Saturday, May 16, 2009
Until we have learned to taste....
"Until we have learned to explore, our tastes are so limited, our experience is so narrow, that we can make no valid comparisons, can found no true judgements. So it is with food. We must learn to eat first." (The Robert Carrier Cookbook)
Forgive me for being such an unreliable blogger over the past month. I have been recovering from a back problem. Due to the combined magic of painkillers and an osteopath I am slowly getting better and returning to normal life. And back to blogging!
I haven't ventured outside much but I couldn't resist the invitation to be a judge for the Great Taste Awards at the Real Food Festival in London. Having spent 18 months of our lives tasting an entire alphabet of vegetables, Freddie and I have learnt to explore tastes. But until you have had to taste 10 different flavoured sausages, 9 boozy ice creams, 8 sloe gins, 7 chocolates with chilli, 6 gluten-free cakes, 5 fruit jams, 4 savoury biscuits, 3 hot puddings, 2 fine butters and 1 noble anchovy you haven't really earned the title of taster. On my table was a wondeful lady from Devon, a farmers wife and an experienced Womens Institute judge known as Ruth Maile. She taught me how to scrape back the butter and see whether it is well blended, to think about the balance of flavours in a spoonful of jam, and to consider the crispness of a savoury biscuit. I left feeling as if I had been through the equivalent of an aerobics exercise for the palate. On the final day of judging I took Freddie with me and we were invited to sit on the Supreme Table.
This table receives all the recommendations from the other judging tables for the coveted gold awards. You don't know what products you will be sampling. So he was a little nervous. Until the plates of chocolate started to arrive, lining up on our table, waiting for a second opinion. He turned to me and said,"This is my idea of a brilliant job - can I be a chocolate taster?" And on our table was just that - an experienced chocoatier Marc Demarquette who encouraged this fledgling chocolatier to put aside his pocket money chocolate palate and learn to identify the taste of a really good quality cocoa bean.
Learning to explore food, learning to taste, Richard Carrier was right. Until we have done that we can't make valid judgements. Children should be given classes in tasting and exploring food. Any of you have any inspiring ideas for encouraging children to widen their taste horizons?