Essential Knowledge 8: Colour and Fragrance (色臭須知)

須知單::色臭須知
目與鼻,口之鄰也,亦口之媒介也。嘉肴到目、到鼻,色臭便有不同。或淨若秋雲,或艷如琥珀,其芬芳之氣,亦撲鼻而來,不必齒決之、舌嘗之,而後知其妙也。然求色不可用糖炒,求香不可用香料。一涉粉飾,便傷至味。

List of Essential Knowledge::Colour and Fragrance
As neighbours to the mouth, both the eyes and the nose also act as guides in engaging the mouth [1]. When a dish is seen and smelled, its colour and fragrance is compounded. If the dish looks crisp and clear as the autumn clouds, its colour as voluptuous as amber, and its alluring fragrance wafts into the nose, one does not need to feel a piece of the food against one’s teeth or taste it with one’s tongue to know how great it actually is [2]. It should be noted however, that in wanting colour in a dish, one should not resort to using caramel colouring, and in wanting fragrance, one should not resort to using flavourants [3]. Once such “make-up” is applied, a dish’s true flavours would be obscured and irreparably damaged.

Bouillon cubes
Flavouring “make-up” cubes. Made from the condensed shame of second-rate chefs.

Random notes:

[1]: The Chinese text is more interesting, indicating that the eyes and noise are neighbours (鄰) but also match-makers (媒) for the mouth. This parallels Chinese societies, where neighbours often act as introductors or match-makers for local young men and women.

[2]: I find this to be rather observant on his part since this Scientific American article says: “…food and drink are identified predominantly by the senses of smell and sight, not taste”.

[3]: This is industrialized food in one sentence; using caramel colouring and fragrance compounds as substitutes to quality and technique. It’s the swill in your frozen food isle, the “grill marks” on your Chicken at your local McBurger’s, and that giant box of Knorr’s cubes found in the kitchen of those chic French restaurants.

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