Succulent

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Photo Credit:  Jamie Street

The sense of taste

Her experiments on video.

When I visited her recently, senses she showed me

Something sweet in the mouth

Her face lights up ecstatically and her lips pucker as if to suck

gags, and shudders – makes the gesture for “stop.”

Introduced to the “tongue map,”

she herself was a girl.

She perceived taste on the tongue:

Sweet at the tip, salty at the back

She gave sugar and invited it.

The words in the poem above have been found in the article “Beyond Taste Buds: The Science of Delicious” by David Owen

Julie Mennella, a biologist who studies the sense of taste in babies and toddlers, often records her experiments on video. When I visited her recently at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, she showed me a video of a baby in a high chair being fed something sweet by her mother. Almost as soon as the spoon is in the baby’s mouth, her face lights up ecstatically, and her lips pucker as if to suck. Then Mennella showed me another video, of a different baby being given his first taste of broccoli, which, like many green vegetables, has a mildly bitter taste. The baby grimaces, gags, and shudders. He pounds the tray of his high chair. He makes the sign language gesture for “stop.”.

Almost 25 years ago my wife introduced our daughter’s Brownie troop to the “tongue map,” which she’d learned about in a cookbook when she herself was a girl. Each of the basic tastes, she explained, is perceived by taste buds in a unique region on the tongue: sweet at the tip, salty and sour at the sides, bitter at the back. She gave the girls Q-tips and bowls of salt water, sugar water, and other liquids, and invited them to prove it to themselves.

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