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Gustatory Imagery

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Gustatory Imagery

Imagine you are eating your favourite meal. How would you describe the taste to someone who has never eaten it before?

Describing something that you imagine in detail is an example of imagery. But what is imagery and why is it used?

Imagery is descriptive language that creates a mental image of different things, such as experiences, places, objects and ideas. Imagery is a type of literary device, so is often used by writers to help convey their message to the reader, and evoke the reader's emotions. Imagery helps us to make sense of the world around us. We can often use it to appeal to the reader's senses.

There are five basic senses, which are:

  • Sight
  • Hearing

  • Touch

  • Smell

  • Taste

For each sense, we can use different types of imagery to describe them. These types of imagery are as follows:

  • Visual - associated with our sense of sight.
  • Auditory - associated with our sense of hearing.
  • Tactile - associated with our sense of touch.
  • Olfactory - associated with our sense of smell.
  • Gustatory - associated with our sense of taste.

Today, we will focus on gustatory imagery.

Gustatory Imagery Definition

Let's begin by taking a look at the definition of gustatory imagery:

Gustatory imagery is a type of descriptive language (imagery) that is used to describe things that we can taste. It helps to create a mental image so the reader can imagine what something tastes like.

Effect of Gustatory Imagery

Gustatory imagery can often be used to evoke certain memories or emotions in the reader. For example, if a writer describes the taste of something that the reader is already familiar with, they may associate it with a memory from the past and will be able to remember the taste.

Gustatory Imagery Examples

Gustatory imagery can be literal, such as describing the actual flavour of food/drink. The five main tastes of food and drink are as follows:

  • Sweet
  • Umami (savoury/meaty)
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Sour

Some people may consider 'spicy' to be a taste, but it is not. Spice is actually a sensation that triggers a feeling of pain. This is why eating spicy food is not always pleasant!

Adjectives, nouns, and adverbs

To describe the literal taste of something, adjectives can be used. For example:

The juicy apple tasted tangy and sweet.

Here, gustatory imagery is created through the use of the adjectives 'juicy', 'tangy' and 'sweet'. This creates a mental image for the reader, which helps them to understand what the apple tastes like.

Gustatory Imagery Photo of an apple StudySmarterFood can be described by using adjectives (Pixabay)

Adjectives can also be turned into nouns to describe something. For example:

The sourness of the lemon complimented the creaminess of the icing.

Here, the adjectives 'sour' and 'creamy' are turned into nouns by adding 'ness' to the end. These nouns are used to create gustatory imagery as they describe the different qualities of the food.

Adverbs can be used alongside adjectives or nouns to either emphasise or downplay the flavour of something. For example:

The sauce was extremely rich.

VS

The sauce was slightly acidic.

Here, the adverbs 'extremely' and 'slightly' create gustatory imagery as they are used to describe the extent of the flavour in a more specific, in-depth way.

Figurative language

Gustatory imagery can also be created through the use of figurative language (such as metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole, etc). Figurative language is a type of language that is not taken literally. It can be used to create gustatory imagery by emphasising a flavour or comparing the taste of something to another thing. For example:

The ice cream tasted as refreshing as a dip in the pool on a hot day.

In this example, a simile is used to compare the taste of the ice cream to a physical experience. A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things using 'like' or 'as.' This helps the reader to visualise the sense of taste. For example, we are able to imagine how refreshing a dip in the pool would be, and can compare this to the refreshing taste of the ice cream.

Gustatory Imagery Photo of a pool and sunglasses StudySmarterFigurative language can be used to compare tastes to other things or experiences (Pixabay)

The sardines were so salty that I needed to drink five gallons of water.

Here, the saltiness of the sardines is largely emphasised. This is an example of hyperbole (and should not be taken literally). A hyperbole is a figure of speech that is used to purposely exaggerate something in an extreme way. We know it is highly unlikely that someone would need to drink five gallons of water after eating sardines!

Gustatory Imagery In Literature

The following example is from Nigella Lawson's cookbook, Forever Summer (2002):

The sweetness of new potatoes, fresh peas, broad beans, the grassy herbalness of asparagus and then the uncompromisingly radiant sunniness of the basil."

In this example, the food is described literally through words such as 'sweetness' and 'grassy herbalness.' Figurative language is also used, as the basil is described as having a 'radiant sunniness.' We know that basil cannot actually taste 'sunny', but it is compared to the sun to emphasise its nice flavour!

Gustatory Imagery In Poetry

This example comes from William Carlos Williams' poem This Is Just To Say (1934):

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

This example describes the literal taste of plums using adjectives such as 'delicious', 'so sweet' and 'so cold.' This is a straightforward description that is easy to understand, and does not use figurative language to exaggerate the taste.

Gustatory Imagery - Key Takeaways

  • Gustatory imagery is a type of imagery that is used to describe things that we can taste.
  • Gustatory imagery is one of five types of imagery used to describe the senses. The other types are: visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory.
  • Gustatory imagery can be created by using both literal and figurative language.
  • To describe the literal taste of something, adjectives or nouns can be used. Adverbs can be added alongside them to emphasise or downplay the flavour of something.
  • Figurative language (not taken literally) can be used to compare the taste of something to something else or exaggerate the taste of something.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gustatory Imagery

An example of gustatory imagery is:


The juicy apple tasted tangy and sweet.

The sense of taste can be described by using gustatory imagery.

Gustatory imagery is effective because it can help create a mental image so the reader can imagine what something tastes like.  

The five types of imagery we can use to describe our senses are:


  1. Visual - sense of sight.
  2. Auditory - sense of hearing.
  3. Tactile - sense of touch.
  4. Olfactory - sense of smell.
  5. Gustatory - sense of taste. 


Gustatory imagery is a type of descriptive language (imagery) that is used to describe things that we can taste.

Final Gustatory Imagery Quiz

Question

How many basic senses do we have?

Show answer

Answer

5

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a taste of food/drink?

Show answer

Answer

Spicy

Show question

Question

Spice is not considered to be a taste.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Gustatory imagery can be ________.

Show answer

Answer

literal and figurative

Show question

Question

Figurative language should be taken literally.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Imagery is _________ language.

Show answer

Answer

descriptive

Show question

Question

Gustatory imagery describes things we can _____.

Show answer

Answer

taste

Show question

Question

The savoury taste is also known as what?

Show answer

Answer

Umami

Show question

Question

The literal taste of something can be described by using ________.

Show answer

Answer

adjectives

Show question

Question

Adjectives can be turned into nouns to describe the taste of something.


If we turn 'sweet' into a noun, what would it be?

Show answer

Answer

sweetness

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


_______ can be added to adjectives or nouns to emphasise or downplay a description.

Show answer

Answer

Adverbs

Show question

Question

How would you best describe the taste of a lemon?

Show answer

Answer

sour

Show question

Question

How would you best describe the taste of honey?

Show answer

Answer

sweet

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a noun?

Show answer

Answer

bitterness

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an adjective?

Show answer

Answer

salty

Show question

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