Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eat With Your Other Senses

If it sounds weird to eat with something other than your mouth, remember that we process food using all of our senses—not just our taste buds—and our minds. We determine whether we like a dish based on its taste, smell, appearance, and texture, as well as our cultural backgrounds, expectations, memories, and desires. Preparation can greatly affect how your dish is perceived. This is separate from how it is “tabled,” or presented.

Although most of the dishes I present are quick to make, when you want something really fast, there isn’t a whole lot that can beat boiling a premade meal, frying it up, or popping it in the microwave. However store-bought, pre-cooked meals are rarely as appealing to the senses, or as nutritious, as freshly prepared ones.

Using fresh ingredients—while being mindful not to overcook them—is worth the effort. The result will be bursting with flavor, texture, and color, the very opposite of airline or school cafeteria food. Fresh basil as a garnish on pasta, for example, enhances all three qualities. Fresh herbs pack a lot more flavor than dried ones, which may have lost some of their essential oils. Unfortunately, cooking with fresh ingredients requires a lot of space in the fridge and, as with a good marinara sauce, a lot of time. You simply can’t rush a good sauce.

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