Memory can just happen — and then you are at the mercy of how your brain is wired — or you can work to remember. People ask me how I can pick out certain flavors in dishes. They think I’m a supertaster.
I’m not a supertaster, and in fact, people who are supertasters are at a disadvantage because their taste buds are too sensitive to discern certain flavors. Fault how many taste buds they have on their tongue compared to a normal tongue. (Are you a supertaster?)
The reason I can pick nutmeg out of a white sauce is because I have built a nutmeg flavor profile in my brain. I have tasted nutmeg — all by itself and in combination with other ingredients — hundreds of times.
I can tell if something needs salt because I’ve tasted thousands of dishes with and without salt. It’s not rocket science. It’s really pretty simple. You put things in your mouth and think about them.
My husband will never build a flavor bank in his brain, not because he can’t, he can — anyone can. He won’t because he doesn’t like to taste a dish’s components individually or in stages as the dish comes together. He only wants to eat the finished product.
I’m the opposite. I want to taste each individual ingredient, and taste them again as each one is added to a dish. That is the definition of a curious cook.