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robertogreco : flavor   7

Dr Sarah Taber on Twitter: "Red Delicious was A+ in its original incarnation. Then folks kept grafting from bud sports (=sometimes a tree throws a branch that's a little different, it's normal) w darker & darker fruit. Selected for color instead of qualit
"Red Delicious was A+ in its original incarnation. Then folks kept grafting from bud sports (=sometimes a tree throws a branch that's a little different, it's normal) w darker & darker fruit. Selected for color instead of quality. 100+ yrs later we now have purple foamballs.

[quoting: "If I had a time machine I would 100% make sure that the person who named the Red Delicious apple was brought to justice"]

(2/) Weirdly this makes some evolutionary sense. When confronted w a variety of otherwise identical fruit (say, bins of apples at the store), humans go for the darkest red ones.

In nature, that's how you eat the ripe ones & leave bb fruit to mature.

(3/) So. All other things being equal, if you have multiple apple varieties at the store, the darkest red ones tend to sell the fastest. It's not hard to see how that wound up being the priority for deciding which Red Delicious variants to graft.

(4/) Tl;dr a lot of the stuff that the food movement blames on "bad agriculture" or w/e is ... really just the result of a lot of micro-scale human decisions that made sense on their own. Then they snowball into something weird.

(5/) Also when I worked in fruit breeding the weirdest thing would happen. Us in the breeding program would wind up with our favorite cultivars. We liked the ones with a lot of flavor: strong, balanced acidity & sweetness with a lot of aroma.

(6/) There was this one blueberry that had this amazing rich flavor. Thick, jammy with a little bit of blackberry to it. mmmmmm

(7/) But when we actually did the flavor testing? Let civilians eat our new berry crosses?

They LOOOVED the most watery, insipid, shitty berries. Kept giving them top marks, and our favorite big-flavor berries always wound up in the middle.

(8/) IIRC the top-testing blueberry from that program during my time there was Meadowlark. Bless its heart, it's a great bush- but the fruit is a bland-ass water bean. Its max flavor level is a faint whiff of violets.

(9/) Anyway, it seems like every other thinkpiece about ~food these days~ has obligatory remarks on how The Scientists Are Breeding Crops For Durability Instead of Flavor.

lmao fuck that, we keep TRYING to breed for flavor & getting sabotaged by y'all on the taste panels

(10/) Again, there's some really complex human systems stuff going on in our produce markets. Like asking why so many ppl seem to prefer bland fruit. We'd really be able to help ourselves out if we actually ... looked at that?

(11/) But it wraps the story up in a neat little bow to blame ~science~ so sure let's do that instead.

-cut to scientists hissing Gollum-style over the 3 good berry plants from their field trials that never made it to market because The People Have Spoken- 🤣

(12/) Hrmmm replies have turned into a "let's hate on the plebes who don't appreciate fruit like ~we~ do" sesh.

The entire point of this thread was, there's a HUGE spectrum of flavors out there most of us don't ever encounter & we don't know what we don't know.

(13/) Statistically speaking, MOST OF US in the ol' u s of a are secretly one of those majority of people who like shitty bland fruit, AND WE'LL NEVER KNOW IT."
fruit  science  agriculture  2018  sarahtaber  apples  blueberries  grafting  flavor  food  selection  humans  berries  blackberries 
october 2018 by robertogreco
GhostFood on Vimeo
"GhostFood explores eating in a future of and biodiversity loss brought on by climate change. The GhostFood mobile food trailer serves scent-food pairings that are consumed by the public using a wearable device that adapts human physiology to enable taste experiences of unavailable foods.

Created in collaboration with Miriam Songster. Commissioned by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for Marfa Dialogues/NY, with additional support provided by Takasago, NextFab Studios and Whole Foods. Marfa Dialogues/NY is a collaboration between the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Ballroom Marfa and the Public Concern Foundation. GhostFood was presented by Gallery Aferro in Newark, Rauschenberg Project Space in New York and by SteamWorkPhilly in Philadelphia."
2014  food  miriamsimun  miriamsongster  climatechange  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  physiology  taste  smell  senses  ghostfood  extinction  cod  fish  peanuts  cocoa  flavor  multisensory  flavors 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Disturbances #15: The Flavour of Los Angeles
"There are many smogs.

Classic smog, of 1950s London “pea-souper” fame, is sulphurous, as SO2 from burning coal mixes with cool, foggy air to produce H2SO4, sulphuric acid. But London was not the only city to experience such noxious vapours. Atlanta has biogenic smog, containing terpenes from sources such as pine trees and rotting organic matter. Intensive agricultural regions such as California’s Central Valley can have an unusually alkaline smog, from ammonia and amines in fertiliser and feedlot manure.

In May 2015, Nicola Twilley and the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy made meringues of each in an exploration of ‘aeroir’ (the gaseous version of terroir). Apparently “different cities’ smogs do, indeed, taste different”. The repulsion felt at the prospect of actually eating the meringues also served to make the point: you’re already taking this stuff into your body with every breath."

"Los Angeles has a smog problem for both human and topological reasons. Even today, the city is not just the home of Hollywood and dubious lifestyle ‘influencers’ but the biggest manufacturing centre in the US, the country’s largest port, and its second largest auto manufacturing location. Each steel factory, chemical plant and oil refinery produces hydrocarbon and/or nitrous oxide emissions, providing the chemical ingredients for smog to form.

But its geography also makes the city a natural pollution trap. Hemmed in by mountains, smoke & exhaust from is trapped in the city lowlands. Cool sea breezes are drawn on-shore but cannot circulate, as this denser air finds itself trapped by an inversion layer of warmer air above, which operates as a kind of atmospheric lid. The pollution cannot go anywhere, and so stagnates, cooking gently in the sunshine.

Los Angeles has a temperature inversion for 260 days a year. It trapped the smoke of Tongva Native American villages in 1542, and it still traps pollution now.

The air has improved over time. Pollution levels are down about 75% since their peak in the 1970s (), and diesel-based particulates dropped 70% in the last decade. On that day-by-day air quality index map, much of the city has ‘acceptable’ air quality much of the time - below an AQI index of 100, the limit damaging to health. Occasionally Central Los Angeles even rates ‘good’ - astonishing, really, for the centre of a city. Kids in the LA Basin are literally growing stronger lungs. How did this happen?

In the 1950s & 60s activist groups, such as Stamp Out Smog, a women’s group in Beverley Hills, brought kids to rallies wearing gas masks, and successfully pushed politicians to do something about the crisis, in some of the earliest environmental protesting in the US. 1963 saw Congress pass the first Clean Air Act, followed by national emissions standards for cars. California passed stronger standards for cleaner cars and cleaner gasoline, and legal battles forced car manufacturers to comply. Then catalytic converters, rolled out in cars from 1975, were “the key piece of technology that allowed everything to change,” says Mary Nichols, chairman of California’s Air Resources Board.

So we need to ask: why is the Inland Empire still purple, for ‘very unhealthy’?"

"Yet smog remains central to Los Angeles’ mythology and will do for a while yet, even if experience one day fades into nostalgia. Smog produces the crimson sunset I watched bleed out behind the Hollywood sign one evening back in January; at night it makes the city lights glow.

It is, literally, the atmosphere of the city - and serves to symbolise that in so many of the canonical books and films about Los Angeles. Bladerunner, of course. The grubby haze on the horizon in Chinatown. Smog stands both for everything hidden and obscured about the city, and the neo-noir detective’s desire to see through it.

“Since the mid sixties, the aurora of smog has become a governing symbol of Los Angeles, the emblem of avoidance and self-reflection,” writes Norman M. Klein in The History of Forgetting. “One drives into it with the same expectations as driving into a city skyline - for the city out of control. Along the San Bernadino mountains, towards Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, the smog can rise up to a mile high, like a mysterious erasure, like the top of an Ed Ruscha painting.”"

