The History of Discovering Taste
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Before the Ancient Greeks, most educated people agreed that there were three tastes: sweet, of course, sour and salty. But a Greek philosopher, Democritus, thought about it long and hard several thousand years ago, and added the taste we call bitter today, making it four. His conception was that when you chew on your food and it breaks into little bits, which eventually break into four geometric shapes corresponding to the four tastes. Plato and Aristotle bought into that. And so did everyone else, believing that all flavors were a combination of the four tastes.

 Even when taste buds were discovered with the microscope in the early 1800’s, all that changed was the abandonment of Democritus’ geometric shapes in favor of the keyhole shapes found under the microscope lens. Until relatively recently, four tastes and keyhole shapes was the scientific standard.

 Change was coming on two fronts. In Paris, in the late 1800’s Chef Auguste Escoffier was creating flavors that were unlike any other combination of salty, sour, sweet and bitter with his stocks and sauces that seemed to enhance everything they touched. We will learn these sauces and stocks in Lesson 8 Stock, Sauces & Soups Basics