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wundayatta's avatar

Do you know what things will taste like before you've ever tried them?

Asked by wundayatta (58357 points ) September 21st, 2008

I’m not talking in the sense of children who refuse to taste something. I’m talking in the inventive sense—of thinking of a new combination of a meat and a fruit and some set of spices. I’ve thought of things, and then I’ve adjusted the balance of flavors in my mind, to get to where I want to go, and I find I have a pretty good sense of it.

Actually, what I’m really looking for is stories. Describe this process. What ingredients did you have in mind? What did you try? Did your mental image work out in reality? Or did it flop horribly? And extra points to people who can describe the food in such a way that we can taste and feel and smell it!

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13 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

Everything you’ve ever eaten in your life, had to have a first time, right?

Sometimes, if a food looks like something you have had in the past, you can probably guess or assume what the taste may be like.

For example, the first time I looked at Brussells sprouts, I imagined in my mind that they might taste like a smaller version of cooked Cabbage.

They did.

My apologies if this isn’t exactly the kind of answer you were seeking, but as I mentally review my life, I may come up with other, more detailed examples.

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

Daloon: I understand completely. I can make up a dish in my head because of what I think the flavors will taste like together. Most often, it works. I have read a hundred recipes for duck yet my duck is the best I have ever had because I know how I want to do it. And, I seldom do it the same way, but it is always better than any recipe I’ve followed. Same with soup. Or, fish tacos. Or damn near anything.

)I went out last night and had some great cocktails. I am now so very, very hungry. Thanks Dal.)

JackAdams's avatar

Fish tacos?

asmonet's avatar

Well, you can smell it long before it touches your tongue if you have a healthy sense of smell for things you HAVEN’T tried. As for things you have and making up new dishes and such… yeah, your brain relies on all those memories of food and makes a composite. :)

augustlan's avatar

I am not much of a cook, but occasionally a flash of brilliance occurrs. I once had a fully formed opinion of a meal I’d like to have, with ingredients I’d never had together. Describing it to others, I was met with resistance. I forged ahead, anyway, and it is now a favorite. Browned keilbasa, carmelized onions and apples – served on potato rolls with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. It’s a yummy mess, perfect for a crisp fall evening.

loser's avatar

No. My psychic skills really aren’t that good.

wundayatta's avatar

@ augustlan: if you’d asked me, I would have told you that sounds good. In fact, it’s making my mouth water.

@loser: psychic skills are useless in this endeavor. It’s knowledge and experience with food that makes it possible.

marinelife's avatar

The question is a little misleading, daloon, in that you are really talking about combining flavors that you have had in new ways so of course you can imagine the possible taste, not truly imagining a taste sensation you have never had.

Good cooks, as you suggest, do this all the time. For me, it usually works, although not every single time. I deviate from recipes quite a bit, and do not even cook my favorites exactly the same way every time.

I had a lot of leftover smoked chicken from a BBQ event. I thought about a “white” chili I had once at a bar made with chicken, black-eyed peas, and tomatillo sauce. So, I made a version of that with what I had on hand using the smoked chicken. I was right in that it worked, but I had not been able to imagine the depth the smoked meat gave to the flavor of the dish. I enjoyed it so much I have been giving my chili a shot of liquid smoke since to enhance the flavor.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Sometimes I can tell something will be good, sometimes I have no idea, but I never really know exactly how it will taste, just that it sounds good.

(Augustlan, that sounds good to me too!)

marinelife's avatar

@augustlan After your description and watching the bratwursts at the Green Bay talingating parties, I am so up for fall food. Braised red cabbage, bacon and crumbled bleu cheese with that kielbasa or brat, anyone?

webmasterwilliam's avatar

I can’t, but I owned a nice restaurant and my chef was awesome, combining tastes that you would never put together, like seared Ahi tuna on a watermelon bed. People LOVED it!

Allie's avatar

I can guess the gist of what something is going to taste like. If it will be salty, or sweet, or bitter. I never really know for sure until I try it though. And some things can be misleading. I thought kiwi would be really sweet, but as it turns out they have a bit or a bitterness to them. Or maybe I’m not eating very ripe kiwis. I don’t know.

wundayatta's avatar

Kiwis can be sweeter, but if you eat them firm, they can be very astringent. Though not as astringent as an unripe persimmon! As they ripen they lose that astringency and some of their tartness, too. I agree, though, it’s hard to imagine the flavor of something you’ve never tasted.

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