There’s a new taste in town and it’s delicious. I mean, literally. The powers that be have decided that “Delicious” is a new taste. Right alongside other tastes like Salty, Sweet, Bitter and Sour.
Yes, indeed, you read that right. Delicious is a new taste. Except, of course, that sounds stupid. So the titans of the food industry, such as Frito Lay and Campbell’s Soup (heh heh), are doing what the titans of every industry do when they’re trying to convince you that their dumb idea is not as stupid as it sounds: they’re calling it something else. Umami (oo-MA-mee), to be precise. Which is Japanese for… you guessed it, delicious!
Apparently, one hundred long years ago, a Japanese gentleman by the name of Kikunae Ikeda found that foods rich in glutamate had an unique taste, which he found delicious. Being Japanese, he obviously called it umami. A scientist, Mr. Ikeda went on to replicate this umami taste in chemical form – you and I know it today as MonoSodium Glutamate (MSG). Millions of people have been using it to lend their food, especially Asian food, some umami-ness ever since.
For years, Western chefs and food scientists debated whether umami was a true taste, as fundamental to the sensory system as sweet or sour. That changed in 2000 when scientists at the University of Miami published a study — partly funded by Ajinomoto — identifying receptors on the tongue with no purpose other than to recognize the presence of glutamate. Subsequent studies, some funded by the ingredient industry and others without industry funding, identified other umami receptors.
A “study – partly funded by Ajinomoto”. I’ve been waiting all my life to hear that phrase. Delicious! Find ten delicious examples of umami here, including such mind-boggling items as Parmesan cheese and wine. That’s right! Cheese and wine! It’s umami! Who’d have ever thunk it?!