The first time I saw my grandmother salt her grapefruit I thought she was crazy. Then she had me try it. I was amazed that it didn’t taste salty! Instead, the salt brought out the sweetness in this fruit that, as a kid, I found otherwise too bitter.
That’s the interesting thing about our bodies. They’re way more complex than the map of the tongue with five taste zones on it that you may have seen in middle school. That map is incorrect, by the way, as there are not specific zones on your tongue that correspond to various tastes. Rather, all of the tastes can be detected all over the tongue.
It’s May and temperatures are rising, plants are sprouting, and the sun is still shining as I drive home from work. I feel more peppy than usual.
This feeling and month connect me to that wonderful song from Camelot entitled “The Lusty Month of May.” Here Queen Guinevere proclaims to her loyal subjects: May is the time for Spring Fever!
The question I posed as the title of this blog is a good one that needs revisiting often. Why? Because it puzzles me that some people still are not aware that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a perfectly safe food ingredient.
While the internet can be a blessing (and yes, it is here to stay), it also can be a curse. A curse? Here’s the thinking about that. Years of inaccurate information and anecdotal tales of woe have been posted and reposted and reposted again about MSG safety. Individuals who don’t believe it is safe or do not understand that the science supports MSG’s safety often sensationalize it. In this day and age where ‘sexy’ sells, outrageous information is what too often grabs attention. Tried and true science can be a bit boring, hence the perpetual posting of untruths about MSG.
There are bona fide experts throughout the culinary world who achieved knowledge and skills in their profession after intensive training (and even certification). For example, a sommelier is a highly trained and knowledgeable wine professional who specializes in all facets of wine service as well as wine and food pairing.
However, there are also those of us who simply love wine and possess a significant amount of knowledge about it. A wine lover with no formal training is known as an “oenophile.” I’m sure you will agree there are many more oenophiles in the world than there are sommeliers.
Similar to oenophiles, many of us profess to be experts on umami, so we are going to playfully coin the term “Umami Master,” a person who would be very knowledgeable in that they could know facts about umami, identify the savory taste of umami, and thoroughly enjoy this savory fifth taste in foods.
To help determine if you might be an umami novice or a seasoned “Umami Master,” here’s a short quiz to test your knowledge of “all things umami.” Give it a shot!
Did you know “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” was invented in 1968? Not identified, not discovered, not researched, but yep, invented.
Before 1968, Americans loved monosodium glutamate. The “new” condiment was introduced to the U.S. just 30 years prior and was added to a variety of foods to enrich flavors. The American public embraced it with open arms until… Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok wrote a speculative letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.