Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good

By Barb Stuckey
New York, Free Press, 2012
407 pages   Non-Fiction
The Short List

What a fun career—a food inventor. Barb Stuckey always knew that she wanted a career in the food industry, and she arrived at a career as a food developer via food service management. She loves food, but more importantly, she understands food.

In Taste What You’re Missing, Stuckey tells the story of taste in a way that is so manageable and interesting that you are compelled to read further. Each aspect of taste: sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and umami has its own chapter with experiments at the end of the chapter to help you come to an understanding of those tastes and their identification. She also tells stories to make everything more understandable—and palatable! 

I especially enjoyed the chapter on salt. She talks about how her father put salt on his grapefruit—it helped to make it sweeter. I always put salt on cantaloupe. It was good to find out that the reasons why I do that. I also appreciated the long story she told of a biker who almost died because of a depletion of salt. The right amount of salt is the amount that lets the flavor come through, so that you are tasting the food not the salt.

While I was in the midst of this book, I was planning a St. Patrick’s Day family dinner and made two Irish stews, one of beef and one of lamb. I poured a bottle of Guinness in each pot, as per the recipe. The lamb stew tasted wonderful, but there was something not quite right with the beef stew, made with exactly the same ingredients except for the meat. Everyone tasted it; everyone recommended something different to do to correct the taste. Finally, I decided to add a little bit of sugar and that counteracted the sour taste of the Guinness, which was apparent in the beef stew but not in the lamb stew. The sugar made it perfect. Barb Stuckey says: “A food that’s not balanced tastes wrong. A food that’s balanced makes you want to take another bite…the book teaches you how to balance food when you’re cooking.” Apparently, I read right!

I would recommend Taste What You're Missing to food lovers as well as cooks and would be cooks. I received it from the publisher and will pass it on to a family friend who was eyeing it the other evening.

The book’s website:

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