The food-related thing that we’re talking about most at my house lately is a little impromptu orange tasting we did after dinner the other night. I sliced up a few different varieties of oranges that we had on hand and we took a few minutes to really look at them, smell them and taste them and then capture our thoughts. Beyond just being an easy and fun thing to do, it sparked some interesting conversation and it has made us all want to taste more and more more things which, it turns out, is quite different than just eating them. You could do this with just about anything carrots, jelly beans, cheese, tomatoes, soy sauce, chocolate…… would make a fun kitchen play date activity too.
While it was pretty easy for each of us to pick our favorites, being able to describe flavors beyond the obvious “sweeter”, “more sour”, “juicier” was really hard! The oranges all had very noticeable differences and distinct “personalities” but it was challenging to come up with meaningful words that really captured their essences. Luca probably had the easiest time of it — “all the sweet and sour smells together”, “the color of the golden gate bridge” among other observations — and I was reminded about how much more natural kids are at free associating and using all their senses at the same time. (It turns out that experiencing the flavor of something is 90% smell and only 10% tastebuds.) I actually found myself a bit stumped by this seemingly simple activity, which is kind of embarrassing for someone as devoted to cooking and eating as me. But I’m sure there’s hope for me if I keep on practicing…. and the next time I feel the urge to snicker at the crazy descriptions connoisseurs come up with for wine, chocolate and coffee (“wet hay”, “asphalt”, “hint of tobacco”, “lime popsicle”), maybe I’ll hold back just a little.
After this fun little dinner time experiment, we’re motivated to keep trying and tasting. Maybe next time we’ll try using a flavor wheel as we taste, a simple one like this one created by TCHO chocolates or something more complex like this one from the Specialty Coffee Association of America.