A few months ago, as I was reading the Best Food Writing anthology for 2006, I came across an interesting article about super tasters, written by David Leite and originally published in Ridgefield Magazine. Since then, my thoughts have wandered back to the subject on more than one occasion, during more than one meal.
My initial reaction was so typical of me - "super" must equal "better" and of course I want to be the best at everything. So I hope I'm a super taster. (I was more than a little insufferable in high school English classes.)
In the back of my mind, though, I knew the truth: at best, I'm an average taster. I have an OK palate and a moderately sophisticated sense of smell, but nothing outrageous. I could never be a sommelier. Or a chef for that matter. I would have failed miserably at at least half of the Gordon Ramsey Hell's Kitchen challenges that involved identifying specific flavors.
By the time I finished the article, though, I felt better about my lack of skills in the tasting arena. Leite is a super taster himself, and is living proof that extra taste buds don't always enhance a meal. While he might be able to more accurately identify tastes, many flavors that are interesting or pleasant to me are overly bitter to him. So, in the end, a true foodie might hope that they are as average as can be in terms of tasting ability, if only to be able to enjoy more foods.
Of course, just knowing that there are different levels of tasting out there makes me curious about where I stack up against the rest of the population. Fortunately, some scientiests have developed a fairly simple test to help laypeople (that is, anybody without a lab and access to chemicals) figure out where they fall on the tasting bell curve. I haven't done it yet, but as soon as I scare up a decent magnifying glass, I'll be all over the blue food coloring...