Taste What You’re Missing!

Barb Stuckey’s Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good” provides an in-depth explanation for one of the most pleasurable and important aspects of living — eating food. In a language that is easily understandable even for folks who do not have strong food science background, Stuckey has successfully rendered me many times more aware of my senses anytime food is in my general vicinity. After reading this book, I am equipped with a basic knowledge of how each of my senses affect my “sensory experience” of consuming food, the different building blocks of taste, how professional tasters taste (and you can too!), and a good argument for why on a gastronomical level urban agriculture is preferable to industrial.

A professional food developer at Mattson, Stuckey has spent decades of her life honing her taste buds and has experienced many fine dining establishments all over the world. Living in San Francisco, Stuckey provides many eating examples in her book from times she has eaten out around the city with her husband and friends. This book reminded me of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste excerpt that we read in class; even including a similar example of how people without tongues eat.

Taste What You’re Missing is divided into four different sections: The Workings of the Senses, The Basic Tastes, The Nuances of Flavor, and Putting it All Together (a section on balancing flavor in recipes). My favorite section was the first one on the senses. I was fascinated by how each one of my senses could contribute to my eating experience. For example, Stuckey explained how our expected sound of a food, the crunch of a potato chip, for example, could affect how we perceive a food tastes. If a particular potato chip lacks that satisfying crunch sound, we are prone to wonder if the chip may be stale or otherwise unsatisfactory, and thus enjoy the snack significantly less.

As stated previously, Taste What You’re Missing is written in a very easy to follow language. Stuckey’s tone is that of an experienced eater who is seemingly simply entertaining you with a conversation about food over dinner. Much of her content provides advice for restaurant owners on how to properly hone one’s establishment to enhance patron experience, and clues for patrons on signs of good/bad eateries. While the audience she is writing for seems to be more of the older, wealthier individuals who will have more resources to eat out at nice restaurants, Stuckey writes of something obviously universal.

That being said, after reading this book I feel there is much content inside that can be applied to urban agriculture. Namely, there are many taste benefits to produce grown on an urban farm versus on a faraway industrial farm. Stuckey discusses how tomatoes on an industrial farm, for example, are grown with the need for hardiness for transport in mind, and thus are lacking in juiciness and volatile content. Urban agriculture, on the other hand, is grown right around the corner from the mouth that will consume it, and thus the farmer can focus on making that heirloom tomato as juicy, aromatic and volatile heavy as possible.

All in all, this book is a great read for those of us who eat, which is hopefully everybody. Taste What You’re Missing helps you do just what the title says — experience the nuances behind food and sharpen your “eye” for good food.


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