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Friday, January 20, 2012

In Good Taste (part two)

                I wanted to elaborate a little on the previous post about our sense of taste.  Since I’ve never read somebody’s own methods of tasting and analysis, I will tell you the exact process that I go through each time I evaluate something I am cooking.

                First, I look at context.  I ask myself: “self, what’s the overall theme of this dish?”.  Is it a hot summer dish?  Or a late fall dinner that should be comforting and filling?  I give myself parameters to fit into so that I know what the end result should be.  Next, I always use my eyes.  Is this something appealing looking or is it unappetizing?  If I am preparing this component of a dish in accordance with a specific ethnicity or culture, does it look like something I’ve seen in this style before?  Next, I smell long and deep.  Anything off?   I do this because it helps to prime my taste buds by way of the retro nasal passage at the back of my mouth.  It should immediately make me want to take the next step to tasting.  If the texture of my creation is pleasing, I immediately look for balance among the four main tastes (sour, sweet, salty, bitter ) and if I am looking for one of these to stand out, is it achieving that goal.  Should there be heat (spiciness) in this particular part of the dish?  If so, is it at the tip of the tongue and very sharp, or is it at the back of the throat with a long finish?  I look for layers of flavors that develop on my tongue as I roll the mixture around in my mouth and if any overly bitter compounds or flavor holes develop in the structure of the sensation.  Finally, is this component going to perform on the plate the way I want it to with the other ingredients?  Will it compliment, contrast, or enhance the other parts to make a superlative whole? 

                Now is the time to make adjustments conservatively and judiciously—you can always add, but you can never take out.  I am very careful while adjusting so as not to dull my palate.  If I taste something twenty times my senses are waxed over and not as accurate as they were during my first impression of the item.  I then have someone else taste it and hope that I have not wasted my time. 
                This is how I do it all day, every day, and every time. 

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