One of the main characteristics of being a gastronome is the eagerness to try everything on offer - some may refer to this as gluttony, although wrongly so. The acquiring of knowledge for a gastronome is not limited to reading books, going to lectures and meeting producers but in the training of the tongue to not only be able to fully experience that which goes in, but also to be able to clearly articulate this experience.

Over the past few weeks I have come to realise that as gastronomes, we taste a lot more than we eat, and no, in case you were wondering they are not exactly the same thing, despite the words being used interchangeably. There is a crossover point where both form components of the other, but for me, eating is a simpler and less complex action than tasting. Eating is purely about pleasure, whilst tasting is a more delicate, elaborate process. Pleasure is subjective and says "I like/dislike this (because…)", whilst tasting is more objective concerning perception and says "This product is good/bad/better/more because...".

Where food is involved, the first port of call for a child is purely pleasure. Children’s expressions and opinions are uninhibited and uncontrived, they stick to basic descriptions and actions, like spitting out and wiping food off their tongues if they dislike it, but they judge a dish on their own terms, they are not biased. They either like it or they don’t. Simple as that.

It goes without saying that giving a child a single new food item and filming them tasting it will show on the whole negative reactions, even if the videos (and the children) are funny and charming, as in the video below. Individual likes and dislikes are normal in children as with adults, but it is the marginalisation of children in food culture which often limits them from even training their taste buds and expanding their gustatory and cultural knowledge, which is the main reason why it is important to include children in gastronomic discussions. We have child genius, child prodigies, is now time for the child gastronome?

We strive to understand a product in its entirety, but sometimes I feel that I am so caught up in the many different aspects of the product that I don’t actually concentrate on whether I actually like it or not. Instead I find reasons to justify why a food item is good or not. "This is good because it is from a Slow Food presidia/a 1996 vintage/organic...etc." I taste more than I eat. Appreciation is one thing, but sometimes this overrides the basic pleasure experience. Children are the opposite, pleasure first, appreciation later or maybe even not at all.

So what happens when four years olds are asked to review renowned restaurants in the USA? It goes without saying that a four year olds’ palate and vocabulary are not developed enough to perceive every single flavour. As one four year old reviewer said upon trying kholrabi, white anchovies and charred lettuce, "It’s sour, but I think I like it. Yeah, I think it’s food" and "This fish tastes like fish". Yes, they state the obvious, which is appropriate for their gustatory knowledge at that age, however they express something which is often forgotten and that is to stick to the basics when we are eating. Do I like it or not - it’s as simple as that. I am not suggesting that we describe food in the same basic way as a child would, but neither should we complicate it as much as we do. The goal is not to like everything (as a child, adult or gastronome), but to have the room to experience everything - especially children. For them, food should neither be hidden or disguised but ideally be experienced in its full context, as part of the whole eating experience - the same way it is presented for adults.

In reference to the question I asked before, the answer is no, I don’t think there is such a thing as a child gastronome, or at least, I have yet to encounter one, but they should not be forgotten or marginalised in the debate. Like a child, we should remember to keep it simple sometimes. We do not need to analyse. Sometimes liking or disliking is more than enough.