Thursday, 24 December 2009
A perfect flavour, that’s what all cooks are looking for. But modern food production is indeed a hungry beast with an insatiable appetite for raw materials. Flavours are big business. As we sit down to Christmas dinner to try to understand even the simplest meal requires a grasp of many disciplines. This year’s food issue of the New Yorker contains an exciting essay on flavour called the Taste Makers by Raffi Khatchadourian. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/11/23/091123fa_fact_khatchadourian
I recommend spending the few dollars needed to download it if you haven’t seen it yet. Our tweetened web attention spans rarely give us research and writing like this.
Raffi takes us on a trip into the world of the taste makers, the corporations and scientists that dictate the way we taste and how we will taste in the future.
Rory our new apprentice joined us a couple of months ago and constantly reminds me how important learning to taste is to the cook.
As we introduce new flavours to this young man, [who was born in the same year as we opened Sunnybrae, now thats scary] I am very pleased to see that he has an open palate. He is willing to try everything, leaving cultural prejudice behind, while absorbing tastes he has never tried before with enthusiasm and joy. But he has a secret pleasure Red Bull. Raffi, in the New Yorker story casts a light on just how that particular flavour was created as he explains how Deitrich Mateschitz the co-founder of Red Bull went out of his way to create a deliberately unbalanced flavour that would signify the oomph that these rather dubious energy drinks are selling and how every energy drink after that had to now also contain these unbalanced notes that subversibly signify energy .
When Rory first tasted Morello Cherries he said that they tasted like Doctor Pepper.
Now, the scary thing about the New Yorker story to me, is how these flavour scientists now also relate new natural flavours while tasting rare exotic fruit [from the world’s largest heritage citrus orchard in California] to branded products like Snapple. So the dialogue has come full circle. But the Doctor Pepper taste that Rory loves is of course also found naturally in Morello Cherries [benzaldahyde] and also in the pips of the white peaches that we picked today. To understand the flavour compounds that make up this simple wonder of nature that is a ripe white peach is one thing, but to taste the ripe fruit warmed by the sun is to be alive.