Flavor Awareness

Pay close attention when you eat and cook. That’s it. That’s all you really need to do in order to develop a palate.

I don’t even like the terminology because you’re not transforming yourself into a fancier, snootier person who lets only the finest foie gras and caviar grace her gullet. No, we are really talking about flavor and aroma awareness.

The goal in developing one’s palate is - instead of saying, “This smells fruity” or “this tastes like herbs”, we are able to say which fruits and which herbs. Cherries smell different than blackberries or strawberries or blueberries but unless you have recently tasted and smelled all four together, and noted their unique characteristics, you will be hard-pressed to differentiate.

To improve your flavor awareness, your gym is the kitchen and reps involve eating and drinking. This is the best version of exercise I can imagine. Invite your friends but don’t tell them the whole plan until they get there. It will be fun once they begin but “palate development party” isn’t likely to draw a crowd.

Pickup a few bottles of wine or beer which showcase various fruit flavors and pickup the actual fruits too. Make small purees of each fruit and blind taste them. Now taste the wine or beer and identify the fruit aromas and flavors in each using the purees to verify your answers.

Now repeat…next time with herbs or spices or other exotic aromatics. Take any descriptor that people attribute to a wine or beer and taste (or smell if not edible) those things. What does leather really smell like? How about lychee fruit? Black currants? Caramel vs. Butterscotch vs. Toffee?

Ideally this will heighten your awareness of the aromatic and flavor components you enjoy most while improving your ability to accurately describe what you’re drinking. Armed with this information you can guide your friends towards things they may enjoy based on what foods and flavors they like. You will also get better guidance from experts when you can more accurately describe what you like.

The next step is identifying what other, more widely recognizable items, carry the same aromas/flavors. Gary Vaynerchuk does a great job of making wine more accessible by comparing aromas to Big League Chew, Nerds Candy, Baby Diaper (the clean kind) or Dead deer on the side of the road pelted with cherries (10:00). Well, maybe that last one isn’t widely accessible but it does paint a picture.


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