If you want to describe the taste of your food, then you probably use a combination of a few different words: sour, bitter, salty, and sweet.
And in fact, for thousands of years people have used those four concepts to describe their food. Sure, you might branch out a little bit more by describing the textures (e.g. crunchy, tender) or compare it to another food, but at the very core, there wasn’t any other way to describe taste.
Why? Mainly because of this guy:
This guy’s name was Democritus. Democritus, along with a bunch of other Greek thinkers like Socrates and Euclid, were pretty much the founders of western scientific and philosophical thought.
And Democritus theorized that foods tasted like one of the four basic categories because of the shapes of the food’s atoms.
To be fair, Greek thinkers got a lot of things right (like geometry!). On the other hand, they were wrong about a lot of other things (like leeches!).
And Democritus couldn’t be more wrong about the number of basic tastes. But nobody would challenge the scientific basis of this claim until thousands of years later, when an unknown Japanese scientist started questioning the status quo.