Does “the more you know” rainbow apply to eating? Does knowing more about food amplify your enjoyment of it?
Personally speaking, I don’t think food has to be perfectly articulated in order to be appreciated. Certainly, like anything in life, the more you know about a subject, the deeper your experience is apt to be. Conversely, knowing too much can result in the “can’t go back” scenario. For example, I can no longer enjoy steak at The Keg simply because I know what a good steak tastes like.
That said, there are ways to experience what you’re eating more fully. What constitutes a discernible palate? How can you improve your palate?
Here are five tips to help you get the most out of each bite:
Eat, a lot, and all the time. Eat different kinds of cuisines. Never tried Indian, Greek, or Ethiopian food? Try it! The more you eat, the more you know about what you like and don’t like. I’m grateful for being Chinese because I have eaten just about anything (think tripe, chicken feet, bitter melon, etc.). Just consider how lucky we all are to have the entire world but a mouthful away. Amazing tasting opportunities await.
Eat when you eat. Don’t read celebrity gossip while you eat. Don’t watch TV. Don’t run through your to-do list. Don’t eat at your desk. Just eat. Cheesy, but true: I like to close my eyes when I taste something truly delicious. Removing my sense of sight heightens my sense of taste so I can fully appreciate all the nuances, flavours and textures. Mmmm.
Don’t wait until you’re too hungry. When you’re starving…ok, not hungrychildren-starving, but when you’ve got low-blood-sugar-and-need-to-eat-anything-starving, then even McDonald’s will taste good. Do your body a favour and eat before you’re desperate to. You’ll likely make healthier decisions about what to put into your body. Another plus? You’ll actually enjoy your food because there will be some chewing, rather than mere swallowing, involved.
Cook your own food. Cooking is one of the most humbling, yet potentially rewarding experiences you can participate in. Because it is a craft, your technique improves with practice. When you suck at it, you learn to appreciate when others get it right. As a cook, you’ll also become aware of what properties various spices and ingredients add to the mix.
Blindly indulge. Remember when Pepsi had their Pepsi-challenge campaign, urging you to differentiate it from Coke? You can make your own blind taste tests to improve your palate. For example, what do cumin, paprika, lemongrass, or coriander taste like? What difference does it make if each spice is fresh, dried, ground, or freshly ground? How would you describe the texture of seaweed, lotus root and sea cucumber? Why do you like or dislike them?
If you enjoy learning about something, then do your research. Talk to people. Read this blog. Take some chances.
Just remember that food, glorious food!, should be fun, sociable and, fingers crossed, drool-worthy.
- Anh Chu
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