Wednesday, September 04, 2002

the taste of bread

ever since i bought dr. raymond calvel's ultimate professional bread book, the taste of bread, i have been wondering just what that taste is.

how to describe the wonderful taste of fresh, real yeast bread? wheaty comes to mind, but whole wheat and white bread flour have slightly different tastes, while still having that delicious fresh "bready" taste, which in fact is shared by breads containing potato, rye, farro, and seeds.

normally we say there are 4 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty. one of the things i always had trouble understanding about ayurveda was its inclusion of 6 tastes or rasa. one of the two extra is called kashya, sometimes translated "astringent;" the other is tikta, translated "spicy" or "pungent," which isn't hard to understand -- chilies and black pepper are tikta. but what is that kashya all about? in ayurveda, many meats are classified as "astringent." butter, yogurt, and cheese also often fall into this category, as do many beans and vegetables like asparagus. some classifications also list bread as "astringent," while others list it as "sweet." (the difference may have to do with whether the bread contains oil/butter or not.)

so imagine my feeling of surprise to learn that scientists are now inventing a new realm of taste to add to our standard 4. this so-called "savory" taste is known as umami. researchers have discovered that our tongue actually has special receptors for this taste, receptors that lock onto the natural glutamates in food. what foods contain these glutamates and thus should be classified as umami in taste? maybe it's just an interesting co-incidence -- meat, cheese, bread and asparagus! could umami roughly correspond to kashya?

this co-incidence aside, i now know what "that taste of bread" really is -- umami. this fascinating article explains it all. now we have five standard tastes -- i wonder if science will soon admit a special category for those tikta chiles. after all, it appears that the capsaicin in the chiles also locks onto special receptors, the trigeminal nerves, in the taste buds. . .

posted by fortune | 6:15 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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