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Food sensing and Carolyn Ross
Summer 2014

A matter of taste

The human tongue is a pink, undulating, fleshy affair covered in thousands of papillae—all the better for sensory perception. If the tongue weren’t so ordinary, it would be strange to think of such an appendage taking up most of the room in your closed mouth, allowing you to discriminate the foul from the toothsome.

But there it is.

And here I am in Room 150 of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Building on the Pullman campus, one of eight panelists who will smell and drink wine after wine after wine over the course of two weeks. Kenny McMahon, a doctoral student, is our overseer, … » More …

Spring 2013

Taste, an Accounting in Three Scenes

Questions of taste—let’s put it simply—can tire. Like a second colonoscopy. Like a second fall of man. Do we have to go through that again?

In the beginning, one is innocent of taste. Then, introduced to the concept, our new Adam and Eve realize their paradisal minds contain no data concerning the charms of early polyphony, track lighting, or cocktail recipes using angostura bitters. Cover up!

Now some years back, the Spanish metaphysician José Ortega y Gasset had the audacity (bad taste?) to question René Descartes. “I think, therefore I am,”Ortega y Gasset said, was based on a false premise. For some reason it didn’t … » More …

Spring 2013

How Washington tastes: The Apple meets Cougar Gold

Much of Carolyn Ross’s work involves training people to quantify their taste. The sensory evaluation panels that she and her graduate students organize assess taste attributes in fruit and other foods and beverages such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and astringency. And “mouth feel,” which contributes enormously to the taste experience.

But for these panels to arrive at a consensus of, say, how sweet a given apple is, or how tart, or how much it crunches in relation to other apples, everyone must agree on the intensity of those attributes.

Before the panel members can evaluate a given food, they will train for a number of … » More …