All posts filed under: Tastes and Flavours

TASTES

There are four basic tastes – salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Many scientieist and modern food writers now add a fifth flavour – umami.  The word derives from the Japanese “umai” meaning “tasty” but in many respects umami is either an oxymoron “tasty-taste” (surely not!)  or unhelpful, “delicious” taste? Deliciousness is not just the reserve of this new taste – sweet, sour and bitter dishes, afterall, can be equally delicious. Savoury would be a better translation of what scientists (and as we shall see later industry) are trying to persuade us is the fifth taste. Savoury is a word well understood by everyone in the English speaking world and in most people’s mind savoury is deemed a salty taste not a separate taste – and for good reason. Savoury dishes can not exist without salt and salt on it’s own requires a savoury flavour to be palatable. Indeed, the on-line Oxford English Dictionary states that “savoury” “belongs to a category which is salty or spicy rather than sweet.” Thus for linguistic, as opposed to scientific …

FLAVOURS

Unlike the four basic tastes the number of flavours individuals are able to sense and taste are as numerous as the melodies on a Steinberg grand piano. The key distinguishing feature between taste and flavour is that the four basic tastes can still be identified by an eater pinching their nose. Flavours are totally dependant on olfactory air flow. No air flow – no flavour. Those suffering from a bad cold and bunged-up nose will become aware of the texture of food, they will probably be able to discern sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness but miss out entirely on the more subtle, pleasurable and delightful flavours present in the dish. Just another reason to dislike the common cold! It is worth spending some time considering how food adds taste and flavour to our dishes. The flavouring of a dish, after all, begins and ends with our choice of ingredients. The success of a dish begins and ends with how it will taste. de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum, tastes and colours are not open for …

THE SALT TASTE

Common table salt – Sodium Chloride Salt enhances flavour – it has the unique ability to elevate tastes that we delight in to a higher level and to help us discern the more subtle flavours abounding in any given dish. The adjective “bland” would not exist were it not for salt. The combination of sodium and chloride accentuates flavours that would otherwise remain a faint echo of the foods true potential. It is the difference between serving a dish in black and white or in shades of varying colours – from techni-colour to the more subtle hues of the colour spectrum. The good cook will always add some salt to a savoury dish. Even sweet dishes call for a pinch of salt to help bring out the flavour of eggs, milk and sugar. Salt also acts as an excellent medium with which to preserve food (see Chapter on Preserved Food). Adding just the right proportion of salt to our dishes is yet another example of how our senses are quite adept and telling us how much is …

SAVOURY

All savoury dishes are salty. A dish that tastes purely of salt without the savoury is unlovable rather like that mouthful of sea-water accidently swallowed on a sea-side holiday. Similarly, a savoury meal without any salt added is a sad culinary affair. Salt and savoury are like the ying and yang of the taste emporium, they are two sides of the same coin, the left hand and the right hand; different yet totally dependant on one another to deliver the ultimate taste experience in the realm of salty dishes. A leek soup made with water is the stuff of Victorian workhouses; the proverbial “watery” gruel that is a symbol of derision. Add a simple bone broth and the soup is transformed, as if my magic, into a warm, comfort food perfectly fit to grace the table of Royalty. Savoury flavours abound in all meat dishes (particularly in bacon), stews, bone-broths and interestingly non-sour fermented foods such as cheeses, cured meats (salami) and cured anchovies. If salt accentuates flavours in bold then savouriness as Michael Polan so …

THE SWEET TASTE

Many people, though by no means all, enjoy sweet dishes. Yet even those who are happy to skip desert and head straight for the cheeses confess to enjoying some form of sweetness during the day albeit they are more likely to limit their sugar intake than those who yearn for the desert course to arrive. All living things are in competition with each other for energy, which may explain why so many of us desire the sweet taste so much since sweetness indicates a food source that is high in energy. Sweet dishes are synonymous with “sugar” – but not all sugars are the same particularly with regard to how sweet they may or may not taste or how many nutrients they may or may not contain. Understanding how “sugars” influence the taste and flavour of our dishes is key to understanding the role that sweetness plays in the food we consume. Then there are the health implications of sweet dishes. Health implications? There is wide-spread consensus amongst the scientific community that sugar, when eaten …