It's time for another Dose of Pleasure! Last time we talked about using our nose to enhance our health and well-being (and, of course, our pleasure) and this week, I'd like to discuss taste. All of you foodies out there might be surprised, but it's believed that tast is the least refined of all our senses, as humans can perceive only 4 basic tastes (salty, sour, sweet, and bitter).
The sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, approaches the sense of taste a bit differently. According to this ancient Indian science, there are 6 tastes: sour, salty, astringent, pungent, bitter, and sweet. The teachings of Ayurveda urge us to include all 6 tastes in each meal to balance nutritional needs.
Here in the West, the different tastes are often linked to emotions, hence the term “comfort food.” Often we associate different foods with emotions or states of mind. Take chicken soup, for example. Many associate this warm, comforting dish with maternal love (I know many people who delight in eating and/or preparing their mother's or grandmother's chicken soup). Often familial celebrations or social gatherings revolve around food. Unfortunately, the increasingly faster pace of life and the advent of fast food has robbed us of taking our full pleasure in our sense of taste.
How many times have you rushed through a meal only to realize that you don't even remember what it tasted like? Do you chew your food or gobble it down quickly? Do you cook with spices? Do you vary the types of food you eat, or do you tend to eat the same food every day? Becoming more aware of your habits around food can help you enhance your sense of taste and derive more pleasure from it.
Here are some tips and resources to help you expand your capacity for pleasure through taste:
- Try different types of foods and cuisines to excite your tastebuds. Some foods that delight my tastebuds include persimmons, dates, figs, cilantro, coconut water (from a fresh young coconut). Some delicious cuisines which use a variety of pleasure-enhancing spices to try include Indian, Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, Afghan, and West African.
- Slow down. Before you begin eating, take a few deep breaths, say a brief prayer of gratitude for the food you're about to eat and then eat mindfully. If eating mindfully is difficult for you, practice with this simple mindful eating exercise before you attempt it at meals. Some wonderful books on this topic that can help you change your relationship with food are: Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food, Slow Food Nation's Come to the Table: The Slow Food Way of Living, and The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss
- Enhance your sense of taste by using a blindfold. You can do this by yourself or with a partner (which is so much fun). Simply gather a variety of foods on a plate. Blindfold yourself and then each morsel mindfully. By eliminating sight from the equation, you'll enhance your sense of smell and taste, which will increase the pleasure of your eating experience.
- Think about your taste history. Think back to foods that ellict a response in you. Maybe it's your mother's meatloaf or tomato sauce that signified Sunday dinner with the family. Reflect back on foods that have an impact on you and taste the meal in your mind. Imagine the flavor, the texture, how it feels to bite into it and chew.
Savor all of the different tastes that you come across this week. Note the ones that you love, crave, and want more of. Indulge your sense of taste and notice the pleasure that it offers. I'll be back in a few weeks to discuss my favorite sense of all – touch.
Have a pleasure-filled day,