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Flavor blind palates?

We all have had a friend who is color blind, I assume. We all know of deafness and blindness. My question is this.... Have any of you experienced or know someone who has a palate that is just "off"? I don't mean people who don't like the same things as you ....... more like when someone tastes the same food as you but comes away with a much different "flavor profile".

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  1. Oh hell yeah, check out the chowhound website about cilantro.

    1. "off palates" are the only way Applebees/Chilis/TGI Fridays/TJ McPicklePoopers, etc stay in business! and judging by the throngs of ashtrayed-tongued denziens, mobbing these places with far too much regularity........those with Tastebudparalasis are the majority!

      1 Reply
      1. re: nkeane

        <throngs of ashtrayed-tongued denziens>

        I have never heard it said better! Plus I have always wondered about those "fancy" places and their "cigar bars" how on earth can you enjoy the nuances of a fine wine or scotch whisky while smoking a cigar? ---- good grief...charlie brown

      2. I definitely think so.
        My DH honestly cannot pick up on the difference between a sauce I cooked for hours and put my heart and soul into - vs. a jar of Ragu.
        I get the same reaction from him whether I cook a wonderful veal picatta - or I serve hima frozen dinner.
        It's sad, I know, but it's really true...I don't know if I'd say his palate is "off" - or if that he just doesn't HAVE a palate.

        2 Replies
        1. re: NellyNel

          Although we are all born with one... it doesn't mean we know what to do with it!

          <we are talking about palates... huh?>

        2. I have a relative who loves processed, bland foods, but can also pick out the taste of 2 slices of bacon in a pot of bolognese that's been simmering for 3 hours. It's interesting. She enjoys eating and seems to appreciate good home cooking and processed premade equally.

          1. A friend of mine has no sense of smell (born that way), watching her likes and dislikes is interesting. Most people just figure that she's picky, but if you watch all of her "weirdness" is related to her tasting things pretty much purely via tastebud

            5 Replies
            1. re: jgg13

              That's funny that your friend can still taste....
              I met someone who had no sense of smell OR taste (I always thought they were intwined/ related) but I guess not!
              She was skinny as a bean.... the enjoyment of eating for her was all in the texture of the food.

              1. re: NellyNel

                Well, we have taste buds for a reason ;)

                What I find really interesting is that she generally pigeonholes various base tastes into specific situations. For instance, she has a sweet tooth, but "sweet" is *only* for dessert and that sort of thing, sweetness in a main course is a no-no.

                1. re: jgg13

                  Same here - friend w/ no sense of smell. She goes without sweets most of the time and then seemingly binges - because her threshold for being able to discern the sweetness at all is so, so high. She can perceive salty, too.

                  I'm always surprised that she doesn't just resort to a purely functional extreme health food diet since she's missing out on so much, and since I always think that's what I'd do in her sitch, but obviously I just can't relate.

                  1. re: jgg13

                    Maybe because she can't discern some of the savoury, sour, and/or umami flavours that are necessary to balance a sweet main? I like a lot of sweetish mains - salads with bitter greens and fruit, phad thai, bun, western meat with fruit dishes- but not if they are overwhelmingly sweet. There needs to be that balance and contrast and maybe it's too subtle for her.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      That was pretty much what I was getting at. If you're almost entirely just tasting things based off of the taste buds, a lot of that sort of subtlety gets lost.

              2. My son is taking a physiology class in high school and he came home last week to tell me he had learned about the various taste sensors on the tongue. Some areas detect sweet, some sour, some salty, etc. and are in specific locations. I don't remember all the details, but apparently some folks have more/less sensors or at least more/less sensitive sensors. That is the very unscientific summary of my limited knowledge of the subject, but it made some sense at the time.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pcdarnell

                  technically, there are taste receptors on every surface in the mouth, with the exception of teeth. The largest concentration being on the tongue of course. Difference receptors do pick up different flavors. Our sense of taste was developed for survival reasons, not enjoyment(like some other bodily functions that will remain nameless :-) ). Sour-lets not eat rotten stuff. Sweet-heres a source of energy! Salty-ummm, salt! Bitter-this might kill me, not a good choice.
                  Umami being the recently(in evolutionary terms) discovered 5th flavor. less a "flavor" and more of a sense of Protein.....

                  on topic, Ive seen people confuse the taste of basic flavors(sweet, salty, bitter, sour) for each other, and it boggled my mind. Made me wonder if these people are destined to die out from natural selection!? If you cant tell the difference between the flavor of salt and the flavor if spicy, you're going to end up eating a poisonous mushroom thinking its a PB&J!LOL

                  1. re: nkeane

                    and smoking hurts those taste receptors!

                2. Surely, there must be a wide range of tasting ability due to genetics, previous illnesses, accidents, etc.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pikawicca

                    also acclimation --what a person is accustomed to eating. the brain also confuses the tongue at times and lots of folks have trouble verbalizing what they taste. i can't tell you how many times i've had a guest taste fruit flavors in wine and pronounce the wine "sweet" when the residual sugar is actually very low, or say it's "bitter" because the acid level is assertive.

                    as for those lining up at cheesecake factory, i think they just prefer the predictable (and mammoth-sized portions). food can be scary for people, which is why grown adults refuse to try new foods.

                  2. A lot of things factor into people's sense of taste. Age is a big one, but also one's sense of smell. One of the reasons I get annoyed at people who are smug about their "superior palates" is that they are simply physically different and in no way more knowledgeable or sophisticated than others simply because their sense of taste is different. People with 20-20 vision don't think they're better than people who wear glasses, but food snobs think they're better than people who are just as happy at a cheap burger joint because they can't "appreciate" fine cuisine.

                    I do a Japanese snack food review blog and often have my husband sample the same things as I. He sometimes perceives a completely different taste or can't taste much of anything at all. He and I are nearly the same age and neither of us smoke so the only reason we taste differently are our genes.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Orchid64

                      Genetics, or is it that you have put more effort into developing your palate through the years? Not a value judgement, you may just have prioritized this much more than he. We all have our specific interests and if yours is food and his is not, thats not genes. You may have put in the hard work and he has not.

                      1. re: nkeane

                        genetics have to play a part in it. I could be the most dedicated athlete in the world but I'm limited by my genetics in what I can achieve despite how much effort I put into developing my body. I'm not beating Usain Bolt in the hundred meter dash unless I shoot him despite how much effort I might make.

                        1. re: Jase

                          The data is pretty clear on genetics being a factor - some people, for instance, are clearly more able to detect artificial sweeteners than others. And the new research says those "zones" of the tongue aren't quite true - the receptors for certain things are just more dense in some areas than others, so the "salties" are, for instance, all over, but more concentrated in one part of the tongue than in others.

                          1. re: Jase

                            except even U-Bolt TRAINED! He didnt just walk up to the line one day and set a WR. We may have been born with a genetic advantage in(insert activity here), but you still have to train and focus that ability.

                            in short, yes genes do play a part. In my experience though, its a much more minor part than training/learning/effort.

                            1. re: nkeane

                              Nkeane, I agree that training/learning/effort part is very important. There are plenty of examples of wasted genetic ability/talent when there isn't concomitant training and effort.

                              Discipline, drive, effort, practice, these are all qualities I think we can all use more of. There has to be a desire to learn and a desire to accomplish. I certainly wish I had more of these qualities. If we all had equal drive, then yes, genetics and natural ability would be the difference. But that is why the world is such a wonderful wacky place. There is just so much variability, and so much potential in everybody, no matter where they start off.

                              Chowhound has been fun because it has helped me focus and learn about food. I have a reasonable palate, but I wouldn't call my palate extraordinary. I do have a pretty good range of palate, and can enjoy many different kinds of food. But I have noticed that as I have tried to be more aware about flavours and food qualities, my palate has improved. So you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks.