Ok, so with the tilting of the planet on it’s axis in relation to the sun we are rapidly approaching summer, and with it comes the dreaded hay fever and blocked nose.

The past few weeks have been a nightmare for my senses and everything seems to taste and smell a bit strange, so for this post I thought I’d set up a basic taste test to see how much our senses play a role in our experience of eating. Here my blind smell taste test.

blind taste test
some chicken stock, coffee and sesame oil with your vanilla milk?

I roped in three nervous but willing high school students to help with the experiment, which was divided into two parts : with smell and without smell.

The first part involved blindfolding the participant and letting them smell and then taste the liquid. What they did not realise was that there was a different liquid in the top part and that all the glasses had milk with a drop of vanilla in the bottom.

Before and between smelling and tasting the liquids they would smell lavender for 30 seconds so that they could all start on a baseline of the same aroma in their sinuses.

Blind taste test
Some Vanilla milk with coffee, sesame oil and a chicken stock cube for proper aroma

The results were as follows:

Coffee on top, vanilla milk on the bottom:

  1. Smelled coffee, tasted vanilla and salt
  2. Smelled chocolate, tasted milk
  3. Smelled coffee, tasted milk
Chicken stock cube on top, vanilla milk on the bottom:
  1. Smelled hot sauce, tasted chocolatey
  2. Smelled Chicken stock, couldn’t identify taste
  3. Smelled Chicken stock, couldn’t identify taste
Sesame oil on top, vanilla milk on the bottom:
  1. Smelled burnt peanut butter, tasted peanut milk
  2. Smelled beef, tasted salty
  3. Smelled soy, couldn’t taste anything

The second part of the experiment was without the sense of smell and blindfolded.

steristumpie
Many of you will remember the humble steristumpie from childhood lunch boxes, turns out colour and smell mean more to your memory of this than taste.

This time I gave them three different types of flavoured milk:

Raspberry:

  1. Sugar, milk, cream soda
  2. Milk
  3. Bubblegum, strawberry, blueberry

Caramel:

  1. Tasted like the first one
  2. Vanilla milk
  3. Strawberry

Chocolate:

  1. Sugar, milk, hint of chocolate
  2. Milk
  3. Some sweet

So in conclusion, it seems there’s much more to our perception of taste than what we take for granted, for instance, people thought they tasted salt in vanilla milk and no one could taste raspberry or caramel flavoured steristumpies unless they could see the colour and smell them.

Maybe the best way forward in this hay-feverish season is to increase our food’s aromas more than their tastes, you don’t need more salt if you can purposefully engage all the other senses.

Final thought: think of roast sizzling and golden brown and dripping delicious juices from it’s succulent flesh. Keep that thought in your head and really try imagine it vividly, even read it again if it helps.

You only read that but somehow you could taste it as well. Taste is our perception, not mechanics of the mouth.