Recommended Reading: On Big Flavors

From the Rant For Your Life blog at Food and Wine magazine’s website “Are Big Flavors Destroying the American Palate?” by Kate Krader. This is from back in April, but because I get my reading recommendations from podcast archives I listen to while running, I think the fact that it was from the last six months is pretty impressive . . . besides, the fact that there’s a Rant for Your Life blog is a wonderful tidbit that never grows old.

Now let’s be clear, the concern about an “arms race” for big flavors that the author talks about here applies mostly to one very particular (and small) part of the American eating public. She’s worried about customers who require their beef tartar to be mixed with an “extra funky” version of fish sauce. . . I find it hard to imagine 99% of the eating public falling into that area of concern.

Then again, these chefs may be setting the trends that eventually mainstream eaters follow, that’s the premise behind a fair amount of both hopefulness and hand wringing. It’s explored David Sax’s book The Tastemakers and (with an environmental twist) is a premise behind Dan Barber’s recent The Third Plate.

Along similar lines, I’ve been thinking recently about Big Tastes – not quite the same as Big Flavors, these would be Big Sweet, Big Sour, Big Salty, Big Bitter, Big Savory.

What started me on that track was a comment in Sugar, Salt, Fat about how the American palate is weighted towards sweet more strongly than ever before as the sweetness of processed food has taught our palates a new baseline. I like sweet, but I personally can’t get enough bitter. And I just came back from Portugal, a place that I have now dubbed the land of the inhuman salt tolerance. Which leaves the lands of savory (Japan?) and sour (maybe Morocco?) for me to discover.

But maybe I should take some time to explore the subtle flavors too.



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