Salty, sweet and delicious: salted caramel Zumbarons.
I searched for Australia’s favourite yeast extract on the Cadbury website and this was the response:
You are searching for: Vegemite
There are no pages that contain the search term “Vegemite”
I was surprised. It was only four months since Cadbury had launched its milk chocolate block filled with Vegemite-flavoured caramel, and there was no mention of it. (However, there is still plenty of evidence on the Cadbury Facebook page to confirm the product did exist.)
During the period when the Vegemite chocolate block was still around, I was never able to find it in my local supermarket. I admit that I didn’t venture further afield but, knowing the popularity of salty-plus-sweet, I imagined this new confectionary line would be highly successful.
After all, the salted caramel flavour is everywhere. Back in December 2008, writer Kim Severson labelled it “the flavour of the year” and traced its history in a New York Times article, “How Caramel Developed a Taste for Salt”.
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Dashi, seaweed, fish sauce, cooked tomatoes … and especially Vegemite.
All are rich in umami flavours.
(Originally posted on Sensorium, July 9 2014)
While sweet-sour-bitter-salty flavours were identified as basic flavours thousand of years ago, writes Larissa Dubecki, umami was not identified until 1909.
The person who identified and named the flavour was Japanese professor Kikunae Ikeda, who then turned entrepreneur, establishing a factory producing monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a concentrated crystalline extract of one type of glutamate and is widely used as a flavour booster in food. (See this link to the Japanese Patent Office.)
Even though the flavour was identified over 100 years ago, it is only now widely coming into public recognition in the West. In fact, Dubecki, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, announced that 2014 is the “year of umami”.
What exactly is umami?
Posted in Science
Tagged Barb Stuckey, culture, dashi, flavour, glutamate, hamburger, ketchup, miso, MSG, mushroom, pleasure, receptor, salty, senses, soy, umami
Many different kinds of salt are sold at the supermarket these days. Which is kind of strange, given salt’s bad reputation.
(Originally posted in Sensorium, March 10 2014.)
The labels are everywhere on supermarket products. “No added salt”. Or “Reduced salt”. And it’s common knowledge why that is.
Salt—which used to be so highly prized—is now considered mighty unhealthy.
So why does my small and limited local supermarket stock a whole range of different kinds of salt? I can buy the regular iodised kind, sea salt flakes, and preloaded grinders filled with exotic varieties including pink Himalayan, blue Persian, smoked Cyprus and black Cyprus. That’s a lot of choices of something as elemental as salt.
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some people crave them, and other people find them unbelievably awful.
(Originally posted on Sensorium, January 27 2014)
“Eating bitter”: in Chinese culture, the phrase refers to “necessary suffering to get to a better end”—a resigned, determined reaction to the vicissitudes of life.
John Thorne, in his essay “Reflections on a Tin of Vienna Sausages”, understands the phrase in a more head-on, assertive way, as meaning “to endure bitterness by wilfully eating it” (p. 187).
Although the two interpretations are different, both of them link the emotion of bitterness with the flavour.
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Posted in Family Food, Science
Tagged Barb Stuckey, bitter, bitter melon, culture, emotion, fatty, healing, poison, receptor, salty, senses, sour, sweet, tongue, umami
Salty, sweet, bitter and sour: a balanced meal?
(Originally posted on Sensorium, October 28 2013)
Strangely, Diane Ackerman’s section on taste in her wonderful A Natural History of the Senses pays much attention to food, food rituals and food symbolism (pp. 127-172), but little to the actual experience of tasting. This intrigued me, because taste is a sense that gives us great pleasure. Even so, there is a kind of irony there. We often eat unthinkingly; the true abilities of our sense of taste go unused and unnoticed.
When I began looking into taste, I soon learned a whole heap of interesting things. Here are 12 things that convinced me I needed to pay more attention to what was going on in my mouth.
Posted in History of Food, Food in History, Science, Taste
Tagged appetite, bitter, emotion, fatty, flavour, nerve, salty, senses, sour, sweet, umami