Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Vinegar and Salt

In a food-ish vein:

Once, in high school biology, we did an experiment. We were each given a questionnaire and a set of little paper strips coated in a variety of (non-toxic) chemicals. We were asked to taste the strips, one by one, and mark down whether they tasted sweet or salty or bitter or sour, etc.

The answers varied from person to person; the same strip might taste bitter to one person and salty to another. And the results weren't fuzzy. We had decisive and different perceptions of the taste of each one. We learned that the way the taste buds perceive certain substances is genetically determined. We simply don't all taste things exactly the same way.

At the end of the experiment, we tallied up our questionnaire, and the results placed us in one of several "taste groups." (There was probably some technical term, but I don't remember it.) Some taste groups were more common, other less - I was a member of an obscure fringe taste-sect. And the questionnaire explained that members of a given taste group tend to have certain types of preferred foods. As I read the preferred foods for my group - pickles, sauerkraut, pretty much anything with vinegar and salt - I began to salivate, and my stomach rumbled with hunger. They spoke the truth.

So what's today's moral? Science is cool. Stay in school. Never ever question the scientific method, or we will crush you like so many ancient civilizations before you, while chanting "Screw you and the anti-empirical horse you rode in on. Screw you and the anti-empirical horse you rode in on. Screw you and the anti-empirical horse you rode in on..."

Did anyone else do this? Does anyone know what I'm talking about.


  1. Anonymous3:10 PM

    (vinegar and salt) or (vinegar or salt)?

  2. I am soooo salty-sour. Somehow, I think dark chocolate fits in; I don't like the sweet chocolate so much. And I think that I did the paper thing in Chemistry or something.


  3. Anonymous9:33 PM

    We did something with smells in school. Some people could smell some specific odor and other people couldn't smell it at all. I have no idea what it was, and I don't feel like looking it up.
    I've also heard that women are often very good sommeliers because they are more likely to be able to smell (and therefore taste) some special quality in wine. That would kind of explain why some people are into wine and other folks just don't get it.

  4. I remember doing that in high school chemistry class. I think I fell in the majority taste bud group (at last I felt like I belonged). And to this very day, I still salivate whenever I see strips of paper.

    So are there Mendelian trait inheritance charts that can predict what your children will like? That would be cool.

  5. There's a good chance Louise has inherited it. Her favorite food is olives. (As was mine - and possibly still is - though oysters provide stiff competition - and I should point out that my last name means "olive tree" - which always struck me as significant - and possibly still does.)

  6. Hmmm...and I really like to eat paper...

  7. with salt and vinegar, of course.