Most sadly see food as a source (or sauce) of gratification through the satisfaction of hunger alone. For billions living subsistence lives, this is the product of crushing economic destitution. In the West, it is the result of our impoverished souls. Many see food as a fuel, something to power or heal the body – not to stimulate the mind. Others seek refinement, mindfully enjoying a variety of individual flavours. Pleasurable indulgences no doubt, but food’s value is often reduced to middle-class one-upmanship through the pretence of expense, novelty and fashion.

Most do not appreciate that flavour, through food, is a language. Not of words, but like words, they have the power to illicit memories, incite passions and create emotional responses. Individual flavours need to be learnt, but their definitions already resonate within. It is impossible to teach a child the taste of an orange from a textbook. Through direct experience alone, the flavour may effortlessly echo the vibrancy of summer through a lifetime.

Likewise, justifying the expense of vintage Bordeaux by its anise aroma, leathery tannins and juicy bramble flavour is simply a bourgeois parlour game. