Tricking your taste buds

Combining foods can short-circuit your taste buds' ability to identify flavors correctly. For example, when you sip wine (even an apparently smooth and silky one), your taste buds say, "Hey, that alcohol's sharp." Take a bite of cheese first, and the wine tastes smoother (less acidic) because the cheese's fat and protein molecules coat your receptor cells so that acidic wine molecules cannot connect.

A similar phenomenon occurs during serial wine tastings (tasting many wines, one after another). Try two equally dry, acidic wines, and the second seems mellower because acid molecules from the first one fill up space on the chemical bonds that perceive acidity. Drink a sweet wine after a dry one, and the sweetness often is more pronounced.

Here's another way to fool your taste buds: Eat an artichoke. The meaty part at the base of the artichoke leaves contains cynarin, a sweet-tasting chemical that makes any food you taste after the artichoke taste sweeter.

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