The Flavor Game

I’ve never been able to fully immerse myself in digital games. Not sure why, but somehow, I can’t seem to keep my attention focused on what’s happening on the screen for long. Maybe because it doesn’t seem real.

The problem with digital games is that the rules and the outcomes have already been programmed. You cannot determine the ending nor the rules. But what if there’s a game that does have some basic guidelines, but by and large, can be manipulated. And you never know what the true outcome will be until you try it.

What if there’s a game in which you could modify the rules, add new participants, and still be unsure of the ending. That’s a game that could keep me occupied! Welcome to the flavor game.

What Is Flavor? According to a dictionary, flavor, as a noun, is “taste, especially the distinctive taste of something as it is experienced in the mouth.” This definition is too simplistic, as chefs who tinkle in molecular gastronomy (or simply termed, the science of food) will largely beg to differ. One of the more definitive descriptions of flavor as described in Heston Blumenthal’s book, “The Fat Duck Cookbook,” is that “flavor is, in fact, a composite sensation created by our brain from all our senses but one which we experience in our mouth. The reason is very simple: it is the mouth that has to swallow the food or spit it out if it proves to be something unexpected.”

“The Flavor Bible,” a book by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, states that “flavor = taste + mouthfeel + aroma + “the x factor”.” Perceiving flavor is a complex activity that involves all our senses: taste, smell, sight, and even our moods and emotions. The movie, “Ratatouille,” provides one of the best examples of emotion in food in the scene where Anton, the dreaded food critic, is transported to his childhood days upon tasting the Ratatouille dish prepared by Remy, the rat.

A very simple method of discovering flavor is to eat something, say a biscuit while pinching your nose. You’d be able to discern salty or sweet tastes but that’s about it. Now, release your nose, and voila, you suddenly get this cascade of flavors that were not there before!

There are five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (savory), but there are thousands of aromas. How would you describe the taste of umami? It’s difficult to pinpoint but think of something rich like mushroom soup. It’s just delicious. A peculiar symptom of Covid-19 infection was the loss of taste or smell, and there have been reports that this loss persisted even after recovery from the disease.

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