Taste an apple, a strawberry or a piece of Wensleydale cheese – or indeed anything you fancy – and a magical process is set in motion. Our whole being engages in the initial assessment, quickly transforming it into appreciation or otherwise. The array of flavours can trigger all manner of reactions in the brain. Taste consciousness absorbs us in the food, and it in us. For a few glorious moments, taster and tasted become one. Unity through food – wonderful!
The all-too-brief asparagus season is upon us in the UK. Ah, the noble green spears! Smooth and strong, yet delicate. Mysteriously, not everyone likes it but for those who do, there is nothing quite like fresh, locally grown asparagus. The health values of this culinary vegetable are renowned. According to Ayurveda, asparagus balances all three doshas. What does it taste like? No-one can really tell you – just try describing the taste of a strawberry – but there is more to this than flavour. Sight, smell and touch play their full part in the appreciation of food, too. Even hearing sometimes joins in – the crunch of an apple, the sizzling of food cooked at the table, for instance.
One taste or one sense?
Scientists have recently discovered that the tongue can detect odours. Have you have ever accidentally opened your mouth in the vicinity of slurry-spreading on farmland? Or fetid toilets or garbage? If so, you will already have known this for yourself. More enlightening research will no doubt come. Tasting with the ears may well be possible. Perhaps it will help us to reach a new conclusion – that there are not five senses but one. After all, are the senses not just the pathways of information that, with our mind, give us our picture of the world? There is a perspective in Tibetan Buddhism that invites us, in the quest for unity, to perceive everything in the universe “with one taste”. It frees the mind. That sounds good to me.