Bitter vs. Sour (and sweet and salty) - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-18-2007, 04:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yesterday my 8 year old daughter was eating something with carob on it, and she thought it was chocolate, and I explained that carob has been used in place of chocolate. She wanted to know why, and I said I wasn't sure. Maybe it was cheaper, maybe it was not as bitter so it didn't require as much sweetener. So then she wanted to know what flavor bitter was, and I tried explaining, and she kept saying, "do you mean sour, because that food has a sour taste."

I told her to stick her finger in her ear and taste her earwax if she wanted to know what bitter was.

So then this morning both of my girls were drinking soy milk, and one complained about it and the other said she liked it. DP said that the one who liked it was super taster and that would serve her well in life. I said he had it backwards--super tasters usually ate less because they didn't like the flavor of most things. DH said that it didn't work in his case, he just ate a lot of what he did like. He is absolutely the pickiest eater I have ever known--he mostly just eats mostly raw meat some days, and never eats vegetables.

Anyway, we started talking about the bitter thing, and super tasters not liking bitter which lead to the conversation from yesterday with dd. Well, it turns out DP didn't really get the difference either. He thinks sour and bitter are closely related. I tend to think of sour and salty as a pair, and bitter and sweet as a pair. Sometimes stuff can be sweet, but kind of bitter too, and too much sweet can almost taste bitter in some cases. But sometimes bitter and sweet go together well Eh, I don't know. Maybe I'm just crazy. But I can use sour stuff to fool my taste buds into thinking it is saltier.

So both dd and I told him to taste his earwax. To me earwax--at least my own earwax, I've never tasted anyone else's--is extremely, unpleasantly bitter. DH said he thought it tasted kind of sweet. Huh.

Any thoughts on this. Anyone else confuse bitter and sour? To me a lemon is sour, but the rind is bitter. Sometimes all the tastes can be there, I guess, but bitter just seems completely different from sour to me. My mom always thought that adding sugar to something sour, like grapefruit, actually made it taste a little bitter, but that adding salt brought out a natural sweetness. I preferred salting my grapefruit to sugaring it, but now I don't do either. I just peel it and eat it in sections, and it can have a sweet taste, a sour taste and a bitter taste, which might be some of the pith, I don't know. But since sugar is used to sweeten bitter stuff, I'm not sure why sugar would make something more bitter. I do salt bitter vegetables to cut down on the bitterness--maybe any combo of taste bud stimulation just de-emphasizes both a little.
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:39 PM
 
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I agree -- sour and bitter are two different tastes. I think your description of a lemon (juice vs. rind) is a good way to describe the two.

Sour is kind of a catch at the back of your throat, while bitter is more on the tip of the tongue, too. At least it is for me.
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:41 PM
 
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I also think of bitter and sweet as being on opposite ends of the same spectrum. Or something. I don't know.

I was laughing about the earwax, but you're right - it's difficult to describe. Maybe some unsweetened baker's chocolate would serve better for that experiment though.

For me, bitter is very different than sour. It's odd to me that anyone one think of them as being similar.
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:53 PM
 
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Ummm... shouldn't a super-taster be able to taste the difference between bitter and sour? :

But seriously... I'm a super taster, and there is a HUGE difference between bitter and sour. For me, a lemon is sour but a grapefruit is bitter. But DH just puts a grapefruit at a mid-sour range (not as sour as a lemon, but more sour than an orange).

Another good example of bitter is anything with tannin... like some red wines, or black walnuts (regular walnuts are only slightly bitter, but black walnuts are really bitter). Bitter can also often be associated with astringency (cotton-mouth feeling).

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Old 05-18-2007, 07:30 PM
 
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A super-taster should be able to taste bitter as distinct from sour, yes!

I also don't know any super-tasters who can imbibe soy milk.
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Old 05-22-2007, 08:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ummm... shouldn't a super-taster be able to taste the difference between bitter and sour? :

But seriously... I'm a super taster, and there is a HUGE difference between bitter and sour. For me, a lemon is sour but a grapefruit is bitter. But DH just puts a grapefruit at a mid-sour range (not as sour as a lemon, but more sour than an orange).
I'm just wondering if maybe he was never told the difference between bitter and sour, and never really knew how to differentiate them. I don't think my husband has eaten anything bitter since I've known him, other than bittersweet chocolate.

Grapefruit is kind of weird. I just ate one and it was partly sweet, and partly tart and a little bitter. It left an astringent feeling on my tongue, almost like it had been slightly burned. And then there is bitter good--like coffee is supposed to be bitter--but then bitter bad when coffee is bitter because it is bad coffee. I've heard that coffee should never be bitter, but how can it not be? Isn't that one of the tastes? But if it is bitter in a bad way, you can tell that from being bitter the right way.

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Old 05-22-2007, 08:23 PM
 
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I'm so confused.

