A chef's easy guide to the difference between taste and flavour (flavor)
Taste And Flavour (Flavor)
The Basics Of Taste and Flavour (Flavor)
What is the difference between taste and flavour anyway? This is something I have been asked many times by young chefs and customers alike.
OK let's start with taste. Very simply taste is; SWEET, SOUR, SALTY, BITTER and the new one UMAMI (which I will elaborate on in a minute}. Some scientists say fat is also a taste, personally I think that fat is a sensation on the tongue rather than a taste. I don't have test tubes, micro-scopes or a white coat, I just aim to cook food that people enjoy. We get taste from our taste buds which is a chemical reaction triggered to the brain.
Take salt. Salt is the combined chemicals of sodium-chloride, Too much of it is not good for you or for the taste of the food you are making. But our bodies need some salt and so do the dishes we cook in the kitchen. Think of it from mother nature's point of view:
> Salt is a mineral, OK, good, we need small amounts of that.
> Sweet taste is a good taste, it makes us think high energy: bananas, honey, etc, we need some of that too.
> When it come to sour tasting foods we tend to take it a little easy. Most people don't eat too much sour food, like lemons, under ripe fruit, etc. Sour things are not bad for us but the taste could make us proceed with caution.
> Bitter taste as you know is not nice and lets us know not to eat that food, or to eat very little of it.
> Umami, known as the new boy / fifth taste, is described as meaty and savoury, and I say a little earthy, like mushrooms.
Umami comes from the Japanese word umai, which means delicious. The Japanese were the first to recognise umami as a taste around a hundred years ago, and it's only in the last 10 to 20 years that have we really started to acknowledge it as a taste in the West.
So I expect you still think that you can taste more than that... Err no, actually that is flavour! What is flavour then, you ask. Well Flavour is a combination of taste plus many other sensations and factors such as aroma, texture, juiciness, sensation or 'feel' of the food on the tongue and even colour. Ok so perhaps this is where I need to prove the theory. We are going to do a quick experiment. It's more fun and works better with another person!
Taste and Flavour (Flavor) Test
Go to your fridge get your volunteer to close their eyes and pinch their nose. Now take a piece of food from the fridge and put it in their mouth. A strawberry or a piece of banana is ideal to start. Ask them what they think it is? Try it with a few different types and varieties of food. Make sure they keep their nose pinched and eyes closed.
OK, now they can stop pinching the nose and try the foods again. Yep, this time they are much more likely to get it right!
So we have established that our sense of smell, which can pick up and work out so many more details compared to our taste buds alone, plays a big big part in the flavour of our food. That's why when we have a cold and our noses' are blocked we say we can't taste our food. The other senses play a part in flavour too. The moment we see the colour and shape of a piece of food, our brain is processing to see if we recognise it, and remember what it tasted like, before we even put it into our mouths. All these signals come into play and then when we finally place the food into our mouths, BOOM, all the little pieces come together and we have theflavour.
Flavour will be a slightly different experience from person to person. For example, I might use my sense of smell slightly more, compared to my other senses, for a certain piece of food, whereas you might use your eyes more. The experience of flavour will be slightly different for both of us. I believe that our memories and thoughts play a big part too. Perhaps strawberries conjure up memories of a warm summer. sweet juicy happiness. Or perhaps the British classic fish and chips, which has a smell of vinegar and paper, that we probably don't even really notice, and it makes us think of the sea and gulls squawking. Each person has their own memories associated with food.
Candy floss is basically just sugar, however the sounds, lights and drama that are often around when we buy our first candy floss at the fun fair, make for an exciting memory of a sweet taste from a young age. This is a typical experience of flavour for many young people. Fruit we picked from trees as children seemed to be so much better. They probally were better as they would have been warmed and ripened by the sun to bring out the natural sweetness. That's why fruit from the fridge does not usually taste as good as warm fruit.
All our sense`s working together for that flavour
The difference between taste and flavour.
People often say that as we grow older our tastes change. Of course as we go through life we come across different and new flavours and smells, and we decide whether or not we like them. Can we improve our sense of taste and flavour? Yes we certainly can! It's all about knowledge and remembering all the different factors that make up flavour. In the kitchen we spend so much time around ingredients, taking in their smells, textures and colours. So much so that they become imprinted in our brains and can be used to come up with different flavour combinations to make great food. When you are next eating just try taking in the smells textures and feelings as you eat. Most of us do not do that, we just chew and swallow, and many of us eat in front of the telly and don't even really notice what we are eating at all! And we miss out on an amazing experience. You will be surprised what you can pick up on when you practice mindful eating and really enjoy your food!
I have come across so many people in the catering trade and I will suggest that they try an ingredient or dish. Sometimes they say 'no, I don't like it!'. What don't you like about it I ask? The reply comes that they have never actually tried it, but they say they know they won't like it! Go on, try it I say. They do, and then they say 'Oh that's quite nice! Can I try a bit more?'
So expand your knowledge and broaden your experiences of flavour by trying new things.