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eGCI Team

Q&A: Taste and Texture Part 1

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markf424   

Well, I think the lack of responses in the last five days shows how thorough this course was. I just wanted to say thanks to Janet, it was extremely informative and interesting. I haven't done any of the experiments yet, but it would be interesting to try tasting things isolated in that way and really dissect my tastes.

Thanks again, it was very well written.

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Anna N   

I didn't even know this course was posted - and I am on here many times a day - wonder why. And I don't seem to see a link to the Q&A thread on the course itself. Will try to read through this course today as it is of great interest to me. Maybe we can take some steps to make sure others are aware of it.

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JAZ   

Thanks, Mark. I'm glad you found it interesting.

Anna, the time was changed because of my schedule and other factors, so maybe that's why you missed the announcement. But I believe there is a link in the course to the Q&A. I'll check on it.

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Anna N   
Thanks, Mark. I'm glad you found it interesting.

Anna, the time was changed because of my schedule and other factors, so maybe that's why you missed the announcement. But I believe there is a link in the course to the Q&A. I'll check on it.

Fascinating - I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and will be returning to it often!

Yes, you are right - the eyes are failing - finally found the tiny link to this Q&A. :biggrin:

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Mottmott   

WOW. I'm almost speechless, and breathless waiting for Part II. All the more so as texture is so often overlooked. Every time I open eG, I check to see if Part II's arrived.

Oh, where were you years ago when I was beginnning to cook?

I especially look forward to your take on texture. Over a long time of home cooking, I've developed a conscious attention to balancing and playing tastes and flavors in a dish or at least within a meal. (I can still recall the sense of revelation when I accidentally discovered what a dash of vinegar can add to soup, or the magic of a gastrique or gremalata.) But texture is often trickier for me. Much of taste and flavor is a matter of choosing, juxtaposing ingredients. Texture seems often to depend even more on technique than ingredients.

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JAZ   

Thanks so much.

Part II is still underway but should be finished next week. I agree that texture is not generally given its due, even though if you really listen to people talk about food and what they like and dislike, elements of texture get mentioned much more often than actual taste.

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lorea   

Thanks for the great class! It's nice to have all of my sensory elements succintly summarized. It's made me a little more aware of the things I put in my mouth.

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gidon   

Thanks for this amazing class. I'm especially fascinated by the taster/supertaster definition and am dying to find out whether I'm a taster at all. Since I've got a laboratory at hand, I'm wondering if you could tell me in which (non-lethal) concentration 6-n-propylthiouracil or phenylthiocarbamide have to be applied on paper to do some objective testing.

Thank you,

Gidon

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Anna N   

Already this class is really improving my cooking. I taste more frequently as I cook now and yesterday, I added a splash of sherry vinegar to a sauce that didn't seem quite "there" and it improved it so much. Can hardly wait for part 2 - texture, texture, texture!

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JAZ   
Thanks for this amazing class. I'm especially fascinated by the taster/supertaster definition and am dying to find out whether I'm a taster at all. Since I've got a laboratory at hand, I'm wondering if you could tell me in which (non-lethal) concentration 6-n-propylthiouracil or phenylthiocarbamide have to be applied on paper to do some objective testing.

Thank you,

Gidon

I'm sorry, but I haven't seen that in any of the research I've done.

What has been recommended, for those who want to find out, is to cut out a small hole in a square of waxed paper (use a hole punch, if you have one), put a drop of blue food coloring on your tongue, place the paper on your tongue, and count the papillae (the little pink circles). It helps to have a friend with a magnifying glass and a flashlight to help. Supertasters will have lots of tightly clustered papillae, nontasters will have only a few and they'll be widely spaced. If you're somewhere in the middle, you're a taster but not a supertaster. Unfortunately, none of the articles that suggest this give any more specific information about the numbers of papillae involved.

Another technique is to taste saccharin and potassium chloride (packaged as a salt substitute). If they're strongly bitter to you, you're probably a supertaster, if they're mildly bitter but bearable, you're a taster, and if they're not bitter at all, you're a nontaster. Again, I realize this isn't very exact, but it's the best I can do.

Incidentally, there's been a new discovery in the supertaster field. Now it seems that it's not a single gene that accounts for the "taster status," but rather a cluster of genes.

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Enzian   

I'd like to say thanks, also.

I'm just a food guy - not a chef or anything. I've always wondered how a gourmet could describe labels like sweet, bitter or sour to foods I used to deem simple.

My wife prepared a snack for my nightly drive to work of watermelon and cantaloupe balls. I thought of this lesson and really enjoyed the crispy texture and light sweetness of the watermelon and the creamy sweetness of the cantaloupe as I drove in the dark. Every bite was enjoyed and savored.

So, yes. Thank you for showing me how to taste!

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itch22   
What has been recommended, for those who want to find out, is to cut out a small hole in a square of waxed paper (use a hole punch, if you have one), put a drop of blue food coloring on your tongue, place the paper on your tongue, and count the papillae (the little pink circles). It helps to have a friend with a magnifying glass and a flashlight to help. Supertasters will have lots of tightly clustered papillae, nontasters will have only a few and they'll be widely spaced. If you're somewhere in the middle, you're a taster but not a supertaster. Unfortunately, none of the articles that suggest this give any more specific information about the numbers of papillae involved.

Bizare question, are the papillae dark pink or light pink? Because I have lots of clusters light pink circles and a moderate amount of clusters of dark pink circles. I looked around through Google but could not find any concise information.

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I still have trobule understanding the conept of unami. I thought you were saying that savory is a subset of unami, but then it later seemed you were treating the two terms as the same thing.

And, the bigger problem is that I don't quite understand what this flavor savory is when you use that to describe what unami is. I've heard savory described as being meaty, but then I've seen that term applied to things that aren't meats.

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JAZ   

Umami is a difficult taste to understand -- especially since many of us didn't grow up thinking of it as a taste and so have less experience identifying it. "Sour," "sweet," "salty" and "bitter" aren't really any easier to define, but since we've heard the terms since we started eating and have plenty of examples, we feel more comfortable talking about them even though we can't actually define them.

Another difficulty in trying to isolate the umami taste is that many common umami-rich foods are also salty -- soy sauce, fish sauce, aged cheeses, anchovies -- so I think it's easy to think of umami as just a different kind of saltiness instead of a separate taste.

"Savory" isn't exactly a synonym for umami, but it happens to be the term most writers use when talking about the taste, so I think of it as a kind of starting point. However, as I point out in the second class, Texture, I think that much of the experience of umami is mouthfeel rather than actual taste.

The best way to "understand" umami is to experience as many forms as you can by trying the foods that are high in glutamate. Buy a bottle of Ac'cent, a chunk of grana cheese (the older the better), fish sauce, mushrooms, etc. Try a pinch of the Ac'cent dissolved in warm water -- I think that's the purest form of the taste. Think about not only what it tastes like, but how it feels in your mouth. Saute the mushrooms and try them plain, then try them with a pinch of Ac'cent -- I think this is a really good way to "get" umami, since you're tasting it at one level with the mushrooms, and then bumping it up with the Ac'cent.

I know this isn't a very fast and easy answer, but I hopt it helps.

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