University of Vermont

Dr. Amy Trubek

Taste of Place Lab

The Taste of Place Lab emerged from conversations among researchers, policymakers and producers, primarily in Vermont. We wanted to look more closely at the relationship between the tastes of food and drink and geographic locales. Terroir and gout du terroir, concepts that originated in France but can be applied universally to describe how physical landscapes are expressed in physiological taste (i.e., the sensory experience of food and drink). While the classic example of terroir is found in French wines, the connection between taste and place can be observed in food practices and values around the globe. Most recently, our lab’s research has explored this connection in two prominent Vermont food products, artisan cheese and maple syrup.

While the traditional definition of terroir is built on notions of the physical landscape, the Taste of Place lab views taste as a complex experience that cannot be explained solely by physical factors. Cultural and social factors also influence what people eat and how they perceive what they eat. Thus, our research aims to understand the influence of physical and cultural landscapes – taking into account both the physical properties of food and the social contexts in which they are produced, sold and consumed – and use this information to help explain consumer sensory preference and food culture more broadly.

Members of the lab come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds and bring unique personal experiences and interests to the table. What we share is a commitment to combining ideas about social relations with various empirical data gathering techniques in order to get at what is actually happening with regard to people’s everyday values and practices.

Although the lab is located in UVM’s Nutrition & Food Science Department, we draw on methodologies from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, food science, sensory science, and the social sciences. In this way, the work we do is truly transdisciplinary, both in the way we think about our research and the way we combine methods—quantitative and qualitative—in order to get at a central question: how food tastes, and why that matters, in everyday life.

Current Members of the Taste of Place Lab

Jake Lahne, Ph.D. Candidate in Nutrition and Food Sciences

Rachel DiStefano, M.S. Candidate in Food Systems

Last modified January 09 2014 08:44 AM