Many people treat it almost as a joke, though it is essential to what we normally call the sense of taste. Without it, we can distinguish only sweet, sour, salt and bitter. Pleasure in eating then becomes minimal and food becomes mere fuel. In an age such as ours, in which culinary aesthetics are almost the only aesthetics that most people take seriously, or in which they show any judgement, loss of the sense of taste is of great importance.
The sense of smell declines with age and can disappear altogether in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Closely observing a relative with the former disease, I noticed first that he would push away his food, with the remark that it tasted of nothing, though to me it seemed quite highly flavoured.
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