Friends, gather round: It's time to test your food knowledge. When you eat delicious strawberries, enjoy fresh fish, or down a rejuvenating beer, you probably think you can discern the flavors bringing those foods to life. Well, it turns out food is more complicated than just the basic taste groups like sweetness and bitterness. Today, we're going to see how refined your sense of taste really is.
Below are 10 different foods (the first is peanut butter; the second, apple cider; the last, beer). Below each of them are four other foods, only one of which has a strong, chemical—as in objective, scientific—flavor overlap with the original ingredient. Your task is to decide which foods have the most flavors in common.
You might know that flavors actually represent specific molecular compounds, especially if you read my recent piece about what makes Indian food so delicious. The essence is this: If you were to zoom into each food, you would find dozens of "flavor compounds." On average, there are roughly 50 in each ingredient. For example, as the Chicago Tribune has noted, chocolate contains "dozens of esters, which give chocolate its fruity character, and at least 20 lactones, which lend chocolate a dairy-like note, ... and a compound called trimethylamine that, when isolated, smells fishy."
That last one, trimethylamine, can be found in other, more overtly fishy foods, like caviar. It's for that very reason that many chefs have paired the two unlikely foods—chocolate and caviar—together.
With that said, let's see if your knowledge of food and flavor is as good as you think it is.
(h/t Scientific American, whose nifty chart from 2013 inspired and informed the above quiz.)