We consider tasting to be a hedonic pursuit, but in much of the animal kingdom, as well as our own prehistory, the role of taste was more functional than sensual. Taste, like smell, is a doorman for the digestive tract, a chemical scan for possibly dangerous (bitter, sour) elements and desirable (salty, sweet) nutrients. Not long ago, a whale biologist named Phillip Clapham sent me a photograph that illustrates the consequences of life without a doorman. Like most creatures that swallow their food whole, sperm whales have a limited to nonexistent sense of taste. The photo shows 25 objects recovered from sperm whale stomachs. It's like Jonah set up housekeeping: a pitcher, a cup, a tube of toothpaste, a strainer, a wastebasket, a shoe, a decorative figurine.