Monday 22 October 2018

Food for Non-Tasters

Radio 4's dull-it-ain't food discussion programme The Kitchen Cabinet is one I tend to avoid, but I caught something interesting on this week's show. A scientist type was talking about 'super-tasters' – people with an exceptionally acute sense of taste – the less acute 'normals tasters' and the still less acute 'non-tasters'. What interested me was that, when tested, most chefs fall not into the 'super-taster' but into the 'non-taster' category.
  Suddenly I realised why so much restaurant food these days is seriously over-seasoned and over-flavoured, with too many powerful ingredients clashing with each other, sometimes with almost uneatable (to me) results. This kind of food, even when it works, is more like being punched than being pleased. Similarly I find that recipes from 'top chefs' (Tom Kerridge is a prime offender) often include at least one element (often more) so strongly flavoured that it's bound to drown everything else. Such recipes need to be closely examined and edited down to something properly balanced if you're trying them at home – unless you happen to be a non-taster.
  What we're getting offered, then, is the kind of food non-tasters need to tickle their deficient taste buds. I used to think it was just that so many chefs are heavy smokers – another sure-fire way of destroying taste – but clearly there's more to it.
  Why, though, should non-tasters, of all people, want to become chefs? Maybe it 's because ordinarily flavoured food tastes bland to them, so they start experimenting with spices and fiery sauces, chorizo and vinegar and the full range of blockbuster taste-killers, until they're concocting the kind of knock-'em-dead dishes so popular in high-end cookery. Maybe in due course the wheel of culinary fashion will turn back to more subtle, balanced flavouring. I do hope so.


  1. I’m not a foodie, Nige, so I can’t comment on chefs. But it does occur to me that exactly the same might be said of theatre directors, most of whom seem to be bored with plain dishes – i.e. a production which is faithful to the text and respectful of the author – and want to spice things up with gender-fluid and/or colour-blind casting. Hey, it’s only boring old Hamlet so let’s make him a her, or God, I’m so bored with The Importance so let’s have a black Algernon. I had thought that the Emma Rice fiasco at The Globe would have put an end to this, but no, it was just the beginning. My New Year resolution will be to give up the theatre altogether. Perhaps I’ll become a gourmet instead.

  2. Good point Ingoldsby. The latest Globe Othello has black faces galore, thereby normalising Othello's blackness (when he simply has to be the only black person in the play) and a female Doge of Venice, for heaven's sake...