Cooking and Eating Use All of Your Senses
Cooking Tips

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Cooking and Eating Require Your Using All of the Senses

Cooking and Eating
Require You Use All of the Senses

Sadly, we often eat without really taking notice of what we're eating. When we eat this way, we are gypping our senses (ears, eyes, nose, and touch) of the full experience that eating can offer. But that also applies to the cooking process. How can you expect the dish to come out great if you haven't experienced the process using all of your senses?

As the COOK

1. Use Your Eyes

When you're planning the menu, think about the colors and shapes of the various foods that will appear on the plate. It's not very appetizing to have everything the same color. For example, having a plate with French cut string beans, spinach fettuccine in basil pesto sauce is too monotone a color palette. Also note that the shapes or textures of the string beans and pasta are too similar, giving no excitement to the dish. If you want the string beans, then choose a whole wheat penne pasta and top it with a tomato sauce. You've now got different shapes, textures, and colors.

Even before you start to cook a dish, use your eyes and be sure that the ingredients you're using are fresh. If you're cooking fish, are the eyes clear? If you're cooking with fresh herbs, are the leaves crisp? If you're cooking fresh broccoli, is the cut end of the stalk green? You get the idea. Make sure what you're cooking is worth the cooking.

As you cook the dish, let's say it's a dish that requires browning onions or meat., what color are those onions before you add other ingredients? They should be golden brown, not just beige and not dark, dark brown (because that means you've overcooked them with a potential for them tasting slightly burnt). If you're grilling meat, are you getting grill marks on the meat? Every step of the cooking process requires that you use your eyes.

Beautifully plating the dish takes an eye to the arrangement of the food on the plate. Today's chef views the plate as his or her canvas upon which the picture is presented. Foods shouldn't just be slapped onto the plate in blobsbut artistically arranged. It doesn't take more time to present food in an appetizing way and the affect and enjoyment of the food is far greater.

2. Use Your Nose

Your nose can tell you a lotabout the freshness of your food. Smell the fish. If it has a fishy smell, it's not fresh. Even though you can cook it and probably not get sick, that fish smell is going to translate into off-flavors in the finished dish.

When you're browning those onions, you'll smell them go from a very strong volatile onion smell to an almost sweet fragrant smell. Brown them too long and your nose will start to smell the sugars in the onions burning.

When using spices, smell them. Most people keep their spices in their pantry way too long. After about 6 months spices have lost a lot of their volatile oils that give them their distinctive flavors. When you have the opportunity, buy your spices in whole seeds,cook them in a hot skillet for a few minutes, cool them and then grind them. That's when you'll get to enjoy the full potency of the spice.

Use Your Ears

The cooking process requires your ears as much as your eyes. When a recipe says to heat the oil in a skillet, you'll know that it's hot enough when the food hits the pan and lets out with a sizzle. (Of course, if you were watching closely, you would also have noticed that the oil takes on a shimmer when it's finally getting to the right temperature.)

Chopping foods also requires your ears. Put some nuts in a food processor and the sound of resistance dwindles as the nuts take on a smaller and smaller size.

4. Use Your Sense of Touch

Touch is definitely just as important as using your eyes, nose, and ears. Our fingers can give us so much information during the cooking process. When you're making fish, feel the skin to be sure all the scales have been removed.

If you're making meatballs, don't mix it with a spoon—mix it with your hands. You'll know exactly how much more liquid you need to add to make a meatball that holds together. The same applies to making bread. It may be easy to just put all the ingredients in a breadmaker and let it mix, knead, rise, and bake the bread. But, you're missing that tactile sensation of the exact point where the bread dough has enough moisture and has been kneaded sufficiently.

Your hands can tell you when vegetables are past their prime. Using the fingertip method, you can even tell when your steak is done to your likeness.

As the DINER

1. Use Your Eyes

Even before you've lifted your fork and knife to start to eat, you're using your eyes to assess the dish. You notice the colors, shapes, and the way the food is arranged on the plate. You've even noticing whether the food is living up to what you had already imagined in your mind the dish would look like.


2. Use Your Nose

What does the dish smell like? If it's a hot dish, the scent will be even more pronounced. When you place the food in your mouth, not only are your taste buds going to work but your nose is pulling in a lot of information about the food. The information is going up the nose via the bak of your throat. In fact, even before you've put the food in your mouth, give it a good sniff. You're preparing your mouth and brain, creating expectations of what this food is going to taste like based on how it smells.

3. Use Your Ears

Can you hear the dish sizzling? How about you bite into those vegetables? Your broccoli may have a slight crunch to it. When you eat raw carrots, you definitely hear a crunch. Eating potato chips gives you a different crunch sound. Try breaking a sugar snap pea in half. You hear a snapping sound.

4. Use Your Sense of Touch

Your first thought when told to use your "sense of touch" is probably to go feel your food. That is part of it. There's a totally different feel in the hand to a sandwich made with Wonder Bread than that made with a ciabbata roll. Same thing goes for the feel of a piece of raw cauliflower to that of cherry tomatoes.

But your sense of touch really extaned to your mouth, which we call "mouth feel". Eat potato chips and you'd say they're crunch. Eat mashed potatoes and you'd probably say they're smooth and fluffy. Why do you think people eat fried foods (besides it tasting good)? There is a pleasure in that crunchy, crispy coating compared to whatever is inside. That's what makes food so appealing is contrast.

Bon Appetit!

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