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February 4, 2013 Meeting

January 28, 2013

Deliciousness and the Science Behind It

Ole G Mouritsen

MEMPHYS-Center for Biomembrane Physics

University of Southern Denmark

Use of the term umami to describe the sensation of deliciousness in food is finding its way into the Western culinary vocabulary. Umami is now ranked as a fifth basic taste along with the four classical tastes: salty, sour, sweet, and bitter. Dr. Ole Mouritsen will review the concept of umami and deliciousness in a historical, evolutionary, and scientific context and describe recent advances in the understanding of the sensory perception of umami and the involved taste receptors. The unique molecular mechanism behind umami sensation is now partly understood as an allosteric (synergetic) action of glutamate and certain 5’-ribonucleotides on the umami receptors, and it explains why certain pairs of foodstuff taste delicious, e.g., eggs with bacon, meat with vegetables, and konbu with katsuobushi. Home and professional cooks and chefs across the world are more or less unknowingly exploiting this synergy in preparing delicious meals. As a specific example, Dr. Mouritsen will describe experimental work with chefs on producing dashi and umami flavor from Nordic seaweeds (http://www.flavourjournal.com/content/1/1/4).

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