Umami of Race

The traditional point of view of taste is the four; sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Scientifically our human tongue can experience these flavors. However, Umami is also the flavor humans can taste just like spiciness. It’s your fifth taste of deliciousness that is subtle and undeniably there. Chefs around the world are embracing Umami as a flavor and strive to create that “tastiness” flavor, having us all craving for more. Umami is a glutamate amino acid found in mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, fatty chicken, and beef. 

If you have ever had Doritos, Sushi, Miso Soup, Chicken Noodle soup of the many others, you have experienced Umami. 

Umami, sadly, got its bad name due to xenophobia and racism. When a Japanese chemist isolated the glutamate, he discovered the new flavor umami and reproduced it in the crystallized form, commonly known as MSG. Also, an ignored ingredient in the spice aisle. And here’s why. A racist letter was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968, blaming the Umami for pain and heart palpitations in MSG rich food, which is false. Helen Rosner, food correspondent, in her essay in the New Yorker, writes, when Anthony Bourdain asked David Chang on a 2016 episode of “Parts Unknown.” ” You know what causes Chinese Restaurant Syndrome?” Then he answered: “Racism.”

And this is where we are—still fighting racism. In our neighborhoods, our schools, our communities, our streets, our country, our world. The color on our skin has been the deciding factor in economic and social injustice. I don’t have to lecture you on what’s going on right now. If you have a bleeding heart, you are hurting like me and all the mother’s who heard George Floyd cry for his mamma fighting for his last breath. A big man choked to death only because of racism. 

As we move forward, there’s one more thing we can change—perception [assumptions] based on lies and xenophobia. For example, Black men steal, brown people are dirty, indigenous people are drunks, etc., 

White men steal too; Brown people didn’t roll around the mud to be brown; Indigenous people are also artists, writers, chefs, leaders. 

Every culture has its Umami. Italians find theirs in tomatoes, French in their mushrooms, Koreans in their fermented foods. You get the idea. So, before we set out to open our mouths or take action based on perceived notions or assumptions, check them. Discover your own Umami. I dare you!

P.S Here’s my favorite Umami. Yondu is a vegetable-based Umami. I add it on burgers, stir fry, soup and enjoy the deliciousness.

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