An Acquired Taste

MasterChef champion Simon Wood discusses the importance of taste

Salt and seasoning

Food, it’s something that means the world to the majority of us. From cooking for loved ones to having food cooked for us, we’re a nation of foodies.Sweet, salty, bitter or savoury, our sense of taste is well known to evoke pleasant emotions in most people.

As part of our sensory blog series, examining the kitchen as a place in the home where all five sense are stimulated, Simon Wood, a taste expert and winner of MasterChef 2015 talks about the role taste plays in our lives.

How can we incorporate taste into our kitchens/homes?

We all incorporate taste into our home environment in different ways. Being a food and drink writer I like to make the most of my wine storage. Along with pairing the right wine with the right food, equally if not more importantly, is having wine at the right temperature - this will vastly improve your taste experience. Built in wine coolers are a great way of keeping this balance; they offer a stylish design and perfectly chilled wine that’s all neatly stored under your kitchen counter.

The larder is for many the kitchen garden, a go to place for a quick set of handy ingredients ready to knock up a delicious dinner. Whether it be easy access to your spices, a multitude of different types of dried pasta, your breakfast cereals or simply a comforting tin of soup, the convoy larder neatly houses many different everyday essentials, without compromising on style or space.

Why is taste is important to us?

Taste is key to so many of our interactions and emotions.

Not only does food nourish the body, it delivers nourishment for the soul.

Along with the anticipation of great food is the connection and quality time that comes with cooking dinner, either with or for a special someone. It’s because of taste that eating is a pleasurable experience.

Cooking for me is one of the most amazing ways you can express yourself - whether to show off a little, wow and amaze your guests or simply put an arm around someone and say ‘here you go, try this, it will make everything feel better’.

How do we balance taste with the functions of our home?

Taste plays a huge part in the functions of our home, especially in the kitchen, so why not let the flavours you love most inform the design of your kitchen? If you love wine or coffee, then you could treat yourself to an integrated wine cooler or coffee machine. For budding chefs, pull-out larders or herb racks built into the side of your kitchen island mean you can effortlessly and neatly store those all spices and seasonings so they’re always close at hand.

I love a tidy kitchen but I also like to have a huge selection of ingredients available to me. Because of this I love the Cabinet Plus shelves located at the rear of cabinets, with a motorized pull down. This gives me space to store and see all my ingredients I need to make my food taste amazing, but at the same time it lets me hide everything away neatly too. It’s because of innovative ideas like this that I can store away all my wonderful ingredients and still have them on hand to create dishes that taste fantastic!

How do we balance taste with all our other senses?

Taste, one of the five methods of sensory perception, is balanced harmoniously with the other four senses hearing, sight, touch and smell, they all come together to give us a complete sensory experience.

Does everyone have a unique sense of taste?

Simply, yes they do, although our brains do recognise the same five tastes - bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami (savoury). Not every person has the same number of taste buds or papillae on their tongue, which means that whilst one person will love the taste of something sour, like lemon, another person will find too much off-putting. The same works for chilli - we all have that one friend that has an ‘asbestos mouth’, everything the hotter the better!

How does taste stimulate / elicit positive emotions?

We all know that the peculiar connection between taste and memory exists. Whether it’s fish and chips taking you back to childhood seaside memories, or sage and onion reminding you of Sunday lunch with the family.

Smell, taste and memories are synonymous; everyone has one thing that instantly transports them to another time and place. If you take a minute just to think about any momentous or special occasion in your life there’s a high, if not definite, chance that food was involved, and more than likely, you know exactly what it was you ate!

With all memories and the emotions that come with them, food, taste and your surroundings, are all part of the pieces from that special time, or event, that make that memory, that emotion, exactly what it is - a positive and cherished emotion.