Do you ever get a hankering for certain foods, like a cup of steaming hot soup on a cold and drizzly day, the silky smooth and rich taste of chocolate ice cream, the salty crunch of potato chips, the sour crispness of a pickle spear?
The human palate, or the way we humans develop our sense of taste, is an incredible and fascinating process that has kept us alive for centuries.
The human tongue has some 2,000 to 8,000 taste buds, which are the location of taste receptor cells or gustatory cells. These cells detect (or taste), the five elements of our taste perception; salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami, which is the savory taste associated with broths and cooked meats. When parts of food dissolved in saliva make contact with these taste receptor cells, information is sent to the brain’s gustatory area, cataloged, and filed for future reference.
Other factors that affect a food’s flavor include aroma, texture and temperature.
In studying human nutrition, I learned that infants have an innate preference for a sweet taste, and that sweet, salty and fatty foods are universally desired. Many people have aversions to bitter and sour tastes when isolated, but enjoy them combined with other flavor elements.
Over many generations, our taste buds have been used to guide us in judging whether a food or combination of foods in a recipe is acceptable and pleasurable to eat. The more we humans taste, the more we develop our taste buds, the more enjoyable becomes the process of eating.
My latest taste obsession is sweet potato fries.
The sweet potato, domesticated in Central America thousands of years ago, is one of our oldest vegetables. A super food, its bright orange flesh is packed with nutrients, vitamins and fiber. Grown primarily in more southern climes, but now also here in Maine, properly cured tubers will store in a cool (around 50 degrees) and dry location until summer. Here at Rabbit Hill, I keep sweet potatoes from Beech Hill Farm in a wooden box under the bed in an unheated bedroom.
For my palate, a proper sweet potato fry is crispy on the outside with a hint of spicy heat and salt, and moist, sweet and delicious on the inside. No soggy, greasy fries!
The recipe for Baked Sweet Potato Fries comes from an internet search. Seems other folks’ taste buds desire the same components. Delicious as a snack, tasty for supper, pairs well with a beer, I found so many ways to enjoy Baked Sweet Potato Fries. Be careful! These fries are extremely easy to make, allow for plenty of cooks’ creativity, and are sinfully addictive.