The Chocolate Life

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So, I was reading a little about how to describe flavors of chocolate. It makes a lot of sense. I think I could do pretty well with chocolate if I tried. (Well, for a beginner, anyway.)

But it got me to thinking about flavors that I have trouble describing. They're not usually in chocolate, but I thought maybe you might know something about it. No one ever knows what I'm talking about and they deny these flavors exist, but I'll give it a shot anyway. :)

There's one thing in particular that I'm thinking of right now. It's a flavor in yogurt and cheesecake. It lingers on the back of my tongue. I don't like it. Some people try to tell me it's tang, I'm just not certain. Maybe I'm confusing tang with tart, because when I think tang, I think fruit flavors. It's almost something I would describe as acidic. Whatever it is, I find it unpleasant enough to be unable to eat those foods.

And I just remembered another. There's a very distinct flavor associated with anything I've eaten that comes from the sea. It tastes the way the fish section in the grocery store smells. But when I tell people that a particular fish is fishy, they tell me I'm crazy. Apparently they can't taste something that I can't get past. Does that happen? Do I have some sort of extra strong tastebuds, or does no one else pay that much attention to what they're eating. I just can't change it. I try so hard to eat fishy or yogurty foods because I want to fit in with everyone, but I just can't stomach it. It actually does make social gatherings challenging.

Anyway, I'm trying to learn more about this sort of thing. Thanks for reading!


I remembered another. Mushrooms have a very distinctive flavor that I can't describe. Some say 'earthy', but I don't think that's it. It's relatively subtle - almost undetectable - in the beginning, then it finishes strong with this flavor. If you cook with mushrooms, this flavor does not get transfered to the rest of the food. Sorry, that's the best I can do right now. Maybe if I taste more kinds of food, I'll get a better feel for it.

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Tags: cheesecake, fish, flavors, mushrooms, notes, taste, yogurt


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Comment by Dee on February 16, 2010 at 10:38pm
Wow, Tom, thanks! I think you're on to something! I also don't like parmesan cheese. I bet amines are in that as well. I definitely associate these flavors with some very foul things that I chose not to mention on here because I didn't want to be rude. One other thing I found this unpleasantness in is tomatoes.
Comment by Tom on February 16, 2010 at 9:37pm
Sounds like you are sensitive to amines. Peoples thresholds for detection of different compounds differes quite a lot. Take for instance the newly described pepper aroma compound, thought to be the dominant compound but only just discovered because something like only 85% of people can detect it.

Anyway, you have just described the foods I am not fond of and the only reason I can think is a sensitivity to amines. These give fish their aroma obviously but the mushroom flavour I liken to a bad raw meat aroma, I think the compounds responsible are trace amounts of cadavarine or putrecine (amines) derived through the breakdown of certain amino acids. I also pick up these flavours in red wine that has gone through bad malolactic fermentation. Noone else I know detects these or associates them with the bad raw meat aroma. Because of course it may just be perception based, I associate the aroma/taste with something bad I have experienced and others don't.

I also find Ocumare chocolate disgusting, it has a flavour component that reminds me of pig trucks that go past on the freeways sometimes - also I suspect amine based compounds.

This is just what I think mind you, it is my experience in organic chemistry and the wine industry that have lead me to hypothesise this but it could all be wrong, I haven't had the time or inclination to collect samples, calibrate an LCMS for particular amines and then run the samples. Though I am certainly very good at picking bad malolactic fermentation in red wines during tastings.

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