Archive for May, 2013

Taste.  Now that’s a word with many meanings. Whether it’s the sensation of flavour perceived in the mouth, a small portion, a person’s liking for something, or the ability to discern good quality or high aesthetic standard, the concept of ‘taste’ is something that permeates modern life.

The most obvious association is food, but it extends to many areas of a Rumblechatter’s life.  You can have good taste or bad taste. But I’m assuming that, by virtue of you reading this, you fall firmly into the former camp.

Food-wise, there is a scientific explanation as to our preferences. When food and drink are placed in the mouth, taste cells are activated and we perceive one of five flavours: sweet, salty, savoury, sour, and bitter.

Sweet and salty foods were originally nature’s way of rewarding us for eating something nourishing.  There are natural sugars and salts in fruits and vegetables and all carbohydrates are broken down by our bodies to produce sugars that provide the main fuel for bodily function. Natural salts play a necessary role in regulating the pressure of all bodily fluids. Obviously in this day and age, a packet of Walkers Salt and Vinegar followed by a slab of Dairy Milk don’t really offer the same nutritional value, but still, it’s good to understand the origin of our (my?) comfort food cravings.

The taste of savouriness is derived from the natural protein component of foods like meat, cheese and mushrooms.  The main function of protein in the body is to build and repair cells and tissues – pretty essential, in anyone’s book.

Sour and bitter flavours work in the opposite way. Originally they alerted us to foods that might be toxic or harmful to us. Sour foods tend to only be good for us in small amounts. Take for example, the humble lemon. Whilst it has many beneficial attributes, such as antibacterial, antiseptic and supporting liver function, you couldn’t eat a whole one now could you? Bitter foods are ones that may be toxic, and so our taste buds (and dour, lemon-sucking faces) warn us immediately.

Vegetables, although very healthy, do have a component of bitterness to them. This is thought to be from a cunning kind of bitterness camouflage to delude predators into thinking said plant is toxic . Also, some of these bitter ‘toxins’ may actually be deadly to one animal species but another may have adapted to be able to digest these same ones.

Human beings developed innate taste preferences in prehistoric times.  In constant danger of starving, humans developed instincts to shun the plentiful but bland vegetables in favour of the extremely rare, overly sweet, high-fat treats such as honey, grubs, or bone marrow fat, which would sustain them in a famine. Our love of The Great British Bake Off shows that we really haven’t evolved that much

When it comes to aesthetic taste, well that’s a whole different ball game, and one grounded in sociology, not science. Sociologically speaking, taste is an individual’s personal and cultural patterns of choice and preference. Taste is about drawing distinctions between things such as styles, manners, consumer goods, works of art etc. and relating to these.

Aesthetic preferences are predominantly influenced by education and social origin. Different socioeconomic groups are likely to have different tastes. Social class is one of the prominent factors structuring taste. This theory suggests our parents and childhood experiences have a profound influence over our mature aesthetic taste.

I can confess I’ve just bought a green Egg chair that has definite echoes of an orange one my parents had in the seventies. But that’s as far as the shared taste goes.  For me the influence seems to have been more about driving me to create something different.  I’m pretty sure my abhorrence of all things matchy-matchy (in fashion, soft furnishings, décor…in fact, in anything) stem from my mum’s obsessive love of the very same thing?

The other pertinent thing about taste is that everyone thinks they’ve got it.  Just as no-one holds their hands up to being a bad driver, so no-one confesses to having appalling taste.  Which is probably a good time for a confession…I’m actually a terrible driver.

I may be a bit behind the times here (it wouldn’t be the first time), but I’ve just discovered the Suspended Coffee Campaign.  Born of an Italian tradition, the ‘caffe sospreso’ is a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. The tradition began a century ago, in the working class cafes of Naples, where someone who had experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but consuming only one. The remaining coffee would remain suspended for a poor person to claim later.

This heart-warming practice has been championed successfully on social media, igniting social consciences globally and subsequently being adopted by communities around the world. Suspended coffees represent an affirmation of the old English adage ‘Charity begins at home’ – supporting the ‘down on their luck’ people within your local community.

So far, about 150 British cafes have signed up to what has become a formal scheme, with coffee giant Starbucks recently signing up for the initiative. Ian Cranna, vice-president of marketing at Starbucks UK told Marketing Magazine the campaign “will provide warmth and comfort for those looking for food or a hot cup of coffee.”

