Thursday, March 01, 2007

No Palate

Sorry I've been slow with the posts, folks. I've been felled by the flu, and this has not only resulted in me sleeping most days away it also means I have no palate to speak of.

It's a weird experience, and one that reminds me of just how complicated the process of taste can be. And how much I take being able to taste a lot of flavors in wine for granted.

With the flu all I can taste is salt and sweet. That's it. I eat chicken noodle soup and taste no chicken, no noodles--just that saline kick. I was able to pick up just a tiny little bit of sweetness from the honey in my tea, too, but no other complicated notes or nuances. It saved me from eating a piece of chocolate cake, which is all I have to be grateful for today since I figured, why eat it? It's not like I'm going to taste it!

For me this is a temporary problem, but there are people who experience problems tasting the full range of flavors every day of their lives. More than 200,000 folks a year check in to doctors complaining about taste disorders every year, according to some sources. It's made me wonder once again about the subjectivity of taste, and all the reasons why some folks taste blackcurrant and others tomatoes when they drink a wine.

And my experiences over the past few days will make me a lot less impatient with friends and family who claim they can't taste anything but wine when they drink a glass of the stuff. Maybe they're being lazy, but maybe they truly cannot taste anything. Maybe they've got a cold. After three days of not being able to taste anything here's one thing I know for sure: I'll be glad to have my tastebuds back in working order because being able to taste things is a little miracle none of us should take for granted!


Joe said...

A recurring nightmare is that I lose my ability to taste, rendering my cellar (and blog) useless. I also have a cold this week, so I am drinking more "vin de table"...

Sonadora said...

Sorry you are feeling under the weather Dr. Debs. I've been struck by the flu monster this week too. I miss my wine, it's been over a week now! Hope you kick it faster than I did!

Orion Slayer said...

I'm intriqued by your comment about friends and family who can't taste, "Maybe they're being lazy, but maybe they truly cannot taste anything."

If they ARE being lazy, then there is something they (meaning me) could do to taste. What can someone like me do to learn how to taste other flavors in wine.

Dr. Debs said...

Hi Joe and Sonadora. I appreciate the good wishes. Am now in day 4, Sonadora, and on lots of drugs so hopefully it will start leaving soon. Until then, it is water, ginger ale and soup for me!

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Orionslayer. It's a great question, and you should know in part my frustration is playful and comes from my mom who says "I taste wine" whenever we get together and do a tasting. I always accuse her of just not trying (hence the laziness part of the equation), but according to Ann Noble, the professor from UCDavis who came up with the aroma wheel for describing wine tastes, we all need to work at our ability to describe tastes more accurately. She contends that we just don't learn how to describe what our tongues sense, but it's pretty easy to become more proficient at this with some prompts and cues. I've found this to be true, and can report my mom did, too, when we finally gave her an aroma card with her glass of wine and she was able to say, "oh, I taste black cherry." She even argues now, saying "no, not raspberry, I taste strawberry."

I put some links to online tasting sheets that contain flavor and aroma cues and information on downloadable aroma cards as well as a link to where you can purchase one of Noble's aroma wheels in an earlier post on throwing a wine tasting party, You can also invest in an expensive kit to doctor wine with flavors, but I'd start with the aroma cards and go from there.