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The complex and fickle science of taste

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Salt, sugar, and fat: these three components can make a food that's palatable to just about anyone. But inside the food industry, researchers struggle to balance universal likes with the strange specificity of human taste: a concept that is often based less on what we innately dislike and more on what we think we dislike. Our strong aversions to foods can be shaped by something as simple as the language used to describe them. At Smithsonian Magazine, Tom Vanderbilt examines the science of why people think food is good or bad, from military MREs to a bottle of Antico Broilo wine.