You may have seen the latest speculation to rock the world of food. No, it’s not another fast food restaurant trying to dumb down the Ghost Pepper flavor to draw in more chile heads. Scientists have revealed that fat may be a flavor. Yes, is fat, a flavor?
Once upon a time, people were simply grateful to eat. Then, we moved into a world with agriculture and survival rates increased to the point with clear distinctions between upper and lower classes. Food became a symbol of wealth. Chefs expanded their palate and in the interest of science, foods were categorized.
That may be the simplest history of food ever, but we only needed to get to the point where flavors were up for debate. At that point, there were four tastes: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Food manufacturers (and consumers) worked with these four tastes until a decade ago. Then, they added umami. This Japanese word means “savory” and we generally define it as a meaty taste sensation.
Fat has never been considered as a flavor or taste. We may crave it (because you really have to work hard to fight the compelling flavor of a perfectly grilled steak), but it’s never been something our taste buds can sense.
Except, now, that’s what scientists think.
What does fat taste like to you? Do you think of it as the semi-solid grease left to cool in the pan after cooking bacon? Can you sense it as full-cream, fresh milk?
More importantly, is it a pleasant or unpleasant taste? And, here, we mean taste like a flavor only. We already know that too much fat is unpleasant for your body, even if it tends to be pleasant going down.
The Importance of This Research
If fat is a flavor, we might be able to trick the brain into believing it’s had fat when it hasn’t. If “fat” can be sold as a spice next to paprika and cumin, the way we consume food could change dramatically.
Now more than ever, there is a need to cut into the fat intake while still maintaining delicious flavors.
Oh, wait… you can do that already. All you need to do is add hot sauce to your meals. Capsaicin (the fiery goodness in every chili pepper) tricks your brain into believing that you’ve had enough fat even when you haven’t. It also tricks chili heads into patronizing fast-food restaurants, but that’s another story altogether.