I guess I thought bitter and sour were kind of synonymous. I can see now that you've described it what the difference you're referring to is, but honestly I don't think I would have differentiated the two. But I'm no super taster. And I don't eat grapefruit, it tastes yucky.
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Old 05-22-2007, 08:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not a super taster either. I like bitter stuff...except earwax. ::shudder:: I can taste bitter in a lot of stuff, even sweet stuff. I just had a little slice of watermelon and could taste some bitter in with the sweet.

unsweetened cocoa & brussel sprouts are pretty bitter. vinegar and plain yogurt can be really sour.
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Old 05-22-2007, 09:14 PM
 
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I don't understand how anyone could NOT differentiate between bitter and sour. They are so very different! My DH is like this and it boggles my poor wee brain.

I don't think I want to taste earwax.

How do you find out if you are a supertaster? I don't think I am, but I have had to teach myself to like most bitter things like arugula and dark chocolate. I still don't like grapefruit - but Viola, I totally know what you mean about sugar bringing out the bitterness! I have never tried salted grapefruit but I will next chance I get.

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Old 05-22-2007, 09:30 PM
 
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Bitter is quinine, or chewing up an aspirin...sour is citrus.

Edited to add I've developed an arugula addiction - I seriously eat like a pound a day, I wonder what I'm lacking in my diet??

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Old 05-22-2007, 09:40 PM
 
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I am a super taster. My mom is nearly a non-taster and it caused all kinds of problems growing up.

To me, dark chocolate and coffee beans are bitter

lemons are sour

sugar is sweet

salt is salty

as far as I'm concerned these designations are not paired up but they do compliment one another in various combinations.
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Old 05-22-2007, 09:41 PM
 
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I've never heard the term "super-taster" before, and I've never tasted my own earwax (or anybody else's for that matter.) But yes, there is a distinct difference between bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Bitter is chewing up an asprin, sweet is a chocolate icecream cone, sour is a big juicy dill pickle, and salty is yummy salted roasted peanuts.

Damn, now I'm hungry for EVERYTHING.
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Old 05-22-2007, 09:42 PM
 
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How do you find out if you are a supertaster? I don't think I am, but I have had to teach myself to like most bitter things like arugula and dark chocolate.
Most super tasters that I've ever talked to just know (from experience). I'm the type of person can sit and analyze what's in something. My sister used to take me out to eat just so i could tell her what's in her favorite dishes. I'm a bit out of practice, since I cook most of our food now, i don't have to try to discern it, I know what's in it. When I'm cooking, I have to taste something, and then go have someone else taste it, just to be sure that I'm not "off". Because I'm so sensitive, I'll determine my own thoughts ("it needs more salt", "needs more spice", etc.), and then ask someone else to confirm that before I change anything. That's why on certain things I *always* use a recipe, even if it's a recipe I developed myself. It keeps me from questioning too much.

Usually, super tasters have one area of specialty, i.e. they're better with sweet or salty or sour than the others. I happen to be super-sensitive to sweet and salt, not so much to sour or bitter, but my sour and bitter are still more sensitive than most people's.

I don't find arugula to be all that bitter... i find it to be more peppery with a touch of bitter (the older it is the more bitter it is, though). Endive is bitter, and I love the stuff. I love brussel sprouts, too... I guess it depends on whether the bitterness is balanced with something else (like flavor) or if it's the only thing going on. And to the person who mentioned coffee... yes! I don't like most coffee because of the bitter. I did finally find a company who makes coffee I like since it's strong and smooth but not too bitter. Though the coffee still doesn't like me.

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Old 05-22-2007, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you find out if you are a supertaster? I don't think I am, but I have had to teach myself to like most bitter things like arugula and dark chocolate. I still don't like grapefruit - but Viola, I totally know what you mean about sugar bringing out the bitterness! I have never tried salted grapefruit but I will next chance I get.
There is a test you can do at home, but I had a hard time with it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2880471.stm I tried it on myself and my daughter. According to what I found with her, she is a super taster. The test that I had heard of before the one about counting tastebuds was something related to giving people a pill of something and seeing if they found it bitter or not. Oh here, from wikipedia:

Quote:
In the 1960s, Roland Fischer was the first to link the ability to taste PTC, and the related compound propylthiouracil (PROP), to food preference and body type. Today, PROP has replaced PTC in taste research due to a faint sulfurous odor and safety concerns with PTC. As described above, Bartoshuk and colleagues discovered that the taster group could be further divided into medium and supertasters. Most estimates suggest 25% of the population are nontasters, 50% are medium tasters, and 25% are supertasters.

The bitter taste receptor gene TAS2R38 has been associated with the ability to taste PROP^ and PTC^ , however it cannot completely explain the supertasting phenomenon. Still, the T2R38 genotype has been linked to sweet preference^ , alcohol intake^ , colon cancer (via vegetable consumption)^ and cigarette smoking.
I think aspirin is kind of sour, actually. I mean it is acidic, although it might also be bitter at its core. Tylenol--now that stuff is bitter, yuck.
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Old 05-22-2007, 09:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't think I want to taste earwax.
Sheesh, what a wimp! Why not? OK, OK, if you don't want to taste your earwax, I hear that urine is kind of bitter too. Or at least it can be.
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Old 05-22-2007, 09:54 PM
 
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Ok I looked it up and I think there's a pretty good chance I AM a supertaster. Woohoo.

