I made a vegetable soup today spiced by small amounts of vegetable stock, hoi sin sauce, angostura bitters, lea & perrins worcestershire sauce, Kikkomann soy sauce, maggi wrze, marmite, maille mustard. I can honestly say it was the best tasting soup I, or any of my guests, can remember having been served.
I routinely make soups that taste clearly better than any of the thousands of soups I had before I figured out the secret. There is no failure (I’ve done it 20-odd times), no worry about over- or under-cooking. Something else odd: There seems to be a ceiling effect. The texture could be better, the appearance could be much better, the creaminess could be better, sometimes the temperature could be better, the sourness could be better, but I can’t imagine it could be more delicious.
Why wasn’t this figured out earlier? I’ve looked at hundreds of cookbooks and thousands of recipes. I haven’t seen one that combines three or more sources of great complexity, as I do and the commenter did. There may be more trial and error surrounding cooking than anything else in human life. Billions of meals, day after day.
I think it goes back to my old comment (derived from Jane Jacobs) that farmers didn’t invent tractors. Some people claimed they did but I think we can all agree farmers didn’t invent the engine on which tractors are based. You can’t get to tractors from trial and error around pre-tractor farming methods. Even though farmers are expert at farming. I think that’s what happened here. I am not a food professional or even a skilled cook. My expertise is in psychology (especially psychology and food). Wondering why we like umami, sour, and complex flavors led me to a theory (the umami hypothesis) that led me to a new idea about how to cook.
And this goes back to what many people, including Atul Gawande, fail to understand about how to improve our healthcare system. The supposed experts, with their vast credentials, can’t fix it — just as farmers couldn’t invent tractors. Impossible. The experts (doctors, medical school professors, drug companies, alternative healers) have a serious case of gatekeeper syndrome. The really big improvements will come from outsiders. Outsiders who benefit from change. To fix our healthcare system, empower them.