Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2 Evolving Tastebuds....

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I noticed something interesting that happened yesterday & would like to share it with you:

As part of my "research" for the "Make It Healthier" Challenge, I asked Erik to bring home an orange scone from Panera on his way back from work. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not in the habit of eating pastries, & as best as I can recall, had never tried an orange scone before. Since I'm supposed to make one for the challenge & had no point of reference from which to work, I decided that eating a single scone in the name of making a healthier version of it would be an acceptable "opportunity cost." I'd just taper the caloric content of my dinner a bit. No problem. Ah, the things I'm willing to do in the name of healthy cooking. ;) It's pretty ironic, eh?!

Anyhow, Erik couldn't find an orange scone, & instead brought me a blueberry one. Part of me wishes that I'd also given the instructions, "If you can't find an orange one, please don't bring any home, because the whole point is to taste an orange scone, & frankly, I don't need or want the extra fat calories." :-D

It was a kind & thoughtful gesture, while not entirely helpful towards the end of figuring out what Panera's orange scone tasted like. :) However, while not well-versed in the art of orange scone eating, I have tasted a scone before! Oh well.

Anyhow, since it was too late to return it, I took a bite. And whoah. My first thought was how incredibly rich it tasted. A bit too rich, actually. Then, I did a double-take because I thought about that for a moment.

Only moments later, I overheard someone saying the following truism, "You don't miss what you never had." Was it a mere coincidence, or possibly fate? Somewhere, someone was having a good laugh. :)

And yes, just in case you didn't realize it, those two thoughts are related. ;)

If need be, let me connect the dots:  I didn't grow up eating rich food, so I don't miss it. However, I also think that if you didn't grow up this way that it's still possible to adapt over time to different flavor concentrations, namely, healthier food containing a lot less sugar & fat. Heck, it's even possible to LIKE food like this. :)

This reminds me of a particular bio-chemistry lab we did in high school: We all tasted various concentrations of sugar & salt.  Some people were highly sensitized to it, & others needed greater concentrations to "taste" the flavor of these compounds.  Of course, I was in the former group, because my mother didn't believe in putting a salt shaker or a sugar bowl on the table. So thank you, Mom! :-D

Of course, it's possible to change one's tolerance for salt & sugar in the same way that it's possible to change one's taste for fatty & sugary foods.  It takes time to adapt, but it's possible.

This explains why some people report that whole milk tastes like cream after drinking skim milk for so long.  Honestly, to me, even 1 & 2% milk tastes creamy. It's all in your frame of reference.

The point I'm trying to make is that your taste buds are surprisingly adaptable.  People who poo-poo healthy food have just not adapted their taste buds (& their mind-frame!) to a new & healthier way of eating. :)


P.S. BTW, this adaptability doesn't just apply to health & healthy eating.  Have you ever noticed how your taste buds have adapted & evolved a great deal from when you were a child?  (Well, hopefully they have! :) ) This is no accident.  There is a scientific, biological basis for why this occurs.  I don't feel like going into the explanation, but if you have the time, go & watch PBS's NOVA ScienceNOW episode, entitled "The Science of Picky Eaters." It's really quite fascinating!


Gráinne said...

That's a great point! A friend of mine was never allowed chocolate as a child and actually couldn't tolerate the richer stuff when she grew up-it made her sick. I do love chocolate...but if I eat 70% cocoa etc for a while milk chocolate becomes too sweet and when I gave it up for Lent when I was younger I wasn't particularly crazy about it by Easter. Although that feeling soon passed! I also lost weight when I spent a month in the States (from Ireland). Most of the chocolate tasted far too sugary and I couldn't eat it!

At the moment my New Year's healthier eating plan is working too-look forward to veg/salads/fruit. Apparently it takes 21 days to form a new habit (and 12 tastes of a food to like it) so maybe something similar applies to change in taste buds!

Cyberpenguin said...

I've heard that a lot from visitors from other countries who stay in the US for a while; they say that the food here tastes way too sweet. I'd have to agree & I'm from the US. :)

Good luck in your efforts to eat healthy. I hope that my recipes will help you get excited about eating fruit & veg. :) I try to prepare them in new & unusual ways so that people will find their taste to be "new" again. While they taste good unadorned, it's also fun to dress them up a bit too. :)

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