Om nom nom

Lobster rolls are, of course, the World’s Most Perfect Food — but there are a lot of other foods that come pretty close to perfection, too. My short list includes cheddar cheeseburgers, pizza, Caesar salad with anchovies, buttered toast with Marmite, miso soup, sauteed mushrooms, thinly sliced prosciutto over melon …. I’m drooling even as I type!

The interesting thing is that all of these foods have something quite important in common — “umami,” or the fifth taste. Umami is found in foods that are rich in amino acids, which the body can use easily to build proteins. Food scientists also theorize humans evolved to seek out foods with umami because it includes compounds called nucleotides that support a healthy immune system. Because it’s so good for us, umami is a big contributor to our feeling of satisfaction when a meal is over. In my case, I find that it makes it easier for me to eat healthily if what I’m eating includes, for example, a dash of soy or Worcestershire sauce or a grating of cheese. Otherwise, I tend to graze indefinitely, and that’s not good.

Whether you consider yourself a foodie or not, you owe it to yourself to experiment with umami in your cooking and eating. Your palate will thank you for it. And you’ll thank me for giving you a legitimate reason to eat more pizza!

ETA: If you’re interested in adding umami to your life, I suggest getting a box of Spike (I love it in cottage cheese!) at your local natural foods store. It does contain hydrolized vegetable protein, which is a glutamate; I’ve added it to nearly everything I eat for years and have never had an adverse reaction. I’ve even got Mr. Pants hooked on it!

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