Saturday, May 05, 2012

The spoon research group

 At the FT, Fuschia Dunlop on the alchemy of cutlery (site registration required):
The sight of 15 adults sucking their spoons like babies was an unusual start to a dinner party, but they had surprisingly different flavours. Copper and zinc were bold and assertive, with bitter, metallic tastes; the copper spoons even smelt metallic as they gently oxidised in the air. The silver spoon, despite its beauty, tasted dull in comparison, while the stainless steel had a faintly metallic flavour that is normally overlooked. As Miodownik pointed out, we were not just tasting the spoons but actually eating them, because with each lick we were consuming “perhaps a hundred billion atoms”.
 When the spoons were tasted with food, there were some surprising revelations. Baked black cod with zinc was as unpleasant as a fingernail scraped down a blackboard, and grapefruit with copper was lip-puckeringly nasty. But both metals struck a lovely, wild chord with a mango relish, their loud, metallic tastes somehow harmonised by its sweet-sour flavour. (“With sour foods, like mango and tamarind, you really are tasting the metal,” says Laughlin, “because the acid strips off a little of the surface.”) Tin turned out to be a popular match for pistachio curry. And Laughlin sang the praises of gold as a spoon for sweet things: “Gold has a smooth, almost creamy quality, and a quality of absence – because it doesn’t taste metallic.”
 I want to eat honey ice cream with a gold spoon...

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