The Taste of Water by Christy Spackman


The Taste of Water explores the increasing erasure of tastes from drinking water over the twentieth century. It asks how dramatic changes in municipal water treatment have altered consumers’ awareness of the environment their water comes from. Through examination of the development of sensory expertise in the United States and France over the twentieth century, this unique history uncovers the foundational role palatability has played in shaping Western water treatment processes. By focusing on the relationship between taste and the environment, Christy Spackman shows how efforts to erase unwanted tastes and smells have transformed water into a highly industrialized food product divorced from the natural environment. The Taste of Water invites readers to question their own assumptions about what water does and should naturally taste like while exposing them to the invisible—but substantial—sensory labor involved in creating tap water.

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