26 days of beer

U is for Umami


Professor Ikeda Kikunae is the man to blame for the discovery of the alleged ‘‘fifth taste’’ called umami in 1908.

The older I get the more things I learned at school become superceded.
For instance, when I was a kid, Pluto was a planet but now, when my five-year-old daughter recites the planets in order from closest to the sun to furthest, she stops at Neptune. Because it has been decided that Pluto is no longer a planet.

When I was a kid, Brontosaurus was an actual dinosaur. But not these days – Bronto has been punted in favour of Apatosaurus. and there’s all these raptors – those nasty sons of bitches never existed when I was a kid.

Then there’s the addition of a fifth taste. When I was a kid there were four – sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Everyone knew where they stood. But nowadays there’s this dodgy so-called ‘‘fifth taste’’ called umami. Myself, I’m still not convinced it’s not some massive joke, because, even after reading the entry in the Oxford Companion to Beer, I’m still no wiser as to what the hell a umami taste is.

It’s supposed to be meaty, brothy or savoury. All of which I figured were covered by the salty part of our tongue. At least the OCB says umami doesn’t pop up in beer all that much, mainly in those beers featuring kelp as an ingredient. And why someone would want to add seaweed to a beer is a mystery to me.

What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that.

Categories: 26 days of beer, book

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