180 sixth year pupils from the Stavanger area spent the day tasting and smelling their way through various foods. "That was really great," was the kids' verdict when the day was over. Visitors to the canteen at Måltidets Hus that day had the chance to find out whether they were supertasters.
The State Secretary is a supertaster
State Secretary Ola Heggem opened the day by explaining that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was organising Taste Week to promote a love of tasty food and to make us more aware of the kind of foods we are putting in our mouths.
"We are very concerned to make the love of food and food quality a natural part of the kindergarten and school day. We are now taking the initiative of meeting the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs to discuss possibilities for working together to make food traditions, food culture, local foods and sensory perception more visible in schools," says Heggem.
After his address, Heggem had the honour of taking the day's first PROP test, while Josefine Skaret, Sensory Laboratory Leader at Nofima Mat, explained that the PROP test tells you whether you have enough taste buds to be a supertaster - which the State Secretary proved to be.
Tasting with the tongue and the brain
While Heggem was taking the PROP test, Helge Bergslien, Managing Director of Nofima Norconserv, was giving the schoolchildren a presentation about taste. He explained how our senses affect how we taste things. "The way we taste something is also affected by how it smells, how it looks and what we expect it to taste like. The taste buds for the different basic tastes are located in different areas of our tongues, but all the tastes we have come across before are stored in our brains. Just think about a lemon. When I say lemon, don't you think about a yellow colour and a rather sour taste?" asked Bergslien.
The children were blindfolded before tasting two different food samples. Simen Kvinesland Olsen and Knut Mikkel Litleland from Storevarden School in Sola tested each other. "The piece of apple tasted nice and sweet, but the raw potato wasn't nice," said Simen Kvinesland Olsen.
Soy sauce tastes of umami
The children then took a tour around different tasting stations. In the sensory laboratory, they got to taste five products and connect them with the five basic tastes: salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.
Cecilie Nornes from Iglemyr School managed to get all five basic tastes right.
"The lemon is sour of course, the cracker is salt, the grapefruit bitter and the carrot sweet. So it must be the soy sauce that tastes of umami," worked out Nornes.
The kids thought the smells station was fun. In the sensory room it was yoghurt testing time. The children tried several different kinds of drinking yoghurt, mixed with more or less natural yoghurt. The focus groups discussed what kind of school lunch the children wanted.
A more multi-subject approach to taste and taste teaching
Both pupils and teachers were very pleased with the day. Bjørn Ormstad, a teacher at Iglemyr School, said the pupils seemed to be more caught up in the subject than usual and that they thought the practical taste tests were really great. "We've had a lot of good tips we can put into practice. I believe we can use a more multi-subject approach to taste and taste teaching than we do now. Science, history and religion are all subject areas that can be linked to food and taste," said Ormstad.
Food and health teacher Nina Lyng totally agrees.
"The children have had a great time and they have really learned a lot. They have had a taste experience that they can carry forward. I think the day has been well put together and the different stations took just about the right time. We'll be taking a lot of these ideas back for our food and health lessons. Tomorrow we are going to make rolls and we have decided to make two different kinds - a slightly salt one and a sweet one with jam. After today, we will be able to link this with teaching about the basic tastes," Lyng concluded happily.