We can’t go back in time, but some things have definitely changed.
By Claire Maldarelli | Published Oct 14, 2021 8:00 AM
This is probably a question that you might have heard once or twice in conversations: Did food taste better in the past? It’s one of those things that just kind of gets tossed around as common sense sometimes—the idea that food, and particularly produce, just isn’t like it used to be.
Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and pluck a strawberry from a 1960s grocery store and compare it to one found in a supermarket today. Even if we could do that, it’s unlikely that everyone would agree that today’s strawberries are less flavorful than a fresh berry from decades ago.
In some ways, taste is pretty objective. There are currently five recognized kinds of taste—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. When we eat food, various receptors (otherwise known as taste buds) react to those tastes and send a signal to the brain telling us what’s going on. But, in other ways, taste can be perplexingly subjective.
Certain types of health conditions can impair your sense of taste, as can your mood, along with plenty of other environmental and genetic factors. For example, some people are more sensitive to bitter tastes, making foods that are particularly bitter less palatable. And this is often because of their genetics: Some folks who are more sensitive to bitter flavors—often dubbed supertasters—have a gene named TAS2R38, which heightens their perception of bitterness.