Over a hundred years ago, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University wondered what made kelp broth taste so good. He recognized that “There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty,” and set out to figure out what it was. He discovered that glutamate, an amino acid made by many plants and animals, was the source of this distinctive taste, and named the flavor “umami.” He was able to isolate the glutamate from the seaweed, and began to sell the crystallized form as a seasoning called Ajinomoto (which means “the essence of taste” in Japanese).
When you think about picnic foods, what comes to mind first?
Hot dogs and hamburgers, hot off the grill? But times are a-changing, including how and what we eat. In the same way we no longer regularly eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, ‘traditional’ picnic foods don’t always have to be on the menu. Perhaps it’s time at your next picnic to eat a little healthier – with picnic salads!
When I was in graduate school at Drexel University in Philadelphia, I was taught “if a food doesn’t taste good – no matter how healthy it is – it doesn’t get eaten.” A very memorable student visit to the Monell Chemical Senses Center, right down the street from Drexel, reinforced that concept. Monell is the world’s only independent, non-profit scientific institute dedicated to basic research on taste and smell. It was where the sense of taste, finally made sense to me!
Cyanocobalamin, sodium ascorbate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, oh, my! These seem like scary chemical names that probably sound more like disinfectants. Actually, you’d die without them. They’re vitamins; B12, v, and B6, to be specific. Other nasty-sounding ones are nicotinic acid and di-hydroxycholecalciferol, or in common language: niacin and vitamin D.
Perhaps a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but vitamins by their chemical names just sound scary.
This summer, Kewpie, a Japanese food brand, released their altered formula for mayonnaise—Kewpie mayo distributed in the U.S. now excludes the ingredient that made foodies fall in love with it. Despite a clean bill of health from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in the U.S. monosodium glutamate (MSG) remains a misunderstood food ingredient that causes concern among some consumers. So Kewpie replaced it with yeast extract, which is a naturally occurring source of glutamate.