Living: The Critical Palate

To a food critic, the word tasting summons delectable images of cheese and bread, foie gras and caviar, chocolate and wine-the usual subjects of such comparative evaluations. But at a 90-minute tasting conducted by Dr. Linda M. Bartoshuk in her laboratory at the Yale-affiliated John B. Pierce Foundation, the only samples I was offered were tepid, clear chemical solutions. They were washed over my tongue or used as a mouth rinse as I leaned over a sink or a funnel hooked up to a waste pail.

Odorless chemical stimulants were employed to activate the four...

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