Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

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.

This seems consistent with the idea that I might have a "protein type metabolism". I found a quiz which, sadly, I cannot find again, that said this. The idea is that different people metabolize foods at different rates, and that some folks do well eating lots of carbohydrates, others want lots of fats and proteins, and some are in the middle. I say "might be", because this is one of those areas where there's a LOT of bullshit floating around. And of course I'm going to be enthused about a nutritional theory that tells me I should eat more butter and bacon.

But, on the other hand, the quiz had a lot of questions of the type where I think "y'know, I never really thought about that before, but the answer is very definitely C", and all the answers line up. (As opposed to astrology type questions, where it's a mix of hits and misses all throughout.) This feels like legitimate medicine to me, because that's what happens when you get the correct diagnosis for a mysterious ailment: it matches not just the complaint you've noticed, but a bunch of other symptoms you hadn't. Like, when I went in to see a physical therapist about some knee pains I was having a decade ago, she examined my feet and my legs and then proceeded to list a whole bunch of other pains that I hadn't said a thing about, but that were definitely happening. That's when I knew she was onto something.

So anyway, like I said, it may all be hokum. But I'm paying more attention to how different foods make me feel, and we'll see whether it has any effect (positive or negative) on my weight.

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.

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