You know you’re getting old when you find a new taste has been added to the basic four of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter you learned in school. Well folks, there’s a new taste in town, and its name is umami! Translated as “delicious” in Japanese, it is most often thought of as “savory” in English. Writing in The New Yorker in March of 2015, Hannah Goldfield defined umami as “Any food in which glutamic acid occurs naturally or after cooking, aging or fermentation.” Foods distinguished by a meaty intensity like seared beef, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese, anchovies, and ripe tomato are identified as umami. If you’re a foodie, you know there is a sixth basic taste found in mainly Chinese and Indian cuisine – pungency or hotness. The reality is none of us could taste any food if it weren’t for our amazing tongues. Small bumps called papillae cover our tongues; within each papilla are hundreds of taste buds designed to make sure we eat enough healthy food for well-being and avoid foods harmful or poisonous to us. Most of us depend on our taste buds to act as informants about the food we eat. Without any effort on our part, our taste buds let us know about texture, sensations, and temperature. Using our sense of taste to its fullest intensity means we can make eating an emotional as well as a physical experience. One could argue that taste begins with the person who plans and prepares the meals. Cooking for the important people in one’s life is a way of showing love and demonstrating recognition of the favorite foods and meals of those who meet at the table. The pleasure of eating foods we enjoy gives pleasure and creates memories. Taking the time to appreciate each bite has the power to bring us closer to a mind-body-spirit experience.
To unite mindfulness with your sense of taste, take a minute or two to try the following mindful eating exercise like the one from www.MindfulnessDiet.com:
Choose a small piece of food you like – a grape, cookie, cheese stick, etc.
Explore the food, using as many of your senses as seems good to you.
Close your eyes and use your sense of touch to become acquainted with how it feels
Smell the food – how does the smell of the food make you feel?
Eat the food, chewing slowly.
When finished, take a few moments to breathe deeply and review how it felt to eat mindfully.
Allow this exercise to influence the way you approach eating in the future.