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
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
Beardsworth and Keil point out that there is often “moral ambivalence associated with sugar and confectionery”.
(Originally posted on Sensorium, December 17 2013)
In an earlier post (“Twelve Things I Didn’t Know about Taste”), I wrote that, apparently, cats can’t taste sweetness.
For humans, however, the desire for sweet is powerful and complex.
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Posted in Food and Anthropology, Food and Health, History of Food, Food in History, Science
Tagged Adam Drewnowski, bitter, culture, danger, death, desire, excess, flavour, Martin Lindstrom, perception, pleasure, senses, sex, Sidney W Mintz, sugar, sweet
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