Food and wine critics tend to be curious about their tasting ability and may even boast of their sensitive palates. Being a supertaster is not necessarily a reason to feel superior, however. For a wine connoisseur it’s probably a disadvantage. In an excellent series of articles on Slate, Mike Steinberger quotes a professor of oenology (the science of wine):
I would speculate that supertasters probably enjoy wine less than the rest of us. They experience astringency, acidity, bitterness, and heat (from alcohol) more intensely, and this combination may make wine–or some wine styles–relatively unappealing.
Simple curiosity is reason enough to investigate your supertaster status. Experiments involving taste also make great science lessons for kids. But one good reason to determine your taste sensitivity is that it can increase your tolerance for those who are different. We tend to assume other people experience the world in the same way we do. As with most unconscious assumptions, we may need a little wake-up call before we recognize the truth.
Here’s an example from A. W. Logue’s The Psychology of Eating and Drinking. I’ve added emphasis to the unspoken assumption, the consequences of that assumption, and what can happen when we wake up.
Two friends of mine had been going out together for years. It wasn’t a smooth courtship, to put it mildly. One complaint that Liz had about Rich was that he was a very picky eater – he didn’t like to eat vegetables and many other foods. Liz thought that this pickiness was evidence of Rich being egocentric. Liz’s opinions made Rich very angry. One night, when we were all out to dinner together, I questioned Rich about his food preferences and realized that they fit the PTC/PROP supertaster pattern. I explained this to both Liz and Rich, and it was as if a light went on in Liz’s head. She immediately stopped being upset with him about his food preferences, and it wasn’t too long after that they decided to get married. They now have three children and live happily together in New Jersey.
So think twice before you judge your neighbor’s eating habits. And know thyself. The next three posts supply three different ways to determine if you’re a supertaster.
A matter of taste
How do you taste?
Orange juice and toothpaste
What is a supertaster?
The genetics of supertasting
Are you a supertaster: Look at your tongue
Are you a supertaster: How does PROP Taste to you?
Are you a supertaster: DNA testing
Why do we love high-fat foods?
Do we taste fat?
The taste advantage
Grapefruit and the Pill
This is your brain on sugar — and sugar substitutes
The Pepsi challenge: How beliefs affect what you taste
(Hover over book titles for more info.)
Mike Steinberger, Do You Taste What I Taste? Slate, June 20, 2007
Alexandra Logue, The Psychology of Eating and Drinking