Going straight to the point...
The Very Mysterious Talent of Tasting!
Often times, when we taste food, our palate can tell if something is missing, or if there is too much of anything. We can immediately tell if the food needs more salt, less garlic, or even a squeeze of lemon... At times, you might even think, “something is missing”, without really knowing exactly what the food is missing! You see, "cooking is innate and the palate is the expert" as Sir Gordon Ramsey Says, therefore, allow it to be your guide.
Despite the world over complicating matters of the palate, by insinuating that one must know every flavour under the sun, and must be able to tell what is what without looking, furthermore, that the palate must be of professional experience; it is all not that complicated really! We all can taste food, and anyone who likes food and enjoys eating knows exactly what they are looking for. That is precisely why we reach for that lemon wedge, add a sprinkling of salt or pepper, or even add nuts to a dish, not only for flavour but also for texture. So, yes, there are palates that are more sophisticated. There are individuals whose palates are extremely sensitive to flavours and others who are naturally talented in creating unusual flavour combinations... but those are not the only ones who can cook. Each one of us knows a good eating experience, and we all have a vision or a memory that we are trying to replicate and we all have palates that can taste and tell whether a combination works or doesn’t.
There is no better judge to help you achieve good flavours than your own individual palate. Therefore, and most importantly, in order to cook flavoursome concoctions
you must get in the habit of attentive tasting and smelling of your food while cooking as well as eating. There is no two ways about it: Season, taste then adjust. Add aromatics, taste and adjust.Also note that tasting the food after each addition will, overtime, make you an expert in creative flavour combinations. Because that exercise will show you how the flavour changes after any addition, as well as how different ingredients taste when combined.
Tasting does not happen only in the mouth, smelling is half the tasting experience.
Smell your food, smell the ingredients and smell the combinations, then taste. This is how you teach your palate the art of tasting. This is your only guaranteed path to flavour success.
Non-Professional Yet Effective Training
With that said, training your palate makes a huge difference. Approaching food open-mindedly and continuously trying new ingredients, flavours and textures always helps. Use your eating experiences as training opportunities.
Be aware of the food you eat. Notice the overall flavour palate and try to figure out which flavours are present. Is the food spiced (not necessarily hot)? If it is, then try to figure out which spices have been used. Are there hints of lemon or vinegar - sour? Is there sugar, honey or hints of cinnamon - sweet? Can you spot olives or zest – bitter? How about the seasoning – salt? Is the food well seasoned, over seasoned or under seasoned? You will find that the more conscious you are about the food you eat, the more expert your palate becomes.
Experiment continuously with ingredients, flavours and combinations to find out what goes with what.
Keep in mind, that while we all cook somewhat similar recipes, the outcome always varies from one cook to another, as when we cook for others, we are sharing our vision and take on the recipe. Therefore, don’t be overly anxious about changing the recipe and adding your own touch and flavour to the dish. After all, it is your vision and you are generously sharing it with others through the food you cook and serve.
Have a flavourful day ;)