Navigating Flavour at the Christmas Market

Volker Bach looks at branded foods as guideposts and guarantors of quality

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A traditional sweet stall, oversized gingerbread hearts and all.

Christmas fairs have a long tradition in Germany. Originally, they existed to provide markets for rural buyers when their pockets were at their fullest. Christmas, then as now, was a religious holiday, but not very. The markets were there to shop, but also to have fun, to enjoy small luxuries and to make money from people who didn’t know any better. They still are.
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Favourite Food Museums

Len Fisher

Symposiasts and followers of our Facebook page responded enthusiastically when I asked about their favourite food museums. There is, in fact, a searchable online listing of some 1400 such museums compiled by Shirley Cherkasky and friends at http://foodhistorynews.com/directory.html.

But for the fun of it, here is a rather more selective listing of the ones that our symposiasts and Facebook followers came up with. Feel free to suggest others through your comments! My personal favourites are The Endangered Cake Museum and The Burnt Food Museum.

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Tasting and the Brain

Len Fisher

A recent paper in Nature (LINK to article) tells us for the first time how taste sensations on the tongue are transmitted to the brain. It turns out that, just as there are dedicated receptor cells on the tongue and palate for each of the five basic tastes, so there are specific ganglions (analogous to the different wires in a telephone exchange) tuned to each of these tastes, and responsible for conveying the message about their presence from the receptors to the brain. One practical upshot (on the assumption that human brains react similarly to the mouse brains that were studied) is that our response to taste mixes should largely reflect the sum of the responses to the individual tastants.

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