Out of The Hat

Making the Ordinary, Extraordinary

Sweetly Bitter Super Heroes


These Flavors Do The Flamenco on Your Tongue

When you think of food, theres a few basic names for the different flavors you taste. Your food might taste bitter, sour, sweet, savory, salty, or spicy. If youve read into Japanese cuisine much, youll know that one of their scientists discovered another flavor in the 80s (or thereabouts) called umami, which is basically the name for food that ‘sticks to your ribs’ and warms your stomach, which happens to have a flavor. There are lots of posts out on the internet and even right here in WordPress that talk about the topic, so you can feel free to go to your reader to look it up. In fact, heres a link to the topic right <a href="http://wordpress.com/#!/read/topic/umami/">here</a>, just because Im all about ease. This post on Philly Cheesesteak burgers in particular had me drooling.

Umami

But there is more to the world of unloved flavors besides umami. Sure, youve had plenty of sweets, and know your way around salty. When it comes to spicy, you can move through curry like nobodys business. Sour? Youve got sour down. Youve scarfed warhead candies and sour patch kids like there was no tomorrow, and it felt like it when you got some of that decadence in your mouth.

But bitter? Nobody likes bitter.

Bittersweet is A Poisonous Plant

Sure, youll have a salad with rocket in it (this is embarrassing, I forgot the American word because the British one caught my fancy!) and eat some Kale chips. But do you really appreciate them for their own flavor? Do you say, "I want some fresh kale today, and Im going to eat it raw and bitter”? No. You say you want it dehydrated and salted, so you dont feel so bad indulging in your love for salty flavors as you do when you turn to the chips. (Incidentally, if you are newly gluten free, youll be excited to know that potato chips are totally safe. Just don`t turn to the Sunchips, as those are all wheat. And be careful with Doritos, as many flavors, including the nacho cheese, have flour to help the chemical flavor stick to the tortilla chips.)

Who can honestly say they love bitter, and go out of their way to eat it?

I happen to be a big fan of bitter. When I have a ginger ale, I dont want any of that sweet Canada Dry stuff. I want really strong ginger ale! Im not sure if that counts as bitter, sour, or umami, but I suspect it has elements of all of the above. Did you know that, at least in Japanese culinary culture, a meal is only considered balance when every flavor is represented? I know that people like my Mom base it off of every food group being represented, but I think it may work best to do both. I mean, its hard, but it feels a lot better because you end up feeling full on far less food. I know that for myself I probably eat twice the dish if a meal is made up of one blob of food. So, remember, you need multiple colors, flavors, and food groups. It means you DONt have multiple helpings!

Balance Your Palate!

Brown is usually the biggest culprit when it comes to multiple colors. Different colors means different nutrients, so try to aim for a rainbow in each meal. If you want to be advanced, go for different intensities as well. Both toast and apple butter are dark colors, but bright yellow duck eggs/boring chicken eggs and a handfull of spinach help round out your breakfast! By the way, if you toast gluten free bread (my favorite frozen variety is Rudis, and my favorite mix is Gluten Free Pantrys) this is another good idea for gluten free foodies! I suggest you poach those eggs (in the microwave is quick and easy) and then put lightly wilted spinach on them, putting the toast and apple butter on the side. This is my favorite meal right now!

Ill admit, I havent been the biggest fan of bitter flavors before, either. Bitter greens? Pass. Bitter pickled or fermented foods? Yeech! Bitter chocolate? Never tried it. And that`s how I wanted it to be.

This stuff tasted so good, and came in the cutest packaging!

This stuff tasted so good, and came in the cutest packaging!

My Bitter Experiment

Id never tried super dark chocolate before, though. Oh, Id liked semi sweet for awhile. But actual, dark, 80% chocolate? Never.  But I felt rebellious and strange, walking through Trader Joes yesterday. They had the cutest little package of some truly bitter chocolate, and I felt daring. (Ill post a picture of it later, I`m just running a bit late today!) So I sought to turn the tide yesterday. I bought the pretty bar of dubious chocolate.

And then the truly surprising thing happened. I even ate it. More shockingly, I liked it!

Sure, when I first took a little nibble, I thought there was some kind of joke involved. This wasnt chocolate! Where is the sweetness, the gooeyness, the slightly scandalous feeling of gobbling thinly disguised sugar? And yet. There was something about this stuff. It had the perfect melt in your mouth texture you expect in chocolate. It had none of the waxiness lesser brands have from sticking wax or soy lecithin into the mix. It was delightfully textured. I happen to have an extremely sensitive sense of touch, and it was telling me this stuff was good. Even better, though, was the flavor. Once I got over the initial shock, I realized I like the strangeness. There was something almost fruity to the flavor, and the chocolate had an odd sweet after taste. Its especially weird considering that every time Ive ever eaten chocolate, the sweetness of it always left me with a very sour after taste, so this was a nice change. I feel like Im describing a fine wine or something, but there truly was a lot of depth and complexity to the flavor. It really tasted wonderful.

How do I know that it was really good, though? My sister even liked it.

My Family Of Superheroes

Its not that shes precisely a picky eater, or at least not on purpose. She just has obscenely sensitive taste buds. We like to joke about it, but everyone in the family seems to have one of their five senses on an autistic level. Because, you know, autistic persons have problems interacting with the world because the feel and notice everything, to the umph degree, and it drives them to distraction. I understand the feeling. My ‘superpower’ is amazingly good hearing. I mean, I can hear dog whistles. I bet you didnt even know that was possible in a human, did you? It makes it annoying, as its hard to concentrate on a conversation when the sounds of all the electronics in a room are driving me demented. Dont even get me started on clubs or keggers. My parents always feel secure that I will never go to one, as even the school dances in highschool drove me insane. Are people really so deaf they dont notice how loud those things are? I always run away, because I feel like my eardrums will start bleeding if I dont. I wouldnt be surprised if they did if I went to a club. And remember when I said I went to Katsucon? I tried to go to the rave, just to see what it was like. It really wasn`t worth the pain.

Anyways, back to the subject. My sister has the ‘superpower’ of super taste. Im not sure its the best power to have, though it means she of course also has a super sense of smell. You know, because they are both part of the olfactory system. I feel a bit of pity for her, actually, any time we go on a roadtrip or something and are forced to use a public rest stop. The smell is bad for me, let alone super sniffer.

Anyways, the chocolate. She has this great sense of taste, and even she swore that it tasted good. You know it has to be amazing for her to like it. And, somehow, the bitter wasn`t too strong a taste. There was the hint of fruity, the slightly sweet aftertaste, and even the taste of the milk and cocoa butter to cut the bitter down to size.

It was amazing.

You need to try more bitter, as it just might be your newest flavor obsession.

What bitter foods do you like, if any?

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4 comments on “Sweetly Bitter Super Heroes

  1. cilliandervan
    March 2, 2013

    Unami is the best word ever! I can’t think of any bitter foods I like! Although I do eat rocket

    • TheGreatZambini
      March 2, 2013

      Doesn`t it sound so cool to just say, “Umami?” Rocket is definitely bitter. If you like it, that takes care of that question. Have you tried dark chocolate? It tastes so good, just like I spent that whole post obsessing about.

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