"We have come round, through shame and future-nostalgia, to desire.

Which raises the question, why do I care so much about the filthy aura of a city 5,000 miles away?

Because I was raised in its mythic tradition.

Los Angeles does not only exert a hold on the cinematic imagination - it’s done a number on geographers.

I studied at LSE then UCL in the mid-2000s and my reading lists were thick with urban scholarship both from and about the city. Mike Davis (who called it the ‘City of Quartz’); Ed Soja (that wonderful subtitle, ‘Journeys To Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places’); and Frederic Jameson on the ‘Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ as epitomised in the Westin Bonaventure hotel.

Los Angeles was the twentieth century, you see: the city of the motorcar, of film & TV, of aerospace and the WW2 military-industrial complex; a thick nexus of globalization, migration, white flight and urban renewal. And it was the definitive American city because it was the first truly American city, the first not to look back towards Europe for its streetplans and topography but to sprawl hungrily a hundred miles into the desert, cannibalising water supplies from lesser municipalities, a luxuriant low-rise efflorescence lurching from one crisis to the next. It was late capitalism, post-Fordism, postmodernism - and as such, the crucible where late C20th urban geographical theory was heated to sometimes fervid degree.

There we were in London, a metropolis with far greater claim to ‘world city’ status and several thousand more years of urban development and global reach to study. And yet we were taught to long for palm trees and the perversion of the freeway.

My department had a thing for Los Angeles. Iain Borden’s work on "skateboarding, space and the city" was Dogtown And Z-Boys in academic form, rooted in a deeply embodied knowledge of the joy of skimming across sun-kissed concrete; the joy of youth and risk and thrill of reappropriating the urban realm. Matthew Gandy on the concrete sump of the LA River. The essays I kept writing about the history and function of bodily metaphors for the city. The fixation absolutely everybody seemed to have with JG Ballard. Papers on Cronenberg's film of 'Crash'.

These are libidinal geographies. And it was a kind of fascination that’s equally close to disgust. If the city wasn’t polluted, if the highways weren’t sclerotic and the political machinations machine-y – and yet the whole thing somehow still seeming to hold together - there wouldn’t be much to write.

Anna Karenina problems: happy cities are all alike. They end up on Monocle’s ‘Best Places To Live' ranking and become interchangeable commodities.

Without the smog, LA would lack atmosphere. Flavour."
losangeles  jayowens  2017  air  flavor  nicolatwilley  iainborden  london  cities  desire  place  geography  pollution  inlandempire  california  smog 
july 2017 by robertogreco
David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness | WIRED
"MY FIRST RESTAURANT, Momofuku Noodle Bar, had an open kitchen. This wasn’t by choice—I didn’t have enough money or space to put it farther away from the diners. But cooking in front of my customers changed the way I look at food. In the early years, around 2004, we were improvising new recipes every day, and I could instantly tell what was working and what wasn’t by watching people eat. A great dish hits you like a Whip-It: There’s momentary elation, a brief ripple of pure pleasure in the spacetime continuum. That’s what I was chasing, that split second when someone tastes something so delicious that their conversation suddenly derails and they blurt out something guttural like they stubbed their toe.

The Momofuku Pork Bun was our first dish that consistently got this kind of reaction. It was an 11th-hour addition, a slapped-together thing. I took some pork belly, topped it with hoisin sauce, scallions, and cucumbers, and put it inside some steamed bread. I was just making a version of my favorite Peking duck buns, with pork belly where the duck used to be. But people went crazy for them. Their faces melted. Word spread, and soon people were lining up for these buns.

That became my yardstick: I’d ask, “Is this dish good enough to come downtown and wait in line for? If not, it’s not what we’re after.” A chef can go years before getting another dish like that. We’ve been lucky: Hits have come at the least expected time and place. I’ve spent weeks on one dish that ultimately very few people would care about. And then I’ve spent 15 minutes on something that ends up flooring people like the pork bun.

Believe me, nobody is more surprised about this than I am. Cooking, as a physical activity, doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has. To compensate for my lack of dexterity, speed, and technique, I think about food constantly. In fact, I’m much stronger at thinking about food than I am at cooking it. And recently I started seeing patterns in our most successful dishes that suggested our hits weren’t entirely random; there’s a set of underlying laws that links them together. I’ve struggled to put this into words, and I haven’t talked to my fellow chefs about it, because I worry they’ll think I’m crazy. But I think there’s something to it, and so I’m sharing it now for the first time. I call it the Unified Theory of Deliciousness.

This probably sounds absolutely ridiculous, but the theory is rooted in a class I took in college called Advanced Logic. A philosopher named Howard DeLong taught it; he wrote one of the books that directly inspired Douglas Hofstadter to write Gödel, Escher, Bach. The first day, he said, “This class will change your life,” and I was like, “What kind of asshole is this?” But he was right. I would never pretend to be an expert in logic, and I never made it all the way through Gödel, Escher, Bach. But the ideas and concepts I took away from that class have haunted me ever since.

DeLong and Hofstadter both found great beauty in what the latter called strange loops—occasions when mathematical systems or works of art or pieces of music fold back upon themselves. M. C. Escher’s drawings are a great, overt example of this. Take his famous picture of two hands drawing each other; it’s impossible to say where it starts or ends. When you hit a strange loop like this, it shifts your point of view: Suddenly you aren’t just thinking about what’s happening inside the picture; you’re thinking about the system it represents and your response to it.

It was only recently that I had a realization: Maybe it’s possible to express some of these ideas in food as well. I may never be able to hear them or draw them or turn them into math. But I’ll bet I can taste them. In fact, looking back over the years, I think a version of those concepts has helped guide me to some of our most popular dishes.

MY FIRST BREAKTHROUGH on this idea was with salt. It’s the most basic ingredient, but it can also be hellishly complex. A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor undersalted. I think that’s wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.

Try it for yourself. Set out a few glasses of water with varying amounts of salt in them. As you taste them, think hard about whether there is too much or too little salt. If you keep experimenting, you’ll eventually hit this sweet spot. You’ll think that it’s too bland, but as soon as you form that thought, you’ll suddenly find it tastes too salty. It teeters. And once you experience that sensation, I guarantee it will be in your head any time you taste anything for the rest of your life.

It’s a little bit like the famous liar’s paradox, which we studied in DeLong’s class. Here’s one version of it: “The following sentence is true. The preceding sentence is false.” As soon as you accept the first sentence, you validate the second sentence, which invalidates the first sentence, which invalidates the second, which validates the first, and on and on.

Most people won’t ever notice this sensation; they’ll just appreciate that the food tastes good. But under the surface, the saltiness paradox has a very powerful effect, because it makes you very aware of what you’re eating and your own reaction to it. It nags at you, and it keeps you in the moment, thinking about what you’re tasting. And that’s what makes it delicious.

This was an important realization for me, because it seemed like I’d discovered an unequivocal law. And I figured if I could find one, there had to be more—a set of base patterns that people inherently respond to. So then the challenge became discovering those patterns and replicating them in dish after dish. If you could do that, you’d be like the Berry Gordy of cooking; you’d be able to crank out the hits."

"We used to have a chicken-and-dumpling dish at my new restaurant Nishi. People liked it, but once I saw these three Korean guys crying over it. They were that emotional. The reason is that our chicken and dumplings is basically the same thing as this Korean stew called sujebi. They’ve both got an umami-rich broth—one is made with chicken, the other with seaweed and dried anchovies. Sujebi has noodles instead of dumplings. It’s basically the same idea. So these guys were completely overwhelmed, because they ordered chicken and dumplings but were tasting sujebi. It grabbed them. Unfortunately, without the sujebi in mind, most people just thought they were eating a variation on a classic American dish. It was too familiar for them, and that made it not as emotional."
davidchang  food  edg  srg  glvo  2016  flavor  paradox  culture  cooking 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious - The Washington Post
"Indian food, with its hodgepodge of ingredients and intoxicating aromas, is coveted around the world. The labor-intensive cuisine and its mix of spices is more often than not a revelation for those who sit down to eat it for the first time. Heavy doses of cardamom, cayenne, tamarind and other flavors can overwhelm an unfamiliar palate. Together, they help form the pillars of what tastes so good to so many people.

But behind the appeal of Indian food — what makes it so novel and so delicious — is also a stranger and subtler truth. In a large new analysis of more than 2,000 popular recipes, data scientists have discovered perhaps the key reason why Indian food tastes so unique: It does something radical with flavors, something very different from what we tend to do in the United States and the rest of Western culture. And it does it at the molecular level.""

"Researchers at the Indian Institute for Technology in Jodhpur crunched data on several thousand recipes from a popular online recipe site called They broke each dish down to its ingredients, and then compared how often and heavily ingredients share flavor compounds.

The answer? Not too often.

Here's an easy way to make sense of what they did, through the lens of a single, theoretical dish. Say you have a dish with 4 different ingredients, like the one below:


Each one of those ingredients has its own list of flavor compounds. And any two of those ingredients' lists might have some overlap. Take the coconut and onion, for instance. We can all agree that these two things are pretty different, but we can also see (in the Venn diagram below) that there's some overlap in their flavor make-up. (Ignore the math symbols.)


You could create the same diagram for all the ingredients with overlapping flavor compounds, as in this diagram. There are six that have overlap. (Again, ignore the math.)


The researchers did this for each of the several thousand recipes, which used a total of 200 ingredients. They examined how much the underlying flavor compounds overlapped in single dishes and discovered something very different from Western cuisines. Indian cuisine tended to mix ingredients whose flavors don't overlap at all.

"We found that average flavor sharing in Indian cuisine was significantly lesser than expected," the researchers wrote.

In other words, the more overlap two ingredients have in flavor, the less likely they are to appear in the same Indian dish.

The unique makeup of Indian cuisine can be seen in some dishes more than others, and it seems to be tied to the use of specific ingredients. Spices usually indicate dishes with flavors that have no chemical common ground.

More specifically, many Indian recipes contain cayenne, the basis of curry powder that is in just about any Indian curry. And when a dish contains cayenne, the researchers found, it's unlikely to have other ingredients that share similar flavors. The same can be said of green bell pepper, coriander and garam masala, which are nearly as ubiquitous in Indian cuisine."
food  indian  india  2015  flavor  taste  cooking 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Synesthesia: Can You Taste the Difference Between Sounds? | PRI's The World
"Audio extra: Test yourself, can you taste the sounds?

Oxford University psychologist Charles Spence studies human senses and how they interact. In recent studies, he had people smell wines and sample chocolate, and then match the different aromas and flavors to different musical sounds.

He found that people tend to associate sweet tastes with high-pitched notes and the sounds of a piano. People match bitter flavors with low notes and brass instruments.

Spence wondered if he could put this finding to use. Could he use music to influence what people smell or taste?"
music  flavor  theworld  audio  sounds  smells  smell  taste  jamespetrie  2012  daphnemaurer  charlesspence  senses  synesthesia 
february 2012 by robertogreco
The Miracle Fruit, a Tease for the Taste Buds -
"At flavor-tripping parties, guests find that miracle fruit makes everything sweet." see also:
food  brain  biology  taste  fruit  science  via:kottke  flavortripping  flavor  todo  classideas  fun  chemistry  plants 
may 2008 by robertogreco

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