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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Taste is a component of flavour (flavour equals taste plus aroma), but is here dealt with separately, despite the tendency in common parlance to use ‘taste’ as though it were a synonym of ‘flavour’.

Tastes are what we detect with the taste buds in our mouths. These are elongated cells which terminate in what are called gustatory hairs. They are extremely small. The greatest concentration of them forms a kind of V shape on the upper surface of the tongue, just visible as tiny nipple-like protuberances and officially known as the vallate papillae. However, such papillae occur elsewhere on the tongue; and on the soft palate, the pharynx, and the epiglottis. All of them are inside the mouth. None are to be found on the hairs of a man’s moustache, for example (although this might be a convenient arrangement, for which a precedent is provided by the taste buds to be found in the barbels of a catfish, which enable this creature to ‘pre-taste’ foods before admitting them ‘through the barrier of its teeth’, as Homer might have said if he had paid attention to the matter).