In the last post we were talking about the receptors in our tongue for the different basic tastes. On top of that, there are nerves that react to temperature (called trigeminal receptors) warning us of hot/cold food.

What is interesting is that these nerves can be activated by some molecules tricking our brain to believe that we are eating something hot or cold. For example, the molecules activating the hot sensation can be found in chili peppers, black peppers or ginger. And, guess which kind of molecules activate the cold sensation? spearmint, menthol and ethanol are some examples. This is why eating a mint causes a refreshing feeling in your mouth.

This whole business of detecting flavours is quite fascinating and is the reason of existence of this blog and thousands of recipe books but, why do we enjoy eating so much? There is of course a reason for us to detect different flavours. Salty, sweet and umami are appetitive,  and bitter and sour are aversive. Appetitive tastes drive us toward essential nutrients while aversive tastes alert us to potentially harmful substances.

One can however educate the brain and tell it that some of these aversive flavours are actually not dangerous such us coffee, olives, strong cheese, etc. This explains why children typically like food which is predominately sweet and/or acid and dislike sour or bitter tastes while adults grow into enjoying also some foods with a bitter or sour flavour.