Sybil Kapoor has written a cookbook based on the taste of food. This shouldn’t be surprising (it seems sensible enough – we cook for how things will end up tasting after all). What Sybil means is something a bit different – choosing ingredients on the basis of their taste. She calls this, ‘Taste: a new way to cook. And it is new – to the West. Others in the East have medical systems that include choosing food on the basis of taste.

The tastes are:

  • Sour
  • Salt
  • Bitter
  • Sweet
  • Chilli (rather than the more general spicy or pungent)

There is also another taste – the taste most commonly found in protein and meat sometimes called “bland” and recently technically labelled “umami”. This isn’t included in her list of tastes but rather fits in with each of them.

The book is divided up in to sections for each taste and gives recipes where this taste dominates. She also lists a few ingredients which are often used to bring this taste to a recipe.

The book is clearly written and well laid out with pictures of the recipes. The recipes are a little more complicated than I would make for my everyday meals. Though well within the range of what I would make for special meals (eg when I’ve invited some friends around). They don’t demand lots of machinery and aren’t complicated, just a bit more exotic and finicky than I usually make. If you are really into food you will probably love them.

The great advantage of Sybil’s approach is that once you know the tastes and how they combine you are free to try out a whole range of foods. You are free to cook everything and have a way to know what will work. It is the basis of a lifetime’s adventure and pleasure.

Sybil Kapoor – Taste a new way to cook. Mitchell Beazley an imprint of Octopus Publishing. 2003. 208pages

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