While much of my cooking is done by touch and feel and taste, I'm also interesting in the science behind food and flavor and cooking and nutrition.
One interesting thing is how much our sense of smell affects what we taste. We all know how lousy food tastes when we're sick, right? That's because when we're all stuffed up, we can't smell the food we're eating, so all the flavors are dull and muted.
The Aroma R-evolution kit from Molecule-R is designed to play with the connection between your sense of smell and your taste. The kit comes with a number of vials, some wacky forks, some little pads that fit into the forks, and some plastic droppers.
The idea is that you put the pad in its place on a fork, put a drop of one of the scents on the pad, and then taste food while purposely inhaling the scent.
It's an interesting experience as the scents actually cause you to taste - really taste - the flavors of things that you're not eating.
It makes the most sense to try compatible flavors. Probably the best I sampled was a mint scent while eating chocolate cake. I tasted the chocolate first, and after I swallowed, the mint was distinctly there, just like I had eaten a chocolate mint. It was pretty surprising.
The kit divides the scents into six categories and includes 21 scents: beans (chocolate, coffee, and vanilla); fruits (banana, lychee, passion fruit and strawberry); herbs (basil, cilantro and mint); nuts: (almond, coconut and peanut); spices (black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and wasabi) and umami (butter, olive oil, smoke and truffle).
While this kit is fun, I doubt anyone's going to eat a whole dinner with these forks and scents. But there is a practical purpose, and it's something I actually do with some spices when I'm cooking.
What I do is taste the food while I sniff the spice jar, and it gives me an idea of whether that spice will go well with whatever I'm cooking. Of course I already know what spices I'm likely to use in a spaghetti sauce or chili, but if I'm winging it with a soup or stew, there are times when I think it needs a little extra something, but I'm not sure what. So I taste and sniff to see what spice might fill that flavor gap that I think might be missing. It's possible someone might use the kit in the same way, sniffing to see if more butter or smoke or banana would make the dish better.
Or, you know, it's just a fun thing to have around when you make that vanilla cake and your guests want to try coconut, ginger, and chocolate - or a mix of flavors. Smoky mint, anyone?
I received this kit as a gift.