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Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do
     

Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do

by John Prescott
 

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The human tongue has somewhere up to eight thousand taste buds to inform us when something is sweet, salty, sour, or bitter—or as we usually think of it—delicious or revolting. Tastes differ from one region to the next, and no two people’s seem to be the same. But why is it that some people think maple syrup is too sweet, while others

Overview

The human tongue has somewhere up to eight thousand taste buds to inform us when something is sweet, salty, sour, or bitter—or as we usually think of it—delicious or revolting. Tastes differ from one region to the next, and no two people’s seem to be the same. But why is it that some people think maple syrup is too sweet, while others can’t get enough? What makes certain people love Roquefort cheese and others think it smells like feet? Why do some people think cilantro tastes like soap?

John Prescott tackles this conundrum in Taste Matters, an absorbing exploration of why we eat and seek out the foods that we do. Prescott surveys the many factors that affect taste, including genetic inheritance, maternal diet, cultural traditions, and physiological influences. He also delves into what happens when we eat for pleasure instead of nutrition, paying particularly attention to affluent Western societies, where, he argues, people increasingly view food selection as a sensory or intellectual pleasure rather than a means of survival. As obesity and high blood pressure are on the rise along with a number of other health issues, changes in the modern diet are very much to blame, and Prescott seeks to answer the question of why and how our tastes often lead us to eat foods that are not the best for our health. Compelling and accessible, this timely book paves the way for a healthier and more sustainable understanding of taste.

Editorial Reviews

Nature

“Compellingly and comprehensively, Prescott reveals the cultural, genetic and physiological differences behind gustatory preferences. From the effects of a woman's Kalamata olive habit on her unborn child to the uncoupling of flavour and nutrition, this is a top-notch scientific smorgasbord.”
The Observer

“Prescott runs a consultancy ‘in the area of food perceptions and preferences,’ and Taste Matters offers both a detailed analysis of that area and a broader examination of the psychology of eating. For example, he looks at why young children can be reluctant to try new foods, and what strategies parents might adopt in response, before expanding his inquiry to cover cravings, aversions, the external cues and psychological motivations that prompt us to eat, and why, once we've started, it can be so difficult to stop. . . . [His] hybrid approach frequently makes for fascinating reading.”
Daily Mail

“[A] fine book.”
Times Literary Supplement

“John Prescott guides the reader through the latest research in this complex emergent field. His style is entertaining and confident, with technical language kept to a minimum. Taste Matters should satisfy the cravings of anyone, from the scholar wanting to get a handle on the latest findings to the parent wanting to know why their children won't eat their vegetables.”
Financial Times

“The strength of Prescott’s short book is in unpicking the complexities of our eating choices. . . . Full of fascinating detail.”
Daily Telegraph

“An utterly absorbing account of how human food preferences are formed.”
The Australian

“I knew when Prescott’s new book, Taste Matters, arrived it would be, yes, hot. It is. As the title suggests, Prescott pulls together an enormous body of research to answer the basic questions about who likes or dislikes what and why. Evolution, culture, hedonism, disgust, inheritance, diversity and sweet, sour, bitter, salty and the mushroom-like taste of umami all play a role.”
Library Journal
Prescott (psychology, Univ. of Newcastle, Australia) takes a decidedly scientific approach to why we like the foods we do, which he attributes to the physical pleasures of eating, influenced by evolution, culture, and environment. He tackles, e.g., diets that fail by uncoupling the nutritional value of food from its pleasure value; why most toddlers exhibit food neophobia and what can be done about it; and why some people consider olives a delicacy while others find them bitter. The first two chapters cover the senses and the tastes sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and umami. The remaining ten chapters consider the psychology and physiology of eating—eating to counteract loneliness, why we always seem to find room for dessert, and how a varied diet may encourage overeating. VERDICT Prescott's discussions of craving, sensory-specific satiety, and increasing the appeal of food to an older population may engage serious dieters or those with an interest in food science. Overall, the advanced vocabulary and dry style make this most suitable for an academic audience. Barb Stuckey's recent Taste What You're Missing will be more accessible to general readers.—Margaret Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch. Lib., Fort Worth, TX

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781861899149
Publisher:
Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date:
06/15/2012
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

John Prescott is associate professor of psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia, editor of Food Quality & Preference, and executive editor of Chemosensory Perception.

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