Flavoursome and thoughtful fodder
A thought-provoking and hunger-inducing time was had by many foodies at the Selector ‘Word of Mouth’ panel discussion ‘All in good taste… Facts and Flavours’ at Tasting Australia.
The panel touched on a broad range of topics, including the way that food and our surroundings interact. Where we eat our food has a huge impact on how we perceive the food. As Annet put it, “Eating is a contextual experience.”
One of the most obvious examples of this is hospital food. Ian Parmenter, currently working on a program to make food better for hospital patients and to make their stay more comforting, said it isn’t just about improving the food. The panel felt that hospitals are such an alien environment that eating very good food while ill can create a negative association and may result in an aversion to that food. That’s especially the case when looking at treatments such as chemotherapy.
Ian then led the panel out of the hospital room and out among the olive trees. In his work, Russell has looked extensively at extra virgin olive oil and was part of the team that isolated the compound that causes the ‘peppery taste in the back of your throat’ — oleocanthal. Oleocanthal acts as a natural anti-inflammatory compound that is similar to that of ibuprofen. It seems the more we learn about olive oil, the better it gets. Russell also said that the best way to be sure of the purity of your olive oil, was to buy local — a comment that was warmly and vocally received by the food-loving crowd.
The panel also touched briefly on the fifth taste, umami. Umami is a savoury or ‘meaty’ taste. As well as being able to be tasted in foods like cheese, soy sauce and grains, it can be tasted in Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
As the panellists said, MSG has attracted a long held belief that it is bad for you — regardless of who you are. In fact, MSG is considered to be safe for the general population. Of course, there are a small number of people who are sensitive to it, but at less than 1% of the population, this bad reputation is far from deserved. That reputation, said Russell, has led to food companies replacing MSG with salt (sodium chloride) in greater quantities than would have been necessary if MSG had been used.
As a parting question, the panel were asked what foods we should seek to enjoy and what we should avoid. Not surprisingly, Annet considered this to be a very tough question, as the food preferences we have are so personal and so varied. In the end, she reminded us to go back to the basics. As Michael Pollan so eloquently put it, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Pay attention to the enjoyment of food. Be mindful when you eat, not mindless.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
By Rose Wodecki