According to some research, there is a higher likelihood that I will avoid bitter vegetables or else have taught myself to eat them with cream sauces etc. Bing! that's me alright. And to take coffee with milk and/or sugar (bing! cream actually) and to dislike dark chocolate (bing!) etc. etc. And also to find artificial sweeteners disgusting. Bing bing bing...

(So I am more likely to be overweight and avoiding various antioxidants in my diet. Yay me. Probably true. Well, totally true on the overweight thing. But I am all over those antioxidants. With cream sauce.)

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Old 05-22-2007, 09:56 PM
 
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Sheesh, what a wimp! Why not? OK, OK, if you don't want to taste your earwax, I hear that urine is kind of bitter too. Or at least it can be.
Yeee're funny.

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Old 05-22-2007, 09:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Most super tasters that I've ever talked to just know (from experience). I'm the type of person can sit and analyze what's in something. My sister used to take me out to eat just so i could tell her what's in her favorite dishes.
I used to be pretty good at this, but it was more related to my sense of smell than anything else. I would always taste weird things in stuff and not like it. I'd do the...well, I don't know how to describe it, but I'd leave my mouth closed, but open my throat up and take air into my mouth around my palate and kind of work my jaw up and down blowing a little air out of my nose at the same time. Then I could really taste stuff and could tell if it was bad or not.
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Old 05-22-2007, 10:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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According to some research, there is a higher likelihood that I will avoid bitter vegetables or else have taught myself to eat them with cream sauces etc. Bing! that's me alright. And to take coffee with milk and/or sugar (bing! cream actually) and to dislike dark chocolate (bing!) etc. etc. And also to find artificial sweeteners disgusting. Bing bing bing...

(So I am more likely to be overweight and avoiding various antioxidants in my diet. Yay me. Probably true. Well, totally true on the overweight thing. But I am all over those antioxidants. With cream sauce.)
I eat bitter vegetables with oil and salt or butter and salt. I find one or the other really helps to mitigate the flavor. And, yes, I do add milk or cream to my coffee, but not sugar 'cause that is disgusting. ROFL. I can drink coffee black, but if it is strong I prefer it lightened (unless it is non-dairy creamer, then double yuck). I do like bitter things, like dark chocolate and Guinness.

But I had always heard that supertasters were more likely to be thin than fat, because there was a lot they couldn't eat. My husband won't drink alcohol or tea or coffee, and won't eat spices either, but he loves semi-sweet chocolate. I have another friend who hates chocolate of any kind, coffee of any kind even the smell, and never touches alcohol. But he will eat stuff like Brie which tastes really ammonia-ey to me.
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Old 05-22-2007, 10:20 PM
 
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But I had always heard that supertasters were more likely to be thin than fat, because there was a lot they couldn't eat.
I WISH!

The butter and salt thing... the fat from butter or cream sauces coats your taste buds, helping to "protect" them from the bitterness. The salt helps to balance the bitterness. Together they do a good job of making it all palatable. And I'm the same way... either plenty of butter or a sauce of some sort.

I also don't like dark chocolate, most coffee, non-sweetened alcohol. I don't mind some artificial sweeteners in moderation, but aspartame is revolting to me, and the others in large quantities become metallic tasting.

But, I love herbal teas (the tannins in black tea make it too bitter for me), really good coffee (with cream and sugar), and I use spices like there's no tomorrow. Some of these things come naturally to me, and some of them required me to "train" myself (like drinking tea unsweetened and without milk). There are certain flavors that I'm still in "training" (cilantro and cumin come to mind), but I'm making progress, I used to "hate" them, now I "don't mind" them.

I can tell the difference between "my" brand of cheese and other brands, "my" brand of sour cream and others, etc. Even though most people think there's no difference, I get mad at DH if he buys the wrong brand (which is why he no longer does the shopping), because it tastes "wrong" to me. Now that I control the shopping, I make sure to buy the "right" brand of bacon, milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. And I LOVE cheese. Of all kinds. But not all brands. I love brie, blue, feta, all sorts of specialty cheeses, but it took me quite a while to find a brand of string cheese that I like. DH can't taste the difference between any of them, but I sure can.

I definitely feel like it's given me a greater power for "perfecting" my own recipes. But it's also made it so that "average" isn't usually worth it to me. Makes eating out difficult, that's for sure.

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Old 05-22-2007, 10:31 PM
 
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So what are people called who like really strong flavors? Odd? I hardly ever follow recipes because the recommended spicing is too weak, I love strong flavored coffee like sumatra, loooooove IPA beer (very bitter).
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