Taste on the timetable
The 6th year at Dyrløkkeåsen School in Drøbak sit fascinated by what the experts have to tell them. This is one of the classes that has been selected for a visit from the taste team as part of Taste Week.
About Taste Week: For the third time, Taste Week is being organised in Norway on the French model. The educational programme Taste on the Timetable is an important aspect. 40 schools in Norway are being visited by taste teams during the first week of November. These 40 have been drawn from 231 schools. Students in more than 50 schools have also taken part in the competition Taste of Autumn, with drawings, poems, stories, songs, photos, cartoons or video. These will be displayed in the Autumn Taste exhibition at the French cultural centre in Oslo. Several restaurants have also devised their own "Taste Week" menus, with special dishes to highlight the five basic tastes.
The taste team visiting Drøbak is made up of Josefine Skaret and Anne Segtnan of Nofima Mat (formerly Matforsk). They hand out small glasses with mystery contents, which the children look at curiously, if cautiously.
"You’re now going to try the five basic tastes. Make sure you fill your mouth with the taste, because you have taste buds all over your mouth. You also need to rinse out your mouth with water between each taste," explains Josefine Skaret.
The basic tastes
The children taste and spit, grimace and smile as they taste their way through salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami. Most of them think it isn’t very hard to tell which is which.
The next test is ready. Two small glasses. Taste and describe. It smells like chewing gum, say some. It tastes very sweet, say others. Sweet and sour. The children are tasting natural juice and artificial sweetener. There is disagreement about which is best, but they all agree it’s fun.
Using fewer senses
"Did you know that we sense 80% of what we are tasting through our noses? We use several senses when we eat. But now you’re just going to use your sense of taste. Close your eyes and hold your nose and describe the taste," explain Josefine Skaret and Anne Segtnan, who usually work as leaders of the sensory panel at Nofima Mat, and so are very experienced at describing tastes.
The same or different
The last two tests are about foods that look the same but taste different, such as vanilla sugar and baking powder, cinnamon and curry powder or cardamom and black pepper. "Yuk! Fancy thinking this tastes good on porridge," is one response. "Tastes like sand," says another. "I made buns yesterday so I know this one: cardamom," says a third.
Then they go over to foods that share the same name but taste different, such as bread, milk, brown cheese and chocolate. They compare whole and skimmed milk, white and wholemeal bread and so on. And nobody complains about finishing with a piece of chocolate.
Learning to describe
During Taste Week, 40 schools around the country are being visited by taste teams like the one at Dyrløkkeåsen. The procedure is the same for all of them. The event was devised by the food information offices, Nofima Mat and the chefs’ association Norges Kokkemesteres Landsforening on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
"The idea is to teach the children more about taste, so that they will know more about what they’re eating. An important part of this learning process is to encourage the children to describe what they are tasting. We Norwegians haven’t learned to describe taste in the same way as have the French for example. They have a much more highly developed food language than we have here in the north," says Josefine Skaret.