Wednesday, May 19, 2010

O Flavor, Where Art Thou?

While giving a Greek-themed cooking lesson last week, I was surprised by the reaction of the group to the feta cheese I brought.

We were making baked feta, but before tasting the cheese cooked, I wanted everyone to sample it plain.
When five of eight people vociferously proclaimed the feta to be the best they had ever tasted, I was a little taken aback.

Sure, the Greek feta I buy at Fairway is delicious, but I would never think to give it a “best ever” label. I soon learned, though, that the feta the group buys comes pre-packaged, a much different animal than Fairway’s feta (same price!) which is shipped and stored in bulk and in salty brine.

This episode got me thinking about our food supply and how we taste food:

Have our palates become so accustomed to foods lacking flavor that anything with a little oomph causes us amazement and joy?

Does this palate deadening begin when we are children, when we are exposed to synthetically salty and sweet processed and packaged foods?

Are the commercially packaged varieties of unprocessed foods like feta cheese so mediocre that good feta becomes great feta by default?

Does the same principle hold true for fruits and vegetables?
Because the options in our supermarkets are usually the tasteless, packaged versions of foods, we suffer. Search for—and demand—better choices. Your taste buds will thank you and eating will become that much more enjoyable.

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