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Minutes from ME



Using our sense of taste makes us so HAPPY! We celebrate our holidays with foods that taste good to us, some SWEET, some SALTY, some even slightly SOUR or BITTER, but mix these flavors together and our enjoyment increases.
As soon as, even before, we are born we already love sweet flavors which makes sense because sugars are the chemicals we need for energy and growth. We are born disliking bitterness, a protection against eating poisons. Then we learn to recognize sour and salty flavors as growing babies. We can even keep many tastes in our memory and know when food is spoiled (and not to be eaten) if the taste does not match what we remember.
We relish our taste discussion and the topics it raises....
Discuss the "tastes" of holidays by the foods we associate with them - Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July, Passover. If we switched these tastes around how would we feel? Turkey on the Fourth of July? Hot dogs for Thanksgiving? Chocolate eggs for Christmas? What if we could not taste, then every meal and snack would taste the same. Does EVERYTHING we eat or drink have a taste? I wonder how my tongue turns black when I eat blueberries and how the color goes away? After all tongues are not washable, or are they? The saliva our mouths keep creating and swallowing (10,000 gallons in a lifetime!) does the cleaning and rinsing for us.


The body organs used for tasting are the tongue and the palate in the mouth, but the real detectors, which are found ON the tongue, are the taste buds. When you see bumps on your tongue don't think they are taste buds, these bumps are called papillae and the taste buds are inside each papillae, maybe a few or a few hundred buds in each one. The flavor must be dissolved in your saliva before any taste bud can handle it, then this flavor - let's say it's Mint Chocolate Chip - gathers in tiny, tiny puddles in the bottom of all these taste buds, the receptor taste cells detect the flavor and send the "taste signal" for the mixture (presumably a "GREAT ICE CREAM!" message) to the brain.
Different TASTE AREAS of the tongue seem better than others at detecting certain flavors. The very tip is best at sweet things, the sides at sour, saltiness is detected all over and the buds right at the back detect bitter things. The tongue can also tell if the food is hot or cold and also the "spicy hotness" which actually causes a mild pain in the tongue.
Please take care of your taste buds by avoiding hot food and tobacco which spoil their efficiency and dull those millions of great tastes there are in the world.


Look at your tongue with a magnifying mirror or check a friend's tongue with a magnifying glass. You can see the tiny, bumpy papillae but you'll have to imagine the taste buds.
Describe your tongue: size, color, color and shape.
Dream up and tabulate some wonderful food mixtures that sound so good you feel your mouth watering (salivating) already. Think of some other combinations (ice cream and pickles?) that make you think of throwing up (nausea).
Try to list where different tastes come from in one slice of pizza.


With WARNINGS about tasting only those things the teacher indicates, not sharing straws and using a fresh straw for each taste, try this experiment.
Put a small amount of various-flavored water in each of several small, narrow-necked bottles, labeled with numbers. Set the bottles on a shelf at the students' eye height to divert any telltale odors which may evaporate. While holding her nose, have each student use a straw to siphon off and taste a small amount of each unknown liquid, then chart the different taste characteristics for each sample. (An incidental lesson on the air pressure which permits the student to cover the end of the straw and siphon off a small amount - that wouldn't hurt here.)


The experimental level of difficulty can be increased by substituting samples which are mixtures, or greatly decreased by skipping the nose hold.
As a World Wide Web searching exercise, have students check the AMAZING ANIMAL SENSES web site for the tasting abilities of butterflies and bees, earthworms and flies, octopuses and pigs, and rabbits and snakes.


Here's a tasteful story.
The parade was fun, then we hurried home for a warm drink that tasted both sweet and tart at the same time and some not-too-sweet cookies with raisins in them. Everyone at home seemed to be very busy, all of them in the kitchen bustling around. We went outside to avoid being knocked over!
We jumped in the leaf piles and collected some pine cones which we were just about to bring inside when we recognized the cars pulling up to the curb. It was Grandma and Grandad! We went up the path with them and into the house. Soon after that we all sat down to eat. I asked for white meat because that's my favorite, then some mashed orange vegetables with a sweet taste, and purple, pickled vegetables that tasted a bit sour but tasted good, and some peas which had no taste at all until I put some salt on them.
For dessert we had a choice, I passed on the first pie and chose the yellow one, made with juice from fruit Grandad bought in the Florida islands. I liked it because it tasted both sweet and sour at the same time.
When everyone had finished eating I helped clear the dishes while the grown-ups ended their meal with that awful, bitter dark brown drink.


Scientists have measured the taste bud density of volunteers. They found that a person who is an "average taster" has about 184 taste buds per square centimeter of tongue - now that's a lot of tasting - but some people are "supertasters" with 425 buds per whereas those called "non-tasters" average just 96 buds per

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