Elements of Taste: Understanding What We Like and Why

Benjamin Errett. TarcherPerigee, $16 ISBN 978-0-399-18344-7
This witty, fast-paced survey from National Post features editor Errett (Elements of Wit) combines the terminology of tastes detectable by the human tongue—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami—with a social-psychology framework to explain entertainment preferences. The sitcom Friends, for example, is classified as “sweet,” whereas Kanye West is “bitter.” Then there are the rare cultural phenomena that hit all categories on the taste spectrum—Errett terms them “cultural ketchup”—such as Star Wars. Marvel superhero films and Katy Perry are explored for the secret to their popularity (Errett claims that the secret of the latter’s popularity is “sexuality just wholesome enough to be sold at Walmart”), but it is Errett’s dissection of cultural oddities such as cozy mystery novels about cold-blooded murder or “futurist cooking” that are truly fascinating. Fans of obscure delights will enjoy the book’s discussion of a Canadian slush-drink manufacturer (with flavor names such as “Crushed Smurf” and “Wild Tar”) and of “slow” Norwegian television programming featuring, for example, “134 hours of a cruise ship sailing along the coastline.” The book also contains plenty of interesting trivia, with blurbs on the history of punk rock, “supertasters,” and the discovery of umami. Ideally, understanding the elements of taste will help readers better understand what appeals to them and thus decide what to pursue next. The droll sketches peppered throughout and Errett’s amusing commentary ensure a read as fun as it is informative. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/19/2017
Release date: 10/17/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Audio Product - 978-0-399-18345-4
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