Why do we ask for extra jalapenos in our quesadillas knowing it’s going in hot and coming out hotter? Why isn’t chilli tasty unless there’s a five-alarm fire in our mouths? Why do kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch topped with pepper flakes? Finally, science is here to tell us why.
Food scientist Harold McGee says spices and herbs are actually delicious chemical weapons that are supposed to dissuade us from eating plants, but obviously the ploy fails because of our ingenuity and taste buds. “The reason why human beings love [herbs and spices] so much is that we’ve learned how to use them to enrich the flavors of our foods,” shared the author in web series, The Mind of a Chef. “We transform them by heating them, rounding out their flavors. Getting rid of some of the harshness.”
When spices and herbs are paired with other foods and eaten, McGee says our taste buds and olfactory sensors become “overwhelmed with the complexity of the mixture” and is the very reason why the food is so yum yum in our tum tums. Interestingly, cayenne is the first product listed on any diet supplement because it’s an effective appetite suppressant — which feels like a win-win.