Robert's Story: Flavor Hounds

It was an interesting departure from the usual business one night at Suppers, when we were reading about how people develop the taste for particular foods. The conclusion was that food scientists had it all figured out and that it related to designing combinations of ingredients that change how people feel. Each one of us could name a favorite fruit and a few vegetables we enjoy, but the foods that we used to feel less lonely or give us a boost of energy were all manufactured foods. We all had health problems related to a weakness for sweet, creamy, and starchy comfort foods. The diagnoses that brought us to Suppers were varied: depression, low blood sugar, high blood sugar, and anxiety. One member was there primarily to learn how to feed a chronically constipated child with asthma and no interest in meals, just snack foods. We were health relatives, people who are related to one another by virtue of requiring similar solutions to different problems. In our collective “natural reality,” it didn’t matter that our diagnoses were different; we were all there to solve the same real problem: how to develop a taste for whole foods that would reverse our diet-related illnesses.

We thought we’d make up recipes that subtracted the worst processed ingredients and emphasized the appeal of healthy foods. None of us is a trained chef, so nothing got in the way of our fervor to try just about anything. It was November, so we had piles of squash, onions, and apples. We wanted a robust, autumnal flavor, so we roasted the squash instead of boiling it. We wanted something smooth and something crunchy, so we puréed some of the squash to make the soup creamy and roasted some pecans with nutmeg for garnish. Most of us were meat eaters, but there was one vegetarian. So we topped her soup with roasted cauliflower and everyone else’s with slices of roasted chicken.

The soup was delicious. We decided to spend the next few weeks looking for recipes or developing our own ideas for how to make food taste good without a lot of sugar, fat, starch, or salt. We made sure to have plenty of lemons and limes, nuts to roast, and sprouts for a healthy crunch. We made sure that vegetarian soups had a variety of vegetables and at least one kind of legume. We became connoisseurs of hot sauce, vinegars, and mustards: inexpensive ingredients that pack a lot of flavor.

At Suppers we talk about the importance of developing a spirit of creativity. For our group, that manifests as cooking with the goal of addressing our diagnoses, which are different, and our challenge, which is the same: learning to love whole food.