The human tongue has somewhere up to 8,000 taste buds to inform us when something is sweet, salty, sour or bitter - or, as we usually think of it, delicious or revolting. Tastes differ from one region to the next, and no two people's seem to be the same. But what is it that makes certain people love Roquefort cheese and others think it smells like unwashed feet? How do our experiences of food as infants and even in the womb affect our food preferences? Are cravings for particular foods really a sign that we’re lacking the nutrients that can be found in them? And why, even when we are completely full, do we always have room for dessert?
In Taste Matters John Prescott tackles these conundrums and more as he explores why we like the foods we do. Genetics, maternal diet, culture and physiology all play a part in developing our food preferences. These preferences affect our diets more and more, as we are able to eat for pleasure rather than just for nutrition. Changes in the modern diet are very much to blame for the rise of obesity and high blood pressure, along with a number of other health issues. This book shows us why and how our tastes often lead us to eat foods that are not the best for our health. Compelling and accessible, Taste Matters paves the way for a healthier and more sustainable understanding of taste.
‘an utterly absorbing account of how human food preferences are formed.’ – Daily Telegraph
‘Taste is a matter of taste, says psychologist and sensory scientist John Prescott, as he delves into the science behind the pleasure-giving aspects of food. Compellingly and comprehensively, Prescott reveals the cultural, genetic and physiological differences behind gustatory preferences. From the effects of a woman’s Kalamata olive habit on her unborn child to the uncoupling of flavour and nutrition, this is a top-notch scientific smorgasbord.’ – Nature
‘Essential reading for food geeks, this book dives into the science and psychology behind why we like the foods we do. There are chapters on everything from the sensation of disgust to super-tasters, not to mention the real reason why there’s always room for dessert. (And no, it's not that one).’ – Food & Travel
‘Prescott runs a consultancy “in the area of food perceptions and preferences”, and Taste Matters offers both a detailed analysis of that area and a broader examination of the psychology of eating. For example, he looks at why young children can be reluctant to try new foods, and what strategies parents might adopt in response, before expanding his inquiry to cover cravings, aversions, the external cues and psychological motivations that prompt us to eat, and why, once we’ve started, it can be so difficult to stop . . . [his] hybrid approach frequently makes for fascinating reading’ – The Observer
‘John Prescott guides the reader through the latest research in this complex emergent field. His style is entertaining and confident, with technical language kept to a minimum. Taste Matters should satisfy the cravings of anyone, from the scholar wanting to get a handle on the latest findings to the parent wanting to know why their children won’t eat their vegetables.’ – TLS
‘The strength of Prescott’s short book is in unpicking the complexities of our eating choices . . . full of fascinating detail.’ – Financial Times
‘This book may hold the answer to the dietary quandary facing society. Recommended.’ – Choice
‘Why, even when we’re full, do we always have room for dessert? This, and other questions about food and human eating habits, is addressed in this unusual, fact-laden book by a professor with the exotic dual expertise of psychology and sensory science. The result is an entertaining and informative trot through vast swathes of research on human taste preferences.’ – Sydney Morning Herald
‘I knew when Prescott’s new book, Taste Matters, arrived it would be, yes, hot. It is. As the title suggests, Prescott pulls together an enormous body of research to answer the basic questions about who likes or dislikes what and why. Evolution, culture, hedonism, disgust, inheritance, diversity and sweet, sour, bitter, salty and the mushroom-like taste of umami all play a role.’ – The Australian
‘[a] fine book.’ – Daily Mail
‘Have ever wondered why we like the things we eat? And what is it about some foods that just turn us off and make us queasy at the very sight of them? These are some of the questions that are at the heart of Prescott’s informative narrative, examining why we eat the things we do from a primarily psychological, but also evolutionary and physiological, perspective. Prescott does a great job in answering some difficult questions, with his explanation tied in with relevant research and supported further by pictures to show you what he means.’ – Cosmos, Australia
‘Gastronomy now has the freedom to experiment with the concepts of food as it is no longer obliged to consider nutrition alone. Is this food pleasure a factor in obesity? John Prescott insightfully covers these issues and many more.’ – The Chronicle, Toowoomba
‘Our food likes and dislikes are the result of a labyrinth of influences. John Prescott is our perfect guide through this labyrinth. Taste Matters is of huge interest to the cook because it offers valuable insights into what is actually going on as we eat. But it’s not just for cooks: these pages will be of interest to everyone, whether you’re a parent looking for ways to get your children to eat more widely or a reader just trying to work out what makes us humans tick.’ – Heston Blumenthal, from the Foreword
John Prescott has been a professor of psychology and sensory science at universities in Australia and New Zealand. He is Editor of Food Quality & Preference and Executive Editor of Chemosensory Perception. He currently runs a consultancy business in the area of food perceptions and preferences. For further information, see www.taste-matters.org.