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Umami

I can’t write about San Fran and Slow Food Nation without my photos. I’m too much of a visual person. So until I manage to get my memory card unloaded (please, God, let them be there), let’s stick with the present.

My first project assignment for my art class is to design what the umami taste receptor on the tongue might look like (or it could be umami itself) in Adobe Illustrator and then translate it to a 3D design in paper. Yowsa. I still don’t know what the due date is, and I’m new to Macs and just started using Illustrator tonight. I just made a noise in my throat that was impossible to describe with letters.

Sort of like umami. I love the concept. Here’s what his handout says about umami – a story from NPR in December 2007 by Robert Krulwich:

Glutamate is found in most living things, but when they die, when organic matter breaks down, the glutamate molecule breaks apart. This can happen on a stove when you cook meat, over time when you age a parmesan cheese, by fermentation as in soy sauce or under the sun as a tomato ripens. When glutamate becomes L-glutamate, that’s when things get ‘delicious.’ L-glutamate, said Ikeda, is a fifth taste. When Escoffier created veal stock, he was concentrating umami. When Japanese made their dashi, they were doing the same thing. When you bite into an anchovy, they are ‘like glutamate speedballs. They are pure umami,’ Jonah writes… Humans do have receptors for L-glutamate and when something is really, really yummy in a non-sweet, sour, bitter or salty way, that’s what you’re tasting.”

All I can think about at the moment are beans. Bean shapes and colors. I am truly in love with beans this year. But I could see a lot of ways to go with this.

What is your visualization of umami?

(Overnight I kept waking and thinking of seaweed, and mushroom gills.)

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