Basics on Tastes

There are 4 ( 5 in Asian people) basic tastes:

1.    sweet: sugar, carrots, sweet bell peppers, liqueurs, many fruits
2.    sour: lemons, limes, vinegars, wine
3.    bitter: endive, turnips, chicory, dandelions, radicchio, coffee
4.    salty: sea salt, oysters

The fifth taste is called Umani, it is a savory taste, comparable to mushrooms, sage, truffles and mainly MSG (from soy sauce, which large use  is the reason why the fifth taste is present in Asians)

There are at least ten primary odors detectable by the olfactory receptors in the human nose:

  1.  - Fragrant : toasted almond, popcorn
  2. - Sweet: the odor of hot waffles in the street, of mature fruit (banana), caramel,vanilla
  3.     Floral, fruity: the scent associated with flowering vegetables, herbs, and plants, frui 
  4.     Citrus fruit: the scent of lemon
  5.  Musky, woody, sap (resin) : the scent of sexual attraction between animals and humans; the scent of the under-wood after the rain
  6.     Pepperminty: the scent found in various strengths in all members of the mint family (peppermint, basil, marjoram, and oregano) 
  7.  Ethereal: the scent of ether, any of a class of organic compounds derived from the distillation of ethyl alcohol, also used as an anesthetic
  8.  Pungent: the scent of spices
  9. Camphoraceous, chemical : the strong scent of camphor, present in some insect repellents but also in the herb sage, and used as a stimulant, expectorant (medical)
  10.  Putrid, disgusting: the scent of decay, of aged meat, and of some cheese molds, rotten eggs 

A perfume , or a stink, is a combination of two or more primary odors.
The wine is a mixture of ethereal, fruity, sweet.
The bread just out from the oven is fragrant and sweet, sometimes a little sour if made with sour-dough.

The odors are perceived in the zone of  brain called Limbo, the same where emotions are born. This might be the connection that make us so sensitive to odors and perfumes, that brings us to a memory or, better, to the memory of an emotion.

The human perception of the flavor is given also by other factors: temperature and texture.

Temperature is fundamental: we hardly appreciate a cold soup or a warm chocolate bar.
Texture makes a big difference too: many people dislike the persimmons for their slimy-ness. The variety of persimmon called Kaki-mela has the same consistency of the apple: the same people who do like the soft variety often like this one.
Texture is fundamental in Risotto, which final result must be grainy and creamy (which seems a contradiction) at the same time.
Texture determines also the “sound” of a food: what to say about the “cracking” of a dark chocolate, the “cricking” of potato chips, the “fizzy-nes” of Champagne?

The combination of all these factors create the flavor of an ingredient or of an elaborated culinary preparation.

We can talk about the flavor of a particular variety of pear, for example, considering the percentage of sweetness and sourness, the grainy-ness or the smoothness of its pulp; we can perceive the ripeness by its the scent.

Up to  this point we have formulated a vague idea of how much the detection of a flavor involves all our physical senses and our inner feelings. The “why” we like or not like certain foods is also determined by the cultural environment and by the habits of the Country where we grow.

Talking about flavors of cuisine elaborations, I would divide them in two kinds:
- smooth and flat
- with picks

A smooth and flat flavor is the typical of a preparation in which final result all the components (tastes, odors, textures of every single ingredient) create one single, homogeneous, “smooth”, velvety sensation. In similar morsels hardly the single ingredients are recognizable. The final flavor is a “taste” by itself, pleasant and luxury.

The flavor “with picks”, happens when there is “a party in your mouth”: a fun distinguish of “picks”, in different zone of the tongue and palate: picks of sourness, sweetness, bitterness, saltiness. Such a flavor usually makes you to eat more.

An example of “flat-smooth” flavor and “flavor with picks” is constituted by two different ways of preparing Ravioli Cheese and Pears. A few details in execution make a big difference in the final result.

Below you see the two recipes. Try both: you will be amazed by the difference.



100 gr gorgonzola
2 small diced cooked pears

extra virgin olive oil
vegetable broth

To Finish:

Peel and dice the pears. Cook them in a little water. Mash them and mix with the Gorgonzola.

Cut off the tough part of the asparagus; peel the stalk. Steam them 3 minutes.
Cut the tops and set aside.
Mince the shallot and sauté it in olive oil. Add the peeled stalk and cook 5 minutes adding some broth. puree with the hand mixer and filter through a chinois.

Make “won ton” shape ravioli with the Gorgonzola and pear filling.
Cut 5cm (2” x 2”) squares and put a teaspoon of pear filling in center. Lift opposite corners and pinch together to seal the sides. Slightly twist the top. Boil them in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain.
Put some sauce on individual dishes. Place 5 ravioli in the middle. Arrange three asparagus tops. Finish with flakes of Parmigiano Reggiano.


75 gr gorgonzola
75 gr parmigiano
75 gr ricotta

Pears sauce:
3 pears
4 shallots
1 bay leaf
1 dl white wine
1 teaspoon coriander seeds

To finish:
50 gr butter
50 gr grated Parmigiano
60 gr white truffle
black pepper

For the filling:
Smash the Gorgonzola and mix it with the other cheese

For the Pear sauce:
Peel and dice the pears; mince the shallot.
Sautè the shallot in extra virgin olive oil. Add the diced pears, the coriander seeds, the bay leaf.  Cook a few minutes, depending the ripeness. Drench with white wine and let it evaporate

Stretch the pasta dough; cut it in rounds; put a teaspoon of cheese stuffing in the middle.
Divide mentally the round in three equal parts. Lift up two points and seal the sides. Lift the third part pinching it from the middle and seal the other two sides. You will obtain a triangle.
Boil in plenty salted water. Drain and toss in the pear sauce. Finish with truffle or truffle butter.