Delving into the Intangibles


   Umami  
     
 

I’m sure, due to the coronavirus confinement, men have been allowed into the kitchen to cook. And, if you have to cook, there’s no reason not to make it as fun and tasty as possible, thus pleasing your family. I usually season my food with kombu and dashi stock, but having a lot of extra time on my hands these days I have also added a more savory touch. For example, I cut up kombu, niboshi, katsuobushi and bonito flakes, put them in a jar and store them in the refrigerator for use later in dishes. In addition, by adding dashinomoto stock and agodasi (a broth made from flying fish), I have tried to create a three-dimensional flavor that I playfully call "Umami by the Cubical Approach."

The word “umami” is now in worldwide use. It represents a totally original approach to the expression of taste––intangible deliciousness. Hidden flavors act like shadow warriors, spreading deep and wide on the palate and serving as foils to a dish. Looking around, you'll find many suitable ingredients: seaweed, dried bonito flakes, shiitake mushrooms, dried fish, chopped burdock and scallop broth. In these tangible ingredients, it is said, can be found 20 types of amino acids, including glutamic acid, containing umami substances. If we set out to look for them I’m sure we can find many more umami substances in the world.

Humans are said to have five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Apparently the first taste acquired by babies is umami––which is why they can keep drinking mother's milk without tiring of it.

By the way, putting food to one side, it might be interesting to consider what kind of “umami” we acquire as human beings? Whether someone is handsome or otherwise, with a sweet or a bitter face... I'm curious to know how a person grows into someone having "umami" both in terms of appearance and age. Wouldn’t it be interesting to think about a variety of human "umami" characteristics?

 As you grow older, don’t stand on your druthers... stop griping...
 No whining, no bagging of others...
 Be smart, act dumb… playing the fool is rum.
 Let the young go first, wave them through.
 Show gratitude to all, this will do.
 Such is the ultimate umami of old age,

 Use it often and freely, no joke,

 Children, grandchildren, all folk,
 Will love a sensible old bloke.
 Don't just grow old and senile,
 Take a hobby to keep your head clear.
 Have a purpose in life,
 Stay out of strife,
 And don’t count the days in the year. 

 
                                                        K.Yamakawa