Friday, October 21, 2016

Would You Eat Broccoli if it Tasted Like Chocolate?

What's the difference between broccoli and boogers?

Kids don't like to eat broccoli.

I don't blame them. I hate broccoli.

There, I said it. I hate broccoli. I don't like it, I don't like the way it tastes, and I avoid eating it whenever possible. I'm like that episode of West Wing where President Bartlett didn't like green beans, and the green bean farmers of America clutched their pearls in despair.

(Just to be clear, I don't eat boogers either.)

It's not that I'm opposed to eating vegetables. Not even resistant. It's not like I refuse to eat vegetables. It's just that when I'm given the option of eating them versus not eating them, I don't always make a mature choice.

Sorry, ever. I don't ever make a mature choice.

I mean, when you have a choice between a salad and a cheeseburger, I think most people would like to choose the cheeseburger. And those who don't are lying.

That's not to say they will actually choose the cheeseburger, they would just like to. I'd bet there are even some vegans who still sigh and gaze fondly off into their childhoods when they think about cheeseburgers. With bacon. And the cheese is a little drippy. And the bun is shiny. And there's some burger grease running down your wrist.

But what if you could taste that delicious wonderful cheeseburger, without actually having to eat it? My wife would be thrilled; she worries about me.

What if you could make your salad taste like a cheeseburger, or broccoli taste like chocolate?

According to a story in The (London) Daily Mail, such a device now exists. The Taste Buddy is a small electronic processor, with some wires connected to an electronic tab nearly an inch wide. You place the tab on your tongue, where it will heat up or send weak electrical currents that stimulate specific taste receptors, and certain foods will taste sweet or salty, even when they're not.

By doing this, you can trick your taste buds into thinking that normally terrible and repulsive foods, like broccoli, are sweet like chocolate, or that your cauliflower tastes like a cheeseburger.

Professor Adrian Cheok of City University of London, who led the team of inventors, is excited about what this could mean for the health of its users, especially those users who would choose cheeseburgers over broccoli. He said they want to eventually expand its capabilities and target the other flavor receptors of the tongue, sour and bitter.

The article mentioned a fifth taste receptor called Umami, which was added to the list of taste sensations in 2009. But the name sounds stupid, so I won't discuss it any further.

In the meantime, researchers are also working on — Seriously, Umami? Ooh mommy?! It sounds like something invented while meditating over their bowl of granola and turbo flax. Who says ooh mommy, except maybe a little kid trying to get her mother's attention?

"Ooh Mommy, there's a pony!"

"Ooh Mommy, I want a balloon!"

"Ooh Mommy, my broccoli tastes better than my boogers now!"

(To be fair, the word is actually Japanese in origin, but I had already written those jokes by the time I learned that, and I wanted to keep them.)

The article said it could even one day be possible to make people think that tofu tastes like steak. I don't think I could go for that, no matter what it tasted like. I've eaten tofu, and it's got a mouth feel of congealed snot. The only thing that will get rid of the taste of tofu away is broccoli.

But maybe I'm cooking the tofu wrong. Another method I could try is to sauté the tofu in Irish butter, with minced garlic, shallots, some freshly ground pepper, and then throw it in the trash.

Eventually, Cheok and his colleagues hope to fit the Taste Buddy into normal dining utensils and drink cans. That way, when you sit down to your fifth meal of broccoli in as many days, you don't have to have to futz around with this small box on your table.

But trust me, if it made broccoli taste like chocolate, I'd wear a car battery around my neck.

Instead, you'll just grab your special spoon, switch it on, and power through as much chocolate-flavored broccoli as you want. I just hope other scientists are inventing a set of goggles to make my broccoli look like a sundae.

And maybe a small kitchen incinerator for the tofu.


Photo credit: Quadell (Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License)



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