I've been reading a fascinating book lately called, "The Taste of Sweet," by Joanne Chen. In the book, she looks at how we, as a society, view sweet things. I knew that all of us don't taste things the same, but I didn't know that there were scientists that study how we taste. I learned that there are people that are non-tasters, tasters, and super-tasters and part of what determines how strongly one tastes something can depend on how many taste buds you have in your mouth and whether you have a genetic tendency to taste a certain bitter chemical. I also learned how scientists create flavors and how the taste of strawberry in the 50's is much different than the strawberry tastes now, even the actual fruit. There's lots more, so I recommend this book to anyone that would like to read more about the science, history, and psychology of sweet foods and sugar.
One part that made me want to post about it talks about how most Americans have this love-hate relationship with sweets and food in general. We are surrounded by talk of how this food is fattening or how we need to eat more foods with anti-oxidants or omega-3's. Most of us love to eat cake and ice cream, but after we eat it, we feel guilty because we just ate junk food and swear to just eat salad for the next week to make up for it. (That might be a minor exaggeration or it may not. :) )
The author tells of a survey on health concerns and diet given in four countries, including the U.S and France and the stark difference in the answers given by the French and the Americans. The French women used words like delicious and celebration to describe ice cream and chocolate cake whereas American women used words like fattening and guilt. The author mentions the French paradox, where although the French eat rich foods, their rate of cardiovascular disease is lower than those in the U.S. She states that the lead psychologist behind the survey thinks that this guilt and fear of gaining weight may be the reason behind why many Americans eat so much and have unhealthy relationships with food. The author later wonders if part of the reason might be because the French have a more positive attitude about food.
Personally, I've never been too worried about food, though I do try to eat healthy foods most of the time. I do get worried sometimes if I eat too much or have too many sweets, but most of the time, I just try to do better next time. However, after reading this book, I have decided to keep trying to eat good foods, but not feel guilty when I don't. I have decided to try to enjoy my food more instead of just eating out of habit.
So far, I've done pretty well to taste and savor what I'm eating. I haven't remembered to do it for every meal, but I know I ate some really nice peanut butter cookies this week and enjoyed letting them melt in my mouth. My hope is as I taste my food, I will slow down and eat only what I need while still enjoying the experience. Do you want to try it with me?