Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Does Your Palate Have Perfect Pitch?

How would you do in a blind taste testing? The sensory-deprivation (no sight or sound) taste testing during Hell's Kitchen (um, a cooking competition show I enjoy) is one of my favorite challenges. I'm not sure how well I'd do blind-folded, sound canceling head-phones on, being spoon-fed unknown substances, but when OYT and The Engineer wanted “real maple syrup”, I thought I'd see how tuned their palates were.

Perfect pitch refers to the ability to hear a musical note and identify what it is. “Hmm...that feedback is an A-sharp”. Or if you're trying out for choir and they say, “Sing a high-C” can you do it? (I for one cannot. I can tell you if you did it wrong, but I cannot carry a tune if you put it in the basket, strapped the basket to my back, and then gave me a jet-pack...yet I'm cursed with the ability to hear my LACK of ability, and that of others. But I digress...) The Engineer has what I, in my word-nerd mathematical-analogy-ridden brain have come to refer as a perfect-pitch palate.

He can taste a dish at a restaurant and tell you what spices were used, then replicate the dish at home fairly accurately. He doesn't do this nearly enough, and not in a long time, but it's an amazing skill, and again, one I do not have. I can follow a recipe. Very well. But I still need to know what's in it.

I decided that when I put the $11.99 syrup (for 12 ounces) in my cart, instead of the $2.99 version (for 24 ounces) that I would put them to the test to see if it was worth 8x as much. (See! Useful math!) (Which I will explain at the end of the post for you unfortunate souls who got stuck with bad math teachers...)




I put a little bit of each kind on spoons (we had some of the cheap stuff still left at home). They made the mistake of tasting with their eyes first. One kind was very thick and rich looking, the other lighter and runnier. They both declared the cheap, high fructose corn syrup laden artificially flavored syrup much better. Creamier, fruitier flavor, much more pleasant than the slightly woody, thinner stuff.

They were not happy when they realized I had fooled them. OYT, ever the trying-to-please child, said, “Well thanks for the special treat, Mom, but you don't have to buy it again.” And put the cheap stuff on two out of three waffles. The Engineer decided to have eggs instead.

How perfect is your palate? Do you buy real maple syrup? Am I a cruel mom? Do tell...

~Tina


P.S One way to solve the problem is to make both syrup bottles the same size, so the 12 oz for $12 becomes 24 ounces for $24 dollars (double the size, double the price). Now you can compare $24 for 24 ounces versus $3 for 24 ounces. 3X8=24. It's 8 times as expensive.

15 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I probably wouldn't notice the difference. Sometimes expensive isn't always better.
I can identify musical notes though. Necessary when you're a musician!

JoJo said...

I've brought home the maple syrup from Canada and I've also purchased the store brand version of Aunt Jemima's and I prefer the store stuff. My bff just sent me some beautiful syrup from Vermont but it's too pretty to open (golden syrup in a crescent moon shaped bottle!).

Brian Miller said...

its funny...because of HK my wife and i will usually play a little game when we go out to see if we can pick out the ingredients in a dish....lol....

~Sia McKye~ said...

I can analyze and identify what's in a dish--not always done consciously and not as well as the Engineer. I like to replicate foods I've enjoyed elsewhere in my own kitchen. I can look at a new recipe and know immediately what I'll have to adjust subtract or add in the way of spices.

We have a neighbor who provides us with homemade maple syrup. It's good.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

D.G. Hudson said...

Real maple syrup is runnier, so many are surprised. I grew up with the thicker cane syrup. So, preference is really 'which consistency' does one likes.

Hubs and I try to re-do some recipes as well. It's fun to see if you can recapture the taste.

Funny post.

DAVID WALSTON said...

I almost always buy the store brand. My family can't tell the difference, but my wallet can.

Andrew Leon said...

I can tell the difference because the artificial stuff is just too sweet for me. Most things are, these days.

Kate @ Another Clean Slate said...

I like the cheap syrup too :) But expensive olive oil is worth it!

CA Heaven said...

I have one of these expensive bottles of maple syrup in my fridge. Bought it at Safeway in Estes Park many years ago. It lasts forever; maple syrup is not popular in our family.

Regarding math teachers, I've only had very good ones. This made math become my favorite class, and was a major reason why I studied math and physics for a total of eight years in university. For twenty years I have practiced math at work every day. Keep up the good math teaching, for the benefit of future science students >:)

Cold As Heaven

Pk Hrezo said...

I prefer all natural to anything artificial, but kids are different. They like the sugar!! lol
Cute story!
Thanks for signing up for my time trip blogfest! Can't wait to see where you'd pick. :)

Andrea said...

I didn't used to like maple at all, then moved into the fake stuff...now that I have gone real syrup I feel guilty buying anything else!

Jo said...

My palate is no longer what it used to be unfortunately, maple syrup is not something we eat much of, but give us a glass or two of red wine we will enjoy trying them out but couldn't guarantee picking out the expensive one, just the one we like.

You and your math Tina, I didn't even try and follow it. Yes, I had lousy math teachers except for one semester when I started to understand it. Only got one semester with this really good teacher though.

Cheryl said...

First, HI! I don't have to ask how you've been since I just read your latest post. I wish there was a magic wand to make some of your health issues disappear. I'm sorry you have to do the test AGAIN. My mantra for tonight is "Please let Tina crash and burn for 6 solid hours!"

This may sound odd, but $12 for 12 oz. of maple syrup sounds dirt cheap to me. I was curious about where it was made because you can't touch Grade A Pure (insert northern New England state name here) maple syrup for that price. I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference between HFCS maple flavored syrup and local syrup. I could be wrong but I have a fussy palate when it comes to things I grew up eating and I can tell the difference between today's just-picked corn and corn picked the day before and immediately refrigerated (which isn't easy to do).

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. I often wonder what my palate would say - I think I'd probably get it right most of the time. But I like the products I've grown up with .. Heinz Tomato Sauce for instance ... no other variety will do ...

Also those guess what the product is - thankfully I seem to be able to work those out .. but as I'm not at the table I can't do them all ..

Interesting about your maple syrup test - well done .. keeps them guessing, but at least you keep your food bill down slightly!

Cheers to you .. Hilary

Rachel said...

I feel like you explained the math just for me. Also, sorry for the late comment! Work has kept me busy lately. Now, I need some blueberry waffles...