|Kikunae Ikeda food science
Kikunae Ikeda discovered the savory taste, called umami, from the chemical monosodium glutamate in kelp, tomatoes, meat, and Chinese takeout, and added to our list of basic tastes— sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and fatty. Actually, fattiness is a recent addition. More on that later.
Bottling the essence
Animals and plants didn’t evolve MSG so we could find them more savory. We evolved to appreciate MSG so we would eat what’s good for us. Now you can buy it in a bottle a white, odorless, crystalline powder, and companies process it into food products declaring it only as a “flavoring.”
The basic tastes don’t begin to complete a description of the human perception of taste. The perception of flavor in the mouth is mostly our sense of smell, and we distinguish ten thousand smells. The acids, tannins, alcohols, the different sensations other than tastes contribute to the complex balance. Genetics affect one’s distaste or enjoyment— the number of taste buds that speckle one’s mouth or how sensitive one is to broccoli bitters.