Food consumption is necessary for human life, yet it can also be a luxury. Most people can tell the difference between a poorly or well-cooked (and usually more expensive) steak but we all have different tastes. Taste: What You’re Missing by Barb Stuckey looks to discover exactly why “Good Food Tastes Good”. Mrs. Stuckey begins her journey to find why people taste differently after noticing the difference between herself and her husband. Why do some people prefer the extravagant meals that are full of tastes, while others like Barb’s husband Roger, stick to “such bland, boring” entrees?
These differences whether genetically or from personal experiences, are what make people either a hyper-taster or a sensitive one. Analyzing food for Barb Stuckey is not just a hobby, it is her life. Her job as a food inventor at Mattson requires her to taste the way she does. That was not always the case though, until a tortilla chip made her realize what she was missing. Stuckey writes on how her colleagues, “dissected each chip … as if each was distinct from each other as a slice of bread, an apple, and a chicken wing. ” (2).
After a few more years of tasting outrageous concoctions of simple foods, she transformed from just an average consumer to a hyper-taster. This ability is forms the basis for her journey to find out why people taste differently. Using the tongue alone, Stuckey refers to San Francisco restaurant, “Cyrus”, Chef Keane and his five Basic Tastes: “sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and umami” (5). The pleasure of food is a science, a chemical one. Chemicals reacting with others produce our love or hatred for a certain food. All foods are made of chemicals and our senses of smell and taste react accordingly to them.
Due to different biological factors between each and every individual though, our bodies senses may react to those chemicals differently. Our food preferences are constantly changing, the problem is that nobody knows, or even bothers to find out why. Taste: What Your Missing aims to help readers understand why people experience taste in different ways. Stuckey uses inductive reasoning in her book, beginning on the question of why her husband tastes so sensitively and conducting necessary research to come to a conclusion.
Stuckey sets two very basic reasons for difference tastes, they are that we live in our “own sensory world” and also our “personal life history” (11). Being sensitive to one of the five Basic Tastes can affect whether or ike a certain food. A personal experience, like the man Stuckey met that had been playing with a coffee display as a child when it embarrassingly came pouring down on him (11), like any other traumatic experience, can also lead people to a hatred of a certain food. Biological differences, specifically on your tongue, make a huge impact on what kind of taster you are.
Bald spots on the tongue may sound like a negative attribute when it comes to tasting, but Stuckey explains the phenomenon called the “release of inhibition” through Linda Bartoshuk, the director of the Human Research Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida. Bartoshuk says, that nearby areas of the mouth that are not damaged “may be released from inhibition and the sensations may be more intense in that area. ” (14). This means that people with more bald spots (yet not completely bald) can become hyper-tasters like Barb Stuckey herself.
The main counterargument is this piece comes from Stuckey’s romantic counterpart, her husband, Roger. As mentioned earlier, when it comes to tastes, Barb and Roger are complete opposites. His sensitive taste compared to her “hyper” taste is what drives Barb to find out just exactly why people taste differently. It’s interesting that her exact counter in terms of taste comes from the one person who she says is most similar to her in many other ways. This brings a sort of relatable aspect to her research, rather than just being someone diving deep into their profession.
Your companion might have different tastes than you and you’ve always wondered why, but never really bothered to do any research. Stuckey does all that work for us here. Stuckey uses the discoveries of Linda Bartoshuk all throughout Taste: What You’re Missing. She found that there are three main factors that account for an individual’s taste. These are: the anatomy of your tongue, your medical history, and lastly your genes. Your anatomy accounts for the density of taste buds on your tongue, along with the bald spots and release of inhibition as mentioned earlier.
Medical history is one of the most common ways a person’s taste is affected. Infections from a young age all through adulthood makes for an ever-changing preference of tastes. Damage to the chorda tympani taste nerve from viruses like the flu and herpes, can lead to the loss of taste buds. Since this nerve is damaged, others may be amplified, Stuckey states that “if your chorda tympani taste nerve was damaged, your trigeminal nerve the one that carries texture information may now be signing loudly without inhibition,” (22-23) which leads to the likelihood that you love creamy, fatty, and fried foods.
Head injuries and surgeries, epically dental work, can also lend a hand to ruining your sense of taste. The third and final factor is your genetics. Just like anything else when it comes to genetics, on the outside it’s simple. You can either taste something or you can’t, that’s it. Where it gets complicated is when you factor in taste bud density. If you have the ability to taste something but have a low density, you may not be experiencing the taste in full form. This gets even more complex when we mix in medical history.
At this point, it’s rare anyone tastes exactly the same. The use of Linda Bartoshuk and Stuckey’s experiences herself bring in a lot of experent opinion and research in. Stuckey also talks to Chef Keane early to express how he sees each individual and their experiences with his food. Her research is extensive and brings to the table many points that reveal the hidden secrets of taste. Many times, Stuckey refers to personal experiences between herself and her husband Roger.
This provides multiple perspectives to the reading, that of the hypertaster and the overly sensitive one. In the end though, Stuckey forms her new types of tasters and it’s not a general classification. Instead she states, “we are complex creatures, each of us living in our own individual sensory world, each of which is colored by a combination of anatomy, medical history, genetics, culture, and life experience. The best way to describe the type of taster I am is that I am a Barb Taster. And Roger is a Roger Taster.
That makes you a [Insert your name here} Taster. (29). Stuckey begins the hunt to find why we taste differently thanks to differences between herself and her husband. It is a relatable story and gives an answer to an everyday question. She effectively proves why we taste differently through a variety of different experiments and expert research. Being a taster is her career, so it’s no surprise that she is passionate about the work she carries out here. While a casual reader might be thinking that she is digging to deep, anyone who cares to know will have their answer after reading Taste: What You’re Missing.