Mysteries of Laura – and the ‘Tasting’ of Chilli

The 2014/15 season – of TV, not plant growing – featured superhot chile peppers not just in The Flash, but also in The Mysteries of Laura.

Season 1 Episode 11, “The Mystery of the Frozen Foodie,” found Laura Diamond, among other things, have her new cook boyfriend spice things up a little with his superhot Ghost Pepper…

Foto aus der Episode "Laura und die Tiefkühlleiche"
Photo from the episode, ©NBCUniversal

… and she promptly used the same chilli to uncover that the suspect food critic has lost her sense of taste.

Nice to see some recognition for the chilli, as I’m wont to say at this point right before criticizing the misunderstanding also being purported…

Peppers sure are fun and provide quite a bit of flavor alongside the pungency.

However, we speak of taste even as most of the complexity of an aroma does not actually arise from what we taste. Rather, it stems from what we smell retro-nasally, i.e., of scents being released in the mouth while chewing, and aerating, what we ingested and wafting up into the back of the nose.

Similarly, we may think of the pungency and the flavor of a chilli as being something we taste.

Technically (or actually, physiologically), however, we taste (and smell) the aroma, but feel the pungency. The former is accomplished by taste buds in the mouth and receptors for smells in the nose; the latter is ‘measured’ by the TRPV1 receptors (in the mouth) that react to high temperatures.

The problem that Laura Diamond would have had in real life, therefore: Her food critic would have had to not even be able to tell if a dish was warm or cold, not just to have lost a sense of taste, to be incapable of feeling the chile pepper’s pungency.

Oops.

Detective Laura Diamond
Screenshot from the same episode (as it played on tv.sohu.com – Netflix for China, if you will…)

Second typical oopsie:

Her assistant would need something a bit fattier – milk is the standard recommendation – if that had really been ghost pepper…

It was fun to see chilli make a cameo, though, even if a detail was used wrongly. TV and movies tend to take quite a bit more suspension of disbelief than that, after all…

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