Several years ago Slow Food International produced a taste education guide, based on the research by Italian scientists who are studying the genetics of taste. Translated into 12 languages since then, it is being used by hundreds of educational projects, schools, campuses and families around the world: To The Origins of Taste.
How do we develop a taste for salty, sweet, and bitter? Why is sweetened tea barely sweet for some and too sweet for others? And why is it that so many kids won't eat vegetables like broccoli or cabbage? You can find many answers in the guide. Written for school educators, it’s also perfect for a more mature audience, an ABC of taste literacy.
For example, some people are genetically predisposed to dislike broccoli. The aversion for bitter food is due to the fact that many harmful compounds have a bitter taste, and our body has developed a defense system against these risks. The crucifer family of vegetables (cabbage, broccoli) contains them. There are two principle ways to describe one’s ability to perceive bitterness: tasters, who are highly sensitive to bitterness and non-tasters, who are less sensitive.
To The Origins of Taste guide consists of three parts: 1) an exercise book with some theory on how our senses work, and six lessons to begin exercising the actual senses: taste, sight, smell, touch, hearing and a final poly-sensorial lesson; 2) a tutorial if you are planning to organize a To the Origins of Taste workshop; and 3) In What Sense?, a booklet with numerous exercises for all ages. It also has a fun video with nice animations, subtitled in English, and audio recordings of food noises.
Slow Food supports an innovative approach to food and taste education based on the training of the senses and the study of food from land to table. Tasting food is an integral part of the process, because it helps tell the story of food production, and highlights the differences between wholesome and highly processed foods.
Lilia Smelkova is the Food Day Campaign Manager and worked for Slow Food International in Italy for 10 years initiating the Slow Food network in Eastern and Central Europe and Canada.