Life's vagaries explained through football, food, travel and canines.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tell Your Mommy You Want Umami

Where have I been lately? Well, in a nutshell: the US and Vietnam were two recent stops for me, but I think my paucity of posts can be attributed to much of my time being spent reading every scrap of reporting on the Democratic primary race. That meant a lot of Internet and a lot of TV.

But back to more important things than politics. While in NYC, I did some last minute shopping at Gourmet Garage. It was, you know, an hour before I was leaving for the airport. Eminent departure + Family = Beyotchy Churlishness--well we all know there a few things that stop that: 1) food shopping, 2) food making and 3) food consuming.

I picked up a few prime purchases at GG among them Maldon sea salt (truly magnificent, not even snooty fleur de sel--you can see why they taxed salt back in the day), olive oil from Provence with herbes de provence in it (even putting it over Kraft Mac and Cheese transports you to some ethereal planet of bliss) and truffle oil.

Now, recently there was an NYT article about how truffle oil is not the strained liquid from marinading the fungus, but actually a chemical concoction made to smell and taste like the genuine article. Apparently they have isolated the truffle compound down to a molecular and replicable level. But does that mean it's not good?

Nope, because truffle oil over ANYTHING I am convinced will make you drool for it. I seem to have stumbled on some crazy umami or fifth taste switch that I can't now stop. Take truffle fries for instance--I actually contemplated aloud to N the other day a possible purchase of McD french fries just to shake them up with a tablespoon of the stuff. Or cold pizza---two dots on a slice of cold pizza. Enough to make me lose my mind.

Umami is actually the chemical compound glutamate naturally present in a variety of foods--real parmigiano reggiano, fish sauce, ketchup, soy and a lot of Japanese foods like kombu, bonito, and oh so meatily delicious mushrooms hence our usage of the Japanese word for it. Kind of like tsunami :-(.

Anyway! Umami ingredients are like insurance policies, super subs, not generally the flashy striker but indispensible on the bench. Sure it would be nice to have say, Cristiano Ronaldo all the damn time, but in a pinch Ole Gunnar Skolskaer really makes a difference. Thus with umami. Put a parmesan rind or maybe some fish sauce in your next pot of homemade stock and get back to me.

Also the map is courtesy of the UMAMI Information Center. I live in the world's umami epicenter, non?


Anonymous priskiller said...

As a wannage gourmet (gourmand?) I always eye the GGs amorously but never have the courage to go in, since I never cook and would have no idea what to buy. Though I stubbornly fantasize that when I do one day cook, everything will be top-notch. Thank you for giving me direction. :D

8:12 AM

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