The Essence of Meaty Matters

Today we’re going to talk about a taste treasure trove which is not yet as widely known as it could or should be. Jacob has by the third week of the experiment been missing the amount of meat he usually eats, and admitted that he had begun compensating with cakes and candy. But he’s now doing something to get the satisfaction he’s been missing:
I’ve learned to always have good cheeses, fish sauce, sundried tomatoes, seaweed, tofu, and other soy products in our fridge.”

And and in an earlier entry, Andrew wrote that the vegetable dishes his friend made for dinner with coconut milk and with feta cheese and cream had ‘excellent umami’.

What do these products all have in common? If we were nerdy scientists, we’d say it’s high concentrations of glutomate molecules in combination with certain 50-nucleotides.  Oh wait; we ARE nerdy scientists! Well, what we mean to talk about is UMAMI, often called ‘the 5th taste’, following the better known salt, sweet, sour, and bitter.

In the beginning of the 1900’s, Japanese scientists had chemically identified the types of salts which can be used to enhance soups and other dishes with a ‘taste of meatiness’. The badly maligned MSG is really just a form of it, and the unhealthy effects it’s been blamed for only happen if the processing involves unhealthy additives. By the 1980’s, umami (which roughly means ‘tasty meaty essence’) was officially recognized as a taste in its own right, so even though it’s as old as Mother’s milk (big source of umami), it has become a modern phenomenon.

Umami has been around in products like Bovril, Vegamite, and Maggi cubes. The new gourmet kitchens like to play with seaweeds, dried shiitake mushrooms, etc., but even old potatoe peels can be used, if they get prepared in combination with the right ingredients. So when Jacob stocks up on things like sundried tomatoes and soy products, he’s keeping a good source of umami satisfaction on hand.

A study on the effects of umami on appetite shows that introducing a good umami effect in dishes served to the aged can trigger a greater appetite, encouraging them to eat more, and thereby getting sufficient nurishment. But interestingly, one of the measurable aspects of umami is that it brings a quicker satiation point, meaning that there is also less tendency to overeat. Starting to sound like a win-win situation? Let us know what you think, or what you have experienced in the world of taste and satisfaction!

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