(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

(All quotes by Diane Ackerman unless otherwise indicated)

“The other senses may be enjoyed in all their beauty when one is alone, but taste is largely social. Humans rarely choose to dine in solitude, and food has a powerful social component.”

“If an event is meant to matter emotionally, symbolically, or mystically, food will be close at hand to sanctify and bind it.”

“Taste is an intimate sense. We can’t taste things at a distance. And how we taste things, as well as the exact makeup of our saliva, may be as individual as our fingerprints.”

“Food is created by the sex of plants or of animals; and we find it sexy. When we eat an apple or peach, we are eating the fruit’s placenta.”

“At the tip of the tongue, we taste sweet things; bitter things at the back; sour things at the sides; and salty things spread over the surface, but mainly up front. The tongue is like a kingdom divided into principalities according to sensory talent.”

“The taste buds for bitter lie at the back of the tongue; as a final defense against danger. . . . We can detect saltiness in one part in 400, sourness in one part in 130,000, but bitterness in as little as one part in 2,000,000. Nor is it necessary for us to recognize poisonous things as tasting different from one another; they just taste bitter.”

“Just as we can smell something only when it begins to evaporate, we can taste something only when it begins to dissolve, and we cannot do that without saliva.”

“We often smell something before we taste it, and that’s enough to make us salivate.”

“Every taste we can imagine—from mangoes to hundred-year-old eggs—comes from a combination of the four primary tastes plus one or two others.”

“A food’s flavor includes its texture, smell, temperature, color, and painfulness (as in spices), among many other features.”

“Food Engineers, wizards of subtle persuasion, create products to assault as many of our senses as possible. Committees put a lot of thought into the design of fast foods.”

“The mouth is more than just the beginning of the long pipeline to the anus: It’s the door to the body, the place where we greet the world, the parlor of great risk. . . . but the mouth mainly holds the tongue, a thick mucous slab of muscle, wearing minute cleats as if it were an athlete.”

“Offered a sexless heaven, I’d say no thank you, women are such sweet hell.” Ovid