As we spent each day visiting various communities experiencing the local markets, cafes, and restaurants, we all had new food experiences of tastes that were not part of our normal eating at home in the States. Some of us enjoyed the French cuisine more than others. Some, in our group, discovered their love of new tastes that they had never tried before. It was definately a different food culture than what was the norm of our own personal food choices.
As someone who has basically grown up with a typical American repertoire of food experiences,I see now how limited I am in understanding what tasting food is really about. Curious, I began to look up articles on "training the palate", wondering if anyone else was thinking about this subject. I was suprised to find quite a bit on the subject and was interested to learn that, in fact, we are born with a mouthful of tastebuds that have a very wide spectrum of tasting abilities. One article that I read discussed the fact that we can even diminish or "lose" our ability to taste depending on how we eat. Our personal food culture, the types of food and the preparation techniques we use, can greatly influence what it is that we want to eat and what kinds of food we will most seek out. If that's true, by eating the same thing most of the time, we can greatly limit our palate, our ability to taste and to enjoy a greater diversity of food. We can even lose our ability to enjoy real food, preferring an artificial product over natural food. Recently, at the Food Camp held at Mississippi State University, I saw that demonstrated when children voted their preference to be artificial lemonade over real, fresh squeezed lemonade. When asked why they preferred the artificial over the real, they said the artificial was more yellow and sweeter and that's what they liked.
From what I understand, an execptional palate is the ability to taste or detect a wide range of flavors, even very delicate, subtle ones. Just as artists are able to appreciate a broad range of colors to capture and appreciate the beauty of the world around them, developing a palate for fresh, delicious food becomes a significant key in our ability to discern the quality of the food we eat and our ability to appreciate what good food is truely about.
As I looked over various articles on the subject of training the palate, I came across one that really helps to clarify the different cultural attitudes regarding tasting food and the importance of developing that ability in young children through education. I encourage everyone to read over the article, I found it most interesting: