Monday, December 15, 2014
In the wonderful world of the senses, taste and smell are the two which make us a tad different from our hairy ancestors; specially when we relate these to what and why we eat. It is us humans who would eat just because we smell something familiar or what we like and get the urge to eat, as opposed to the rest of the kingdom, who are driven by the lack of energy and hence the need to eat. We eat 'coz its the 'time to eat' or 'want to eat'. Clearly satiety being the motive of the former and survival for the latter!
Theseus' and researches have been done on the composition of tastes and their analysis. But you don't need to be Harold McGee or Herve This to state that bitter is not as popular as sweet!! Ask Coca Cola how much sugar they have in their sodas and wonder why?
Clearly, it can be inferred that simple sugars are an instant source of energy and since childhood we have a natural affinity to sweets as they provide an instant kick or burst of energy. Most cooking techniques tend to favor and enhance this affinity to sweetness and try to maximize it during cooking; viz, caramelizing vegetables(onions, peppers), using honey maple syrup with pancakes, sweet dipping sauces with spring rolls, Game served with fruity chutneys, breakfast pastries with sweet fillings, sweet soy sauces......are but a few examples showing the popularity of this sense.
Another element which has a magnetic effect is 'smoke'. Probably our hunter gather instincts are still embedded within and it makes a natural connect when we smell smoke from the barbecues impregnating the air. Ever since we started cooking - no matter when or where on the planet; there is one thing which has never changed - the generation of smoke. This smoke not only is a preservative, but has falvones which makes the ingredients appealing and delicious, charring and grilling resulting in a similar enhancing of flavor. Smoked salmon, mackerel, bacon are simple yet popular examples where the formaldehyde is in action.
Putting the two together you get the goodness of both!!
I love single malt whisky and sixteen year old Lagavulin, is my favourite. If you study closely the more popular whiskys are either sweet (Speyside malts/ Bourbons) and/or smoky(Islay malts). The more complex whiskies are a harmonious balance of this sweet and smoky interplay; which in my opinion, Lagavulin does best. Sweet and smoke are subconsciously accepted flavors which can be seen in harmony in various cultures. The popularity of roasted barley based beer like porter, stout and red ale is another example. A global phenomenon called 'butter chicken' is a harmonious balance between the smokiness from the tikka (cooked over charcoal) and the sweet creaminess of the makhanigravy intermingling playfully with each other!!
These flavors have no geographical boundaries, and people from any part of the world are connected, appreciate and in love with this duo.
I would clearly pronounce these as........ "The Tag Team!!"