Oct 29, 2009
On the menu today, why red wine is a no-no when it comes to fishy cuisine, how chemists can help you improve your gravy, and a whole platter of food chemistry to tempt your taste buds:
“Red wine with red meat, white wine with fish.” But, have you ever wondered why? Japanese chemists have discovered that the iron in red wine simply makes fish taste too…well…fishy…giving your mouth an unpleasant, fishy aftertaste, according to a report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Gravy training – The British probably have as many different recipes for making gravy as they have gravy boats from which to pour it over their roast beef. But, a spot of chemistry can improve not only the flavor, texture, and color, but give gravy a healthy boost. Here’s the definitive chemical guide to making gravy.
Pink pepper is actually the dried berry of the Brazilian weed Schinus terebinthifolius and contains an irritating phenol-type compound known as cardanol. Pink pepper causes a range of toxic reactions including rashes, oral and respiratory irritation, chest pains and tightness, headaches, swollen eyelids, stomach upset, diarrhoea and haemorrhoids. Nice… But, despite that it’s a trendy ingredient among trendy chefs. The Guardian provides the skinny on pink pepper.
Apparently, American gourmets are latching on to the Japanese concept of umami, or “deliciousness”, which is considered the fifth taste after salt, sweet, sour, and bitter. The word roughly translates as “tasty”, although “brothy”, “meaty”, or “savory” could do just as well. It’s difficult to translate a whole concept literally. Recently, scientists homed in on a specific tongue receptor linked to natural “glutamate”; as in the amino acid part of monosodium glutamate, the sodium there to make it soluble in water. Glutamate, of course, is the archetypal umami ingredient, so the link grows stronger.
Now, a couple of stories for those parts of the world now entering the barbecue season. Chemists have figured out how to make meats more succulent and tasty on the grill, while others have figured out that it’s the sour receptors on your tongue that respond to the bubbles in soda pop.
Finally, although British scientists came up with an explanation a decade ago, apparently the French have turned their attention to that Great British passtime – tea drinking – and have found a possible way to solve the perennial problem of the dribbling teapot. They report details in a physics preprint just uploaded to the arXiv servers.
Well, after all this talk of food, I’m now feeling a little peckish, so off to do a little cordon blue in the kitchen…or maybe I’ll just break into the snack cupboard instead…