The only problem I can foresee is that of the target audience (vulnerable people) feeling ashamed to pop in and ask for the off-chance of charity.  Some cafes across the UK have pre-empted this barrier, adopting the initiative in different forms, with some donating cash equivalents to local homeless shelters or providing tokens to be discreetly donated to those in need.

On a (frivolously) political note, if this is an example of what the EU brings us, who can knock it?

food app image

Following on from last week’s vociferous scourge on the new food app for lardy gamers, I felt it only right that I should offer up the worthier side of food related apps.  As Apple have drummed into our subconscious, whatever your [dietary] requirements, ‘there’s an app for that.  The plethora of sustenance related apps is astounding; there’s definitely no ‘one-size-fits-all’ ethos going on here.  Here’s a selection of the several million (I exaggerate…but only slightly) that I stumbled upon in the name of research.

 

Best for Foodies in training: Foodgawker

A veritable feast of food porn. The mobile counterpart to foodgawker.com, which collects recipes from various food bloggers, and presents them in a mouthwatering photo gallery format. Whether you want to make good food, or just drool over it, foodgawker is an excellent resource. It’s also a great way to discover your next favourite food blog.

 

Best for meal planning: FoodPlanner

Make it easy to swerve the crisp aisle next time you hit the supermarket. FoodPlanner organises your daily meals and allows you to upload your own recipes and download meal ideas from top recommended sites. This clever little app then compiles your shopping list of ingredients from the recipes you’ve chosen. FoodPlanner can store multiple lists and recipes to add variety into your healthy eating habits. Handy eh?

 

Best for wannabe Flintstones: Primal Paleo

It seems like every other person I meet is Paleo eating these days.  Maybe it’s the Game of Thrones effect, but this caveman diet is taking over the world! Billed as ‘the only nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic’ the ideology is more appealing than the reality (no coffee or cake). For those keen to give it a try, Primal Paleo offers the perfect pocket guide to succeed.

The app includes key information about the core principles of Paleo living, along with recipe ideas and a searchable list of Paleo foods. Find out which foods are in season and choose from a selection of exercises to complement the diet.Connect to the rest of the Primal community through the app to share your meal ideas, lifestyle tips and find words of wisdom from other users.

 

Best for eating out: Mint Nutrition

We all love to eat out, but it can be a sure-fire way of piling on the pounds. Mint Nutrition keeps track of your calorie chomping whenever you’re out for dinner and guides you to more healthy options. Search for foods at your favourite restaurants and also create your own virtual plate, detailing your most popular menu choices. So you can work out how much time on the treadmill you need to offset that sticky toffee pudding.

Best for vegetarians: Go Veggie!

This app is ideal for veggies wanting to keep their diet balanced and varied. Users can browse over 100 recipes ranging from basic to elaborate. Each dish is accompanied by a step-by-step guide. Additional features include an ingredient and recipe finder, recipe index and the ability to create individual shopping lists. Go Veggie! also explains how to transform protein-rich foods such as tofu, seitan and tempeh into tasty and nutritious dishes.

  

Best for staying hydrated: Carbodroid

Everyone knows that we should drink eight glasses of water a day, but if you’re anything like me, this is an abstract, rarely achieved target. You can set your daily goal for water intake and tap the cup or bottle icon to track your sipping habits. You’ll receive reminders to drink water at regular intervals and if you drink enough, the cute animated droid shares in your happiness. It’s a simple concept, but a brilliant one that motivates you to keep drinking water in a fun and accessible way.

 

Best for Healthy Living: Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by My Fitness Pal 

Tap in your age, gender, ­lifestyle ­details and weight-loss goal and you’re away. It’ll set a daily ­calorie limit and help you track your food and ­exercise throughout the day. A ­potentially ­effective weight-loss tool, if you’re prepared to be ­brutally honest.

 

Best for garnering food safety knowledge: NutritionTips
Did you know that cut melon must be thrown out after two hours? Or that the leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts? Or that oysters contain protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron? This colorful app has fun factoids a-plenty to steer you towards a safe and healthy diet. Each tip is written on a sleek Post-it look-alike. Most visually pleasing.  Simply swipe the page or shake your device for a new tidbit.

 

So it seems Apple aren’t exaggerating.  Whatever your need or desire, there’s an app to match.  So, Rumblechatters, what’s your favourite food app?