There’s a lot of great things about living in the world today. But we often forget to appreciate one of the biggest breakthroughs of the modern era. And that breakthrough is how we relate to food.
Most of human history has been marked by food scarcity. Even when we had enough to eat, we seldom had enough to really enjoy. There’s good reason why sending out exploratory fleets just to find spices was seen as a wise decision. An enjoyable meal is one of the single greatest pleasures in life. And variety is one of the things that really makes or breaks a meal.
Today we have a vast array of choices laid out in front of us. We can aim for purely utilitarian options that take care of the basics. Some people even choose to make nutritional beverages their primary meal. Other people like to search out a continual line of surprising tastes and textures from around the world. What’s really amazing is the simple fact that we have the option to do all of these things. What’s more, some areas offer us even more chances to explore the world of culinary delights.
Take Minnesota as an example. The Midwest can provide a surprising amount of variety when one really looks beneath the surface. And Minnesota is no exception to that trend. Imagine someone interested in going to any chinese restaurant Saint Louis Park MN. And really consider it from the perspective of someone without much experience in Asian or Asian inspired meals.
Some of the differences between his choices and his normal meals are obvious. Rice is far more popular in Asia than America. Not to mention that Asian dishes typically utilize stickier varieties of rice. But this, in and of itself, suggests one of the first things that one will often notice about regional cuisine. Dishes which are similar but just a little different often offer some fantastic experiences. It’s also generally easier to ease oneself into different tastes by using semi-familiarity as a steppingstone.
We can use mushrooms as a good example of how someone might go about this process. Our hypothetical diner is a big fan of mushrooms. And he notices shiitake, something he’s never had before. The first surprise might come from how it’s prepared.
Asian recipes often sauté mushrooms with sesame oil or soy sauce. Both something quite different than American recipes. He might enjoy those differences. But what would offer even more of a surprise is the mushrooms umami flavor. And this highlights why familiar but slightly different meals can prove so amazing.
An almost but not quite familiar taste eases us into a whole new world. An umami flavor surrounded by a familiar texture can help someone appreciate it. And in doing so it can make the next and less familiar dish more palatable. It’s essentially a way to build up both anticipation and appreciation for different types of cuisine. It’s a way of appreciating the good tastes we’re familiar with while also exploring tastes which might otherwise escape our notice.