Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense by Bob Holmes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a hodge podge of information. The book starts off discussing the nuance between smell and taste as it relates to flavor and eventually morphs into a look at the science of flavor and its implications for the food industry.
The science geek in me appreciated exploring the science of flavor but was at odds with the avid reader who thought the author's decision to physically describe every person he interviews was bizarre. His descriptions not only did not add to the book, they detracted from it.
There were some interesting tidbits such as the fact that genes play a role in how we taste (surprise, surprise), but that still is only one small part of the equation. Professional wine tasters are surprisingly inconsistent when actually put to the test. (Really?) Price and expectations based on price influence our sense of taste. (Of course!) And at the end of the day, calories drive our reward system more than flavor, thus even food that once tasted bad and/or seems repulsive can begin to become appealing if we are hungry.
I did enjoy learning more about food flavorings, how they are derived, and how they impact the food industry and our food choices. A self-proclaimed foodie I also enjoyed the discussion of food pairings and why some foods just seem to go together while others not so much.
I didn't like the short detour he makes as he tries to link flavor to the obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a road to nowhere.
Overall it was an interesting (and enjoyable) read that explores the emerging science of flavor and its significance as it relates to taste and our food preferences.