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Reviews - Barb Stuckey
    Copyright © Barb Stuckey 2024




    Chicago Tribune


    Author helps you savor food with savvy


    Taste is more than just biting, chewing, swallowing. Author Barb Stuckey, who leads the marketing, food trend tracking and consumer research functions at Mattson, a Foster City, Calif.-based food and beverages development company, examines taste from all the angles — physical, emotional, creative and even the illusory. Stuckey offers simple-to-do exercises using basic food products to train yourself to be a better taster.


    A 400-page book on taste can sound fun or ominous depending on your point of view. Yes, there are some geeky moments of science here where your head might seem ready to start spinning. Stick to it, the moment will pass quickly. Stuckey has a knack for serving up information in digestible bites liberally larded with a lively sense of fun and common sense.


    She tackles each of the five senses used in eating and the various tastes we experience. Her section on umami, the elusive and often misunderstood fifth taste that evokes a sense of rich savoriness, is one of the clearest explanations I’ve ever seen.


    Taste is elusive, especially in the most concrete sense of that word. How many of us just mindlessly chow down on something, be it a ripe apple, stale popcorn or a just-right sirloin steak, and never give it another thought? How many of us can’t remember what we had for dinner last night? Or lunch today?


    Stuckey thinks about what’s she’s eating while she’s eating it, breaking down the various components of taste and checking for balance and a proper start, middle and finish. One of her chapters, aptly, is titled “Fifteen Ways to Get More from Every Bite.” Try following even a handful of these pointers and your enjoyment of food will increase markedly.


    Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers



    San Francisco Chronicle

    How food tastes is much more complicated than I thought. Did you know when you “taste” food, about 90 percent of it is experienced by our sense of smell and only 10 percent with our taste buds? But delve even deeper and that equation holds true only if you haven’t taken into account your other senses of touch, hearing and sight.


    Barb Stuckey’s new book Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good is a must for any food lover. Barb, a food developer extraordinaire at Mattson (one of the largest independent developer of new foods and beverages), takes a complex and technical subject of how we taste and presents it in a straightforward and engaging manner. It’s fascinating. I spent all day Sunday on the sofa reading.


    Individually we all taste things a bit differently. I might like things sweeter or more bitter than you. Genetics, biology, your brain, and even the number of taste buds on your tongue all play a role in how we experience taste.


    Barb dissects the senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and sound and the role each plays in what we taste. We all know we smell through our noses. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies or roasted chicken can entice us from across the room. But did you know that smells are also sent from your mouth to your brain once the food is inside your mouth and you have begun chewing? Barb calls this mouth-smelling. We experience textures by touch. Think of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and how all those nuts and chocolate chunks feel in your mouth. Sight often overrides our other senses when eating. If apple juice is served in an orange glass we may think it’s orange juice. Fajitas served sizzling hot leave a taste impression before we even put them in our mouths.


    Barb describes the basic five basic tastes of salt, bitter, sweet, sour and umami, and then provides exercises for us to isolate the different tastes and senses. For example, she explains how recognize what umami tastes like and how the aging of cheese or roasting of tomatoes changes that flavor. Cane sugar, Splenda, Stevia are all sweet but their profiles are all different so they taste completely different.


    Are you a tolerant taster or hyper taster? (With some blue food coloring and a reinforcement label you can find out.) This too influences how food tastes.


    Tastes and senses all work together to create the taste of food good and bad. Barb helps us understand each of them so we can increase our overall appreciation of food and make our food taste better when we are cooking in the kitchen.



    Financial Times


    Taste Matters: Why We Like The Foods We Do, by John Prescott, Reaktion Books, RRP£20/RRP$30, 224 pages


    Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, by Barb Stuckey, Free Press, RRP$26, 416 pages


    When my two-year-old daughter is invited to a children’s birthday party, I see the gustatory plight of the western world unfold in miniature.


    …  The strength of Prescott’s short book Taste Matters is in unpicking the complexities of our eating choices. … Though full of fascinating detail, Prescott’s approach in Taste Matters is as dry as a weight-watcher’s wheat cracker.  Stuckey’s Taste What You’re Missing is, in contrast, spiced throughout with anecdotes, examples and even try-at-home experiments. Comprehensive yet conversational, it is an excellent guide to appreciating something we must spend a large chunk of our life doing.


