August 31st, 2010

Mag Tower

Tomato, Umami, Digestive Ecology

My coworker Larry gave me a whole bag of tomatoes from his garden today. I used some of them in a broiled caprese salad kind of thing for dinner. Which was tasty, but suboptimal because the cheese got very melty before it started to bubble and brown because the oven for some reason decided that it should turn its elements off halfway through, which... NO. "Broil" means on all the way until I turn you off, dammit.

I also had one at lunch and it was just super-yum.

When I was young, I used to think I didn't like tomatoes. In fact, it turns out, I just don't like bad tomatoes. Good ones, vine-ripened so they actually have flavor? I LOVE THEM.

This is because my favorite flavor is umami. If you go through a list of foods that are high in umami -- mushrooms, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, miso, marmite, soy sauce, fish sauce -- yes. All of them. Feed them to me, please.

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The problem, ultimately, in trying to figure out these kinds of things is that it's so tremendously individual. What happens when you eat food is an immensely complicated biochemical cascade that is influenced not just by your own personal genetic variation, but by all the details of an entire ecosystem in your gut that we hardly even acknowledge exists! Is it any wonder that 'experts say' eggs are good for you one decade, then bad the next?

I expect this is one of those areas where people in the future will look back at the past and be flabbergasted by what we used to put up with.