Taste: The Rarest Sense in the First Memories of Life
Fewer than 2 out of 100 persons recall taste in their early recollections.
Posted September 24, 2020
Every first memory evokes a sense impression that influences the life of the individual. In rare instances, a person recounts an early recollection that relates to taste. Less than 2 percent of elicited memories refer to tasting, typically involving the consumption of food.
While people in various cultures across the world enjoy eating and rituals around food, for those with a positive taste memory from early childhood, there is a heightened appreciation and activity that focuses on food and taste. This gustatory pattern tends to play out in thinking about, making preparations for, and consuming a variety of foods with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. At the same time, the possibility of being susceptible to negative outcomes of these pursuits, such as gaining excess weight and accompanying feelings of self-reproach, needs to be monitored and can be a significant challenge.
In an early recollection example, Mary, a retired librarian, recalled: "I remember stealing dog biscuits and hiding them behind the house to eat them. My mother caught me and told me not to eat the dog biscuits." Mary stated that the most important part of the memory was "how good the biscuits tasted." Her feelings at that point were "happy."
For Mary and others like her, food and food-related activities have a life-enhancing quality. She finds fulfillment in cooking various dishes and preparing a wide variety of foods for herself and for other people to enjoy. Mary disclosed, however, that she would like to eat more and feels deprived when realizing that this inevitably leads to gaining weight. She particularly does not like bland or "tasteless" food, such as fish sticks or meat without embellishments. Mary views the sustained effort to seek out foods and cook special meals and treats as essential to her well-being.
When Mary shares her strong interest and expertise about food with other people, she enriches the experience for those who are fortunate enough to have food accessible. It is easy to take the availability of food and its value to sustain life and enhance pleasure for granted. This is simply not the case for many people in the world where food is scarce or is severely limited.
For individuals who do have the good fortune of spending time with Mary, and others with positive taste recollections, she is able to elaborate on, make vivid, and enhance the sensation in a way that rekindles a faculty to take the time to enjoy the sensory wonder of taste.
In Mary's remembrance, she also shows a playful quality and a sense of determination that is apparent in her life. Her gustatory memory is also pleasant, and an unpleasant or negative food memory may evoke less favorable associations.