Not everyone is aware of the differences between taste, aroma and flavour. Let’s assume you are beginning to enjoy creating magic in the kitchen from the top of your head, (the crown chakra, for the yogis amongst us). When you are one of those people who loves to open the fridge, toss some ingredients on the bench and somehow, 30 minutes later finds themselves full and satisfied, lounging in the living room whilst being massaged and praised by their next door neighbour, you’ll probably resonate with this.
Scientists have identified 5 tastes, debates are ongoing and certain streams of thought claim there are many other taste sensations humans can identify. However at this stage of our evolution we are working with:
Taste is experienced in our mouth, aroma’s are detected through our nose. There’s an endless variety of aroma’s out there. Taste and aroma experienced simultaneously equals flavour. Good food typically has a balanced taste, a pleasant aroma therefore a great flavour.
Aroma’s or smells are fascinating to me. They can really trigger an emotion. Certain smells may take me right back to my childhood. Some fruits smell so overwhelmingly good that I just want to keep smelling them. I’m sure most of us will resonate. Scientists have come a long way at identifying aroma’s chemical structure and recreating chemical versions of the real deal.
Next time you buy a strawberry flavoured drink check the ingredients. If it says natural strawberry flavour or even real strawberry as the flavouring used you can be more or less sure that the production of your drink involved actual strawberries. If it says nature identical flavouring, it means the manufacturer has used a chemical compound that on a structural level is identical to strawberry. No berries have been picked here. If it says artificial strawberry flavour you are dealing with a freestyle chemical compound that simply serves to remind people of strawberry. If the drink is pink, sweet and has a picture of a strawberry on the bottle you would be surprised what manufacturers can get away with.
Let’s keep talking strawberries, real ones. If it was just sweet because of it’s sugar content, without much of its delicious aroma it would be a sweet but pretty average berry. If this berry lacked sweetness, but it did have the sought after aroma, we wouldn’t enjoy it as much either. Try eating one whilst simultaneously blocking your nostrils and you see what I mean. It seems that it takes both the sweet taste and the aroma to have a complete strawberry moment. Unless you’re on a picnic blanket with your eyes closed, the love of your life hand could be feeding you any strawberry and they will taste amazing regardless.
So we’re cooking. You’ve tossed a few things together, it all sounded good in your head but now that you’re tasting you find that this tomato soup is seriously lacking the bang! Or the boom! Think about it. Tomatoes are mostly sweet as well as sour and a little salty. Let’s enhance these elements. You could oven roast the tomatoes along with some onion before turning them into soup. When they spend time next to each other on a tray in a hot oven their sugar caramelises and this really intensifies their aroma as well as their sweet taste. Add a cheeky drizzle of balsamic vinegar before roasting, that little extra acidity takes them a notch up. Adding sea salt to the soup will enhance the salty side of things and in terms of aroma, a few crushed basil leaves and a pinch of freshly roasted and crushed peppercorns, thrown in just before serving just blesses the whole soup with a breeze of peppery powwow! See, the real secret behind good cooking is all balance. You are the conductor and your 6 ingredients are now conspiring and cooperating to bring the glory of this humble tomato in perfect liquid orchestra to a plate near you.