Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense - Bob Holmes 2017


I had no idea a book required so much cooperation from so many people. More than one hundred scientists and flavor professionals generously gave their time and knowledge to educate me about flavor. Only a few of them are mentioned by name here, but every one, named or not, helped shape my understanding in ways great and small. Thank you all—it’s been fascinating, every step of the way.

A few deserve special mention. Leslie Stein arranged my visit to the Monell Chemical Senses Center, where Joel Mainland and Dani Reed sequenced portions of my genome and ran me through a panel of perceptual tests, and Gary Beauchamp knocked out my sense of taste. Linda Bartoshuk in Florida examined my tongue and shared her vast knowledge of taste. Richard Doty tested my sense of smell and let me visit his taste disorders clinic at the University of Pennsylvania for a day, and Patricia Yager graciously let me write about her case. Andreas Keller gave up most of one Saturday to show me around his lab and talk about smell. I spent three fascinating days with Bob Sobel and the other flavorists at FONA International, and another day with Brian Mullin and the flavorists at Givaudan. Profound thanks to Tracy Cesario at FONA and Jeff Peppet at Givaudan for setting up the visits. Nicole Gaudette at Alberta Agriculture arranged my participation in a consumer taste panel. Maynard Kolskog at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology let me invade his research kitchen and cooked strange food with me. Chris Loss and Jonathan Zearfoss talked flavor over a lovely meal at the CIA. Thanks to all of you for letting me participate.

For phone conversations above and beyond the normal interview, I’m grateful to Sanne Boesveldt, John Hayes, Michael Nestrud, Charles Spence, Dana Small, Mike Trought, Carol Wagstaff, and Vance Whittaker.

Sebastian Ahnert, Bruce Bryant, Tracy Cesario, Richard Doty, Harry Klee, Darren Logan, Joel Mainland, Richard Mattes, Florian Pinel, Charles Spence, Leslie Stein, Mike Trought, Carol Wagstaff, Vance Whitaker, Patricia Yager, and Jonathan Zearfoss valiantly read whole chapters or portions thereof to help me get the facts straight. Any errors that remain are my own fault.

Thanks to Richard Doty for permission to reprint portions of the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test, and to Caroline Hobkinson for graciously allowing me to reproduce portions of the menu from her Multisensory Feast at the House of Wolf restaurant.

I’m indebted to Justin Mullins for suggesting that there was a book in this, and to my agent, Peter Tallack at The Science Factory, for encouraging me to develop the proposal and then finding just the right home for it. Louisa Pritchard has done a wonderful job selling foreign rights.

I thank my editor, John Glusman at W. W. Norton, for his steady support and sensitive editing—and for a well-timed kick in the posterior, without which I’d still be interviewing chefs and flavor scientists! Thanks, too, to my British editors, Ed Faulkner and Elen Jones at Ebury Press. Alexa Pugh and Lydia Brents at Norton patiently answered all my rookie questions, and kept the whole thing moving in the right direction. Rebecca Homiski and Louise Mattarelliano shepherded the manuscript through the production process with care. Nina Hnatov’s meticulous copyediting was a joy to behold. I thought I had an eye for detail, but Nina showed me a whole new level. Susan Groarke’s proofreading ensured that the text made the trip from manuscript to proof intact and error-free. I’m immensely grateful to Chin-Yee Lai for a stunning cover design and Chris Welch for an elegant layout. I’m grateful to Elizabeth Riley, Meredith McGinnis, and Steve Colca in Norton’s marketing department, and to Bill Rusin and his sales team for guiding this book’s journey to your hand.

I couldn’t have done this without personal support. Joel Shurkin, David Quammen, Ed Struzik, and John Acorn shared their book-writing advice. Gordon Fox and Kathy Whitley housed me in Florida, and Mark and Lisa Holmes did the same in New Jersey. My colleagues at New Scientist magazine tolerated my periodic disappearances. Many friends helped keep me sane, but Ed Struzik, Jim and Karin Stewart, Alan Nursall, Heidi Zwickel, and Mike Sullivan deserve special mention. My neighbors, especially Tony and Wanda next door, have tolerated years of indifferent lawn care.

Finally, and most important, I thank my family. My parents, John and Kathleen Holmes, exposed me to lots of unusual flavors as a kid, and have encouraged me ever since. Most of all, I thank my wife, Deb Moon, and our son Ben for all their love and support, and for being willing guinea pigs for lots of flavor experiments.