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  Lesson Five - TASTE - Flavor is everything!

This is another of my favorite senses. I love food! Who doesn't?! Yet, when we eat, we tend to shove food into our mouths without thought to take the time to enjoy it. Rarely do we savor every bite, dissecting the flavors, textures, and sensations.

Scientists have determined that basically we have five tastes that our tongues are sensitive to: salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and unami (which is the taste of MSG). Unami is 'savory' or 'meaty' in Japanese and refers to the sensation of savoriness. There's an ongoing debate about additional tastes ie: astringent and pungent; and whether the sensation of false coolness and false heat should be considered as well. False coolness is the feeling you get from spearmint or menthol, while false heat is the 'hot' or 'spicy' usually found in Indian, Szechuan, Mexican, or Thai foods.

For someone who cooks, exceptional or not, taste is very important. MMaking sure the flavors meld together and whether they compete with each other is essential in a great recipe. Western recipes tend to have flavors that complement each other, whereas Eastern recipes have contrasting flavors, i.e. sweet and sour. Following said recipe is key! I am an experimenter, I tend to follow recipes, but If I'm missing something I substitute. Not always a good thing! Follow recipes until you are confident that you have practiced enough to understand how flavors work well together. Once you've followed a recipe and you find you want to change it to suit your palate, go for it! Usually the person who made up that recipe knew what they were doing and have all the great ingredients in there. My father is a phenomenal cook (I'd call him a chef, though he hasn't had formal training). He knows that I play around in the kitchen. When he sends me a recipe, it's with the strict instructions to follow it to the letter! I wonder at the ingredients, but because I know he's very good at cooking I trust it will be sensational.
Trying out new recipes, cooking with new ingredients or different spices, or pairing different flavours, all can change the way you experience food. Even if you are someone who doesn't cook you can still experiment. You can either learn to cook (you never know, THAT may be your creative outlet!), have someone cook for you, or find exotic restaurants. Pair different flavours. Mix ingredients that are opposites, salty and sweet.

When you go to the grocery store, look for foods you wouldn't normally eat. In the fruit and vegetable section alone there are ALL kinds of interesting new things to try. Dragonfruit, breadfruit, Kiwi, Jicama, pomegranate, I can go on and on. Use the internet to find recipes for the new foods if you are unsure how to prepare or serve them.

Find foods that are outside your normal, everyday. Savor, test, embrace. Pay attention to what you eat, what is going into your body. Notice the effects of that food on your body; is it positive or negative?