Consernyng Tayste and John Milton’s Beeying a Dyck

At a certain point, our concepts of taste got all muddled. Gustatory taste got mixed up with aesthetic taste, sensation blurred into sensibility. This is a problem, because as a result the same snobbery that prevails over aesthetic taste often does so over the tasting we do with nose (80% of taste is retronasal olfaction) and tongue.

It’s all wrong, as any reasonable person knows. There is no accounting for taste: it’s subjective – partly down to gene expression, partly down to where you’re born, how god-awful your school meals were, etc, but always personal.

Taste is not an aptitude test. It’s about pleasure (what food scientists refer to as hedonic valence) and the more we taste the greater the scope for pleasure. It’s something that really needs to be rescued from snobbery and restored to its original evolutionary-behavioural simplicity.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the confusion, try the poet John Milton. In Paradise Lost, for the first time Milton used the word ‘taste’ to refer to something more than ‘tongue taste’ – namely as a metaphor for good judgement:

Eve, now I see thou art exact of taste,
And elegant, of Sapience no small part,
Since to each meaning savour we apply,
And Palate call judicious…

Four centuries on, some of us struggle to admit we prefer the taste of prosecco to champagne, or Rice Krispies to Eggs Benedict, or any other number of preferences which are governed by the measure of pleasure they give us and that alone.

Well done, Milton, you dick.

This is an extract from an article originally written for