A Few Words on Expansion of Taste
We all have different tastes. We all like different foods. Some people really don’t like mushrooms or shellfish, or meat. Some people won’t eat certain things due to religious or cultural reasons. Some things go well together, some things taste awful together and some things combined produce a totally new flavour.
Marmite. As the advert goes, love it or hate it. Divider of the kitchen table. The iconic British brand that has hardly changed its branding in over a century. www.marmite.co.uk
Try these if you haven’t already, you wont find these on their website;
- Peanut butter + banana = Yum (Salty and sweet)
- Peanut butter + Marmite = Odd, but nice and more salty than sweet, so perhaps a bit more umami.
- Marmite + Banana = Cheese. It tastes of cheese. How can that be. I am not a food scientist, cheese is a fermented product and does have umami characteristics. Banana is not fermented, but it is ripe by the time they have crossed the Atlantic so it is possible some fermentation will have occurred.
- Marmite + Banana + Peanut Butter = Yum again, (More sweet than salty though).
- Marmite + Butter (Mixed in a ramekin to produce a mixture, then spread on bread, toast or crackers) tastes completely different to spreading butter on toast and then adding marmite.
Joking aside, what Marmite does is pack a massive umami punch. For those unfamiliar with Umami as a taste sensation, it is a Japanese word derived from “meaty pleasurable broth”. In its crudest sense it is a flavour enhancer. Like salt but better,, so like soy sauce and fish sauce and like MSG without the side effects. It has been said it occurs in breast milk, so perhaps why some people gravitate towards it more than others. Whilst the Japanese acknowledged and promoted this and actually gave it a word, it has been around us for centuries just not really acknowledged.
This is the definitive site for all things to do with Umami – https://www.umamiinfo.com/
But do we all taste food in the same way or have the same experience as everyone who eats the same thing? That is impossible. So clearly not. How can we all eat the same thing and our taste buds interpret it in exactly the same way, and then we would have to be able to describe it in the same way. Which if we do not have anything to compare it to will be difficult. By compare, I mean prior experience. We would all have identical olfactory systems, eat in the same controlled environment and eat the same food prepared in the same way.
Oh hang on! Some people want that and some people are more than happy to supply that. Certain fast food outlets, bombard our senses with smells from 50 metres, we can see the sign from 100m. You eat in and its got its own aroma, a temperature controlled environment, your expectations are perhaps lowered, it all is packaged the same, its all prepared in every single one of the chains across the globe in exactly the same way (Mostly), grilled or fried at a specified temperature, for a specified amount of time by someone who has been specifically trained to do that job. Not a chef. Served in the same way and eaten in the same way. Marketed globally in the same way. This is a global example of market control and why such food sold in vast quantities.
Who says that what we put in our mouths is supposed to taste good. Or even has to be good for us.
What is taste made up from. The traditional sweet, salty, sour, bitter. The long established cornerstones of taste which we are taught as children.
But the reality is much more complex. In addition to the original line up, there are so many other things that will influence how something tastes.
What does it look like, does it look appetising, what does it smell like, if it doesn’t smell good then you would be unlikely to eat it. But then a chunk or really ripe stinking Bishop or Pont L’Eveque at room temperature, really doesn’t smell pleasant at all but tastes completely different.
Is what you are eating hot, cold, or should it be one of those and it is neither?
Is it fatty? Fat has a distinct taste all of its own. It is undeniably fat. That smell of burning fat when cooking meat on a grill and the Maillard reaction as sugars and fatty acids combine to give that char and that unmistakeable aroma that does just make you hungry.
Where are you eating? Who are you with? What is happening around you? Are you in a restaurant, outside, what is the weather doing? Music in the back ground?
There are so many external factors that contribute to a positive food user experience. Some we can control completely. Some we have some control over and some we have absolutely no control over.
The impact of those extrinsic factors is what goes to define our experience.
Next time you are out and enjoying a drink or some food just pause and think why is this so good.