Campaign for Real Taste

14 Feb

You’ve undoubtedly read about the brouhaha this week over a new “taste” being available for purchase in British supermarkets. It’s called umami,which apparently means “deliciousness” in some language or another.  A refined palette such as my own, of course, did not need Mr Waitrose to introduce me to this flavour: I’ve been familiar with it since Master Satõ Matsumoto and I first gorged ourselves on gherkins in that German beer garden oh so many years ago.  I do find the brand name and promotional material visually pleasing and have therefore sent Christopher out to purchase a tube, but primarily to display as an aesthetically gorgeous trinket, rather than as some breakthrough culinary ingredient.

For I do not accept that this so-called umami deserves to be championed as a “new taste.” (Friends, remember, just because Sky News reports something does not make it so.) Previously, our tastes were sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness.  Quite a bit of variety in there already, and despite its similar suffix, I just don’t think “deliciousness” fits in with the four classics. Personally, I believe we should stick with the originals and if you find yourself aching for a word to describe that olive-like, anchovy-ish, seaweedy flavour that this “new” taste supposedly embodies, may I suggest you simply use olive-like, anchovy-ish or seaweedy. They may not be found in the OED (yet), but you knew what I meant, and let’s just leave it at that.

However, if I were to propose a new taste, a true “No. 5,” I feel most strongly it should be Parma Violets. Think about it: now there’s a taste that is truly like no other.

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