    Stuckey, a flagrant food lover, believes that the more we learn to enjoy our food, the healthier our relationship to it will be and the healthier we will be. This relationship begins in the womb: foods eaten by pregnant mothers are more likely later to be selected by their offspring. When child­ren join us at the table, they then learn from us our way of eating: whether food is cooked from fresh ingredients or comes out of a packet; whether it is savoured or shovelled down; whether it is an occasion for quality family time or an incidental accompaniment to watching TV. Like Allen and Prescott, Stuckey believes that we pass on to our children a whole culture of eating – and that this is where the battle with obesity begins.


    She makes a convincing case for mindfulness as part of a healthier eating culture, which in this context means increasing our awareness of what we are eating as we are eating it. We are much more likely to over-consume if we are eating absent-mindedly or in a hurry, she argues. If, instead, we sit down and take our time to appreciate the many-sided delights of a well-prepared meal, then we will be satisfied with less. When it comes to fulfilling food, quality can be a substitute for quantity if only we know how to appreciate it – a skill that can be developed by reading this fine book.



    Publisher’s Weekly


    Stuckey’s mouthwatering exploration of the science of taste addresses a wide assortment of topics, from the five tastes that humans can detect using their mouths (sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami), to the ways that “Taste Affects Your Waist.” Drawing on her experience as a professional food developer, Stuckey tantalizes readers with details about the intricacies of taste, observing, for example, that the anatomy of our tongues, medical history, and genes account for the differences in individual abilities to taste. She also suggests experiments and recipes that encourage the development and exploration of the art of taste, such as listening to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” while drinking chardonnay, and a “Sensory Evaluation of Milk Chocolate Bars.” She concludes by proposing “Fifteen Ways to Get More from Every Bite,” including chewing well, tasting at the right temperature, quitting smoking, and, of course, being adventurous. Going far beyond Brillat-Savarin’s famous 19th-century book on the subject, The Physiology of Taste, Stuckey not only connects readers with the sensory complexity of sundry fare, but also instructs them in the art of understanding and appreciating a multisensory approach to food in order to make more informed gustatory choices. (Mar.)


    Reviewed on: 04/02/2012



    Library Journal
    Have you ever wondered what makes something taste good? Why do you like a food that someone else doesn’t like? Stuckey, a professional food developer, explores the five senses and five tastes in relation to what, how, and why we eat. What started as a tortilla chip tasting led to an easily accessible and well-researched guide to enjoying food. Stuckey interviewed friends, chefs, and researchers and participated in empirical research by food scientists. Each chapter builds on the knowledge from the previous, culminating in some overall principles of taste and eating habits to help readers taste more thoroughly. Simple exercises at the end of each chapter show readers how to test their taste buds.
    Verdict This book will appeal to enjoyers of food, dieters, and those who wonder why the human body works the way it does in relation to food and taste.—Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology Lib., Portland



    Kirkus Reviews

    As a professional food developer, Stuckey has to understand the how and why of taste in order to create new palate-pleasing food products. Here she leads readers into the science of what happens to food once it reaches our mouths, with taste being “only about twenty percent of the story. Food that tastes good also looks good, smells good, feels good, and sounds good.” Using examples from her experiences at home, in restaurants and at work, Stuckey analyzes the “five building blocks of taste, “four [of which] are familiar to most people: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter” The fifth, umami, refers to the perception of a savory or meaty taste that makes soups and broths full-bodied. Complex evaluations give readers a precise breakdown of each of these five types and how one sensation directly affects the other. Stuckey provides technical but readable discussions of such topics as orthonasal olfaction (nose-smelling taste) versus retronasal olfaction (mouth-smelling taste). To aid in understanding this specialized information, the author supplies readers with many flavor-related exercises designed to increase responsiveness to various foods. These include a simple test to determine the number of taste buds on one’s tongue, eating blindfolded or eating with cotton balls stuffed into the nose to block the sensation of smell. Seeking to launch a “culture of taste appreciation,” Stuckey writes that taste is “using all five of our senses to find the hidden joy in food and take the full pleasure out of every bite.”


    A helpful, systematic approach to developing a discriminating palate.



    Green Apple Books

    You’ve probably read a book on tasting wine, but not on tasting food. Correct that with Taste What You’re Missing by Barb Stuckey. It’s fascinating. The subtitle sums up the book well enough: it’s the science of taste, more or less, and Stuckey delivers the goods in an easy-to-read style with anecdotes, DIY experiments, recipes, and experience gleaned from her years as a professional food developer.


    Fun stuff herein includes activities like:


    • Dying your tongue blue to count taste buds;
    • A sensory evaluation of chocolate bars;
    • An experiment on how color can change taste; and
    • 15 ways to get more from every bite.


    Don’t trust me? How about David Chang of Momofuku and Lucky Peach fame? “Barb Stuckey’s book makes the complicated science of food and taste accessible to anyone. It is as enjoyable to read as it is a thorough summary of why ‘good’ tastes ‘good.’”



    Oxford University


    Stuckey has certainly been speaking to the right people while doing her research for the book. The text includes numerous quotes from the interviews that she conducted with many of the best-known international figures from the world of flavor research.


    Barb’s book also includes some fascinating material on the preparation, and consumption, of food and drink by those who have lost one of their senses (for example, vision or hearing). Also, when she finds out that no one has done the relevant research, as when it comes to the question whether those who are deaf suffer from reduced flavor perception – she goes and collects some relevant data herself.


    Stuckey’s book is strongest in the numerous industry examples she provides from her work


    with Mattson, the largest new food product development company in North America.


    Charlotte Observer


    Lemon is my pick for most-valuable ingredient  … So is there something in humans that drives us to love a hit of sour flavor? The new book “Taste: What You’re Missing,” by Barb Stuckey (Free Press, $26), looks at the science behind tastes. She notes that babies will push away lemon and make a face. Rightly so – too much acid can hurt their developing teeth and young digestive systems.


    Adults, however, will go for sour flavors. A little acidity in a tomato sauce makes it taste fresher to us.


    But here’s a mystery: When we’re 5 to 9 years old, we suddenly love really sour flavors. That explains the allure of super-sour candies like Sour Patch Kids and Warheads. Taste experts don’t know why, Stuckey says. They just know that before we develop an adult preference for a little sour, we go through a stage where we love a lot of sour.




    Barb Stuckey is a professional food developer and has studied the science behind why certain foods taste better than others and how some foods can enhance or detract for their taste as well.  I had a friend in grade school that used to drink orange juice promptly after brushing his teeth which made him vomit.  He did this any time he wanted to stay home from school. Although this is an extreme example, Barb Stuckey explains exactly why orange juice tastes terrible after brushing your teeth.  I found this whole book fascinating and full of really cool scientific facts about why some food tastes good and appealing while others completely miss the mark.  She also emphasizes that our mouth and tongue only provide 20 percent of the experience of taste and that the other senses also come into play, especially smell.


    There are formulas throughout the book that go into great detail about how foods and spices  combine to make the sum greater than the parts. Stuckey also provides experiments for you to try at home and help develop your own taste so you can actually learn how to increase your own potential taste.  I never knew there was such science behind food development since on the surface we only tend to look at the packaging.  I really enjoyed this whole read and the information included will have you thinking about this for years to come.   


    Poor Taste Magazine


    My dear, frustrating, picky eaters: you may be onto something. While most of us are confident that we know what we like to eat — no swordfish for me, thanks — how many of us actually remember learning to taste? Unless your dad is Gordon Ramsey, it’s doubtful that you did (you know he makes his kids do blind taste-tests. You know he does.). In Barb Stuckey’s Taste What You’re Missing, it becomes apparent that most of what we think we know about the science of taste is just plain wrong. She delves deep into how each of our senses influence the way we perceive flavors, and provides insight on how we can customize our kitchens to maximize our gastronomic experiences. A must-read for pretty much anyone who eats.




    Have Sippy Will Travel


    “The book is very interesting, particularly in its recipes and experiments, which teach your brain how to taste differences and hone in on what those differences are. With salt, water and accent flavor enhancer, you can finally find out without a shadow of a doubt what umami really is. Yes, it’s meaty/savory/etc, but to taste it is completely different and is definitely an ‘Ah ha!’ moment. This book is full of them.”



    Somerset Cottage Blog

    A confession. I’ve actually just curled up on the chair in the lounge that’s catching some of the afternoon sun’s rays, to start rereading this book. It is so loaded with information that I’ve decided my initial read was maybe a bit perfunctory, and that it wouldn’t do me any harm to go thru again. A task made easy by the fact that its written in an approachable and light style, even though there’s a fair amount of science getting discussed.”