Ever wished you had the refined palette of a master sommelier so you could detect the subtle differences between elderflower and orange blossom?
You probably have a better sense of smell and taste than you think.
“Everyone has a good palette,” insists Bobby Stuckey, a master sommelier and co-founder of Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado. He points out that our senses have helped us detect danger and find food for thousands of years. “But most people’s palettes are fully asleep,” he adds.
Fortunately, you can awaken and sharpen those senses with practice. Here are some strategies to get you started.
Notice smells in your everyday life. A trip to the grocery store, a walk through the park, even a shower or a peek into your spice drawer is an opportunity to discover different smells. “I think probably the majority of people, including myself, whether we’re drinking water, eating something for breakfast or even putting on our deodorant, never take the time to smell and understand it,” says Yannick Benjamin, head sommelier at the University Club in New York City. Pausing in the produce section to breathe in the smell of a ripe peach or a fresh tomato, slowing down to register the floral notes in your shampoo or visiting a floral shop are all exercises he recommends for becoming more mindful of smell.
Savor your food. Most of us have gotten used to eating lunch as quickly as possible so that we can run an errand or return an email, but rushed eating is unsatisfying and doesn’t improve your palette. “Oftentimes we don’t chew and savor,” Benjamin says. “We just chew for a few seconds and swallow.” Notice how your food smells as the fork approaches your mouth. Pay attention to how it feels on different parts of your tongue. Relish the tastes and textures before swallowing. You can apply a similar approach to liquids, too, cherishing the aroma and taste with each sip.
Seek out a variety of smells and tastes. If you always order the same California Chardonnay or carne asada, you’re missing out. Expose yourself to new tastes and smells by ordering outside your comfort zone and experiencing new flavors and aromas. “It doesn’t matter if you’re tasting wine or you’re tasting tacos, if you only taste a certain thing, you’re not expanding [your palette],” Stuckey says. The same goes for using your Aera diffuser – keep several fragrances on hand so that you can trade them out and reengage your sense of smell.
The old adage to ‘stop and smell the roses’ could be exactly what you need to heighten your appreciation for taste and smell.