Imagine sitting down to that first coffee in the morning. It’s a different feeling to when you smell a steak sizzle away on the barbeque or when you are seated amongst family for a traditional, Sunday roast. There’s no denying that certain foods and beverages can evoke different emotions, feelings and memories in people.
When we eat the sensations of both taste and touch are at work in our mouths. But did you know that they also interacting with smells? These scents are detected from both inside your mouth and also the ones that are external to your body. These signals about smell are then sent to your brain where they are conceptualised into spatial patterns, which ultimately influence what we know and perceive as flavour (a construct that experts now agree is about both taste and smell).
The Taste 101 Masterclass is one of many that are happening as part of Crave Sydney. During this interactive session the spotlight will be cast on flavour and the field of neurogastronomy, i.e. the science behind understanding how individuals experience flavour. It’s a relatively new area that can help explain individual food cravings and preferences (including the fact that most people eat and enjoy the food they grew up with) and even look at the control and regulation of our emotions.
The AU Review sat down with food writer and TV producer, Richard Cornish ahead of the class to learn more about this exciting, new field.
1. How did you first get involved in writing about food?
I was a TV producer dabbling in food writing. Then I realised that food - how it is grown, how it is made, how it is prepared and how it is eaten is a thing that effects us on a daily basis, it becomes the very material we are made of so therefore is perhaps the most important subject to write about. Do it well and do it seriously.
2. What was your first introduction to neurogastronomy? What made you decide to explore this field in more depth?
Neurogastronomy is a new field of exploring the mechanics and the neural pathways of how we taste food. It is a subject that we as humans have tried to explain as soon as we became sentient beings but until EMR (electromagnetic radiation) and gene technology came along we couldn’t understand how aroma molecules excite receptors in the human nose.
3. What can people expect from your Taste 101 Masterclass in flavour?
Perhaps for the first time people will understand how their tongue, their mouth and nose combine to create the sensation we know as ‘flavour’. They can also expect to see a lot of olives, jamon (ham), cheese and dashi (Japanese cooking stock) and drink some pretty amazing wines that Max Allen (wine writer and Cornish’s co-lecturer for this class) has sourced.
4. How can neurogastronomy inform cooking processes?
Neurogastronomy (NG) is science behind the understanding of the way we experience flavour. (So it is not a type of food or cooking) The science does, however, inform the creation of foods in modern industrial food processes. Understanding NG helps chefs and cooks create better flavours. In fact some really great traditional recipes innately and tacitly understand NG - the Japanese are masters. Dashi is perhaps the best example. It is a multilayered umami experience!
5. Many foods evoke certain memories in people (e.g. Sunday roasts, treats on holidays or foods eaten at certain events and special occasions). Why is this so?
We store our understanding of flavours in our brains in an area very closely connected to memory and emotion. It is no wonder then that the smell of a Sunday Roast evokes not only the memory of say, Nana who first cooked it for you, but the feeling you have for her and also a lot of associated memories.
6. If you could sum up neurogastronomy in one sentence what would it be?
Neurogastronomy is a new field of exploring the mechanics and the neural pathways of how we taste food.
The Taste 101 – A Masterclass in Flavour will take place on October 23 and 24 as part of Crave Sydney. For more information or tickets please call 1300 264 547 or visit the Crave website at http://www.cravesydney.com/event.php?intid=3259