Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Umami Mommy

We're a part vegetarian family, but I will admit to looking for ways to sell the meat-eaters on more vegetarian dishes. It's not that I really care who's eating what, having no strong philosophical underpinning to my personal vegetarianism. It's just that I find it tedious making double dinners many meals a week.

So, here's what helps sell a vegetarian dish to a meat-eating family. Umami. (oo-ma-me). Many of us have heard of bitter, sour, sweet, and salty as tastes our tongues can detect, but a fifth taste vector has been proposed, coyly named umami. I've heard the umami flavor described as a meaty or savory flavor. It's an aspect of the taste of meat, but it's also an aspect of the taste of mushrooms, soy sauce, miso soup, parmesan cheese, and nori. Even in (ugh) MSG. I've read that it's in the taste of tomato too, and even in potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. Ketchup, vegemite, and worcestershire sauce are said to have that umami kick.

I'm convinced that umami is the reason I can serve mushroom ravioli and everyone in the family will be pleased.

Do your family's favorite vegetarian dishes coincidentally feature that umami taste?

more on umami: SF Gate article on Umami from year 2000; umami skepticism on page 2 of 4.

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