Have you ever thought about how few foods begin with U?? Ugli fruit being the only one I could think of, which I didn’t want to talk about today. It’s still one more food than than I have for X at the moment. The letters Q, V, Z?? NO problem!
I looked up U in my old Joy of Cooking: Urchins. Sea urchins. Really? They call them “sea tidbits”, “sea eggs” and one of the “edible treats” at the shore. Really?? No, thank you.
Let’s talk instead about umami, the “fifth taste”. The four being sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami is a word borrowed from the Japanese to describe a pleasant savory taste that comes from glutamate, an amino acid (amino acids make up proteins, if you remember your high school biology). It is subtle and blends well with other flavors. As an amino acid making up protein, glutamate is found in most foods, such as meat, fish, and vegetables. Typical foods rich in umami are tomatoes, mushrooms, beef, and Parmesan cheese. Also seaweed, oyster sauce and many other Japanese foods…which is, I think, why we borrowed the word from them. So when you are eating these foods, umami adds a richness to the flavor. The umami information center, http://www.umamiinfo.com/ can tell you everything you need to know, including that it was established in 1982 to disseminate info about umami. That’s over 30 years ago!
Pictured: From last summer, an heirloom tomato slice with cheese (sharp white cheddar, which also has some umami), both on whole grain bread, about to go under the broiler for a few minutes. Breakfast! Lunch! Yum!