. Thanks, I got it).

At my recent alumni event for Brandeis University, the group invited psychology and neuroscience professor, Dr. Don Katz. The guy could explain the most complicated electrical signal in the body to a 4 year old. Yes, I exaggerate, but the man is good.

He explained that a lot of our taste comes from experience, condition, and what you are born to like. It’s a combination of many things, he said, and like all scientist, he didn’t have a perfectly clear answer for me.

But he did offer some good examples. Take coffee, he said. It’s bitter and won't taste good black the first time you try it. Give some to a baby and there’s no doubt you’ll see the baby go BLECHHH (go try that one at home). However, as you begin to drink it more and more you start associating the taste with staying awake, and, in turn, you begin to like it.

Same thing goes for beer. The drink is bitter and the first time you try it the only thing stopping you from gagging is your social decency. Naturally you begin to associate beer with pleasure and learn to like the taste (yes, the alcohol also helps).

What I learned here is that your palate is always evolving as you are constantly making new associations with food. I know this answer is only part of the complicated big picture, but I am positively sure that my taste buds are changing. I hope for myself, and for the sake of this blog, that they’re only getting better.

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