Welcome to the Taste Gym
Quick, which do you prefer: Coke or Pepsi? Do you like your steak cooked medium or medium-rare? And I bet you can tell whether the dairy in your coffee is nonfat milk or cream. If you could answer those questions, then you make decisions based on your taste preferences. You are a “taster.”
In one Top Chef challenge, blindfolded chefs were asked to identify 20 ingredients ranging from peanut butter to corn. They scored only an average of six correct answers. So who is an expert? Aromas (and aroma accounts for most of the complexity of flavor) are visually cued: you see a strawberry and it tastes like a strawberry. Maybe it’s bursting with flavor. Maybe not. Tasting blind is a severe handicap.
In the kitchen, we probably won’t taste blind, but to cook, we need to know what our ingredients taste like. If we want to cook well, then we want to choose ingredients with the best flavor. How can we know what is good, better, or best? Ah, you’ve stumbled on an essential question. I don’t have the answer, but I am curious about the process of learning, and I hope you are, too. Since learning involves a favorite activity, eating and drinking, we can have a lot of fun as we go along.
Occasionally, I will post a taste exercise. You are invited to duplicate it, and then let’s discuss what we’ve learned. We may have more questions than answers. We can learn from each other.