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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Your Taste Buds Want Excitement

Posted Thursday, May 15, 2008, at 8:48 PM

What is it about a particular dish that makes it stand out, that makes one want to voraciously devour it, that, when you recall it, invokes pleasurable memories and brings a smile or sigh to your visage?

I suggest that the dish may very well contain various components, that when combined, tantalize one's palate in a unique way. The four basic components that our taste buds recognize are salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. There is a fifth constituent the Japanese call "umami", which translates loosely to "mouth feel", or savoriness. The feel of a high quality ice cream's butterfat content as it rolls around inside your mouth is a good example of a savory sensation.

My contention is that the inclusion of several of the elements described above, in a balanced fashion, is what contributes greatly to a successful entrée. Balance is the key. We've all heard of sweet and sour pork--what makes it a perennial favorite? We have the fat of the pork and the deep-fried coating (savory), the vinegar tang (sour) and the sweetness of the sauce. The Chinese and Germans have a good understanding of balancing sweet and sour equally in their cuisines. Have you ever had a well-crafted sauerbraten?

When I cook, I try to layer flavor upon flavor, rely on a heavy application of a wide spectrum of spices, and really consider ways to "jump up" the overall taste. I love perusing a pantry or refrigerator and envisioning ways to combine the foodstuffs I find there. The only time I ever measure anything is when making certain bakery items.

Don't be afraid to experiment--keep in mind the concept of balancing of seasoning.

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Playing with My Food
Steve Stacy
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