Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The importance of tasting

I named this blog Tammy's Tastings for a couple of reasons. One, I like alliteration. And two, and perhaps more importantly, because I think that consciously tasting is the best way to learn about food.

I've run and attended tastings of a huge variety of foods - olive oil, vinegar, bacon, maple syrup, to name but a few. When my husband bought me a four pack of single origin chocolate bars for Valentines Day, the first thing I did was invite friends over for a side by side compare and contrast.

Blind tasting in particular is important. Every month I learn something new from the blind tastings we use in my wine club. Whenever we eat or drink something, we bring to it a lifetime's worth of experience and emotion and knowledge. I "know" that I like French wines better than domestic. So hand me a glass of California Chardonnay and a glass of White Burgundy, and I'm going to look for things I like in the Burgundy, and things I don't like in the California Chard. It's human nature. Hiding all the identifying features of a wine, or a food, or whatever it is, really lets you taste it on its own terms.

I was inspired to write this post by a recent experience with apples. I grew up eating Macintosh apples. That's what my family bought, and I barely knew that other kinds of apples existed! (Okay, I knew about Red Delicious, but even then I recognized that they were a triumph of appearance over flavor.) When I grew older and more worldly, I started eating other kinds of apples. Jonagolds, Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith. I found a couple that I particularly liked - Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp - but for the most part I wasn't an apple fan. But I never bought Macintosh. Those were the "average" apples. The "regular" apples. I was a gourmet. I was too sophisticated for the simple Mac.

A couple weeks ago, someone put some apples out for dessert. The package just said "apples." I took one, and it was the best apple I'd tasted in years. And - as I'm sure you've guessed - it turned out to be a Mac.

Tasting is important.

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