Whether you are Republican or Democrat, all of us feel pretty divided this week. The election sent a lot of people reeling in joy, in despair, doubt, anticipation. You name it. There is one thing we can agree on, though, taste. Great food is great food, no matter how you vote.
You have 10,000 or os gustatory receptors, taste buds, on your tongue, on the roof of your mouth and in your throat. Each one of these receptors is connected to sensory neurons that convey flavor information to your brain. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter. Your ability to taste begins in the womb; sensitivity to flavors is part of your DNA; your politics some time later.
Your taste in food has more to do with your personality than it does your political leanings. Color psychology tells us that personality influences your favorite color—red is the color of extroverts, orange is often a favorite of gregarious people, green is a favorite among those who persevere, and so on. Personality traits similarly influence your taste in foods. It makes sense that thrill seekers love spicy foods. Capsaicin, the compound responsible for the hot stuff, stimulates a blast of energy very like an adrenaline rush. Fiery people tend to love fiery foods. Those who crave immediate gratification tend to crave salty foods. Cautious people tend to love carbs and comfort foods. (Think about it – how dangerous can a mashed potato be?) Perfectionists love the precision of crunchy foods. Pretzel lovers tend to be the life of the party, while people who love bitter foods tend to be, well, a little bitter. It makes sense that tolerance to extreme flavors opens you up to tolerance in general.
Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, identifies three personality types (Vata which is airy, Pitta fiery, and Kapha which is earthy) and suggests we find a healthy balance in our bodies by eating foods that contrast to our energy type. In other words, fiery go-getters should lay off the jalapenos, even though that is exactly what they crave.
Modern science agrees – not so much about the balance, but about the cravings. Medical Daily tells us that “Eating preferences can be a doorway to your personality. Smell and taste is processed in the brain’s limbic system, which consists of a network of connected structures near the middle of the brain within the central nervous system. These structures work together to affect a wide range of behaviors, including emotions, motivation, and memory. It specifically deals with instinctive or automatic behaviors.”
“So, perhaps our favorite food and drink order says a lot more about our personality than we think.” This will be important to keep in mind later this month when we share Thanksgiving dinner with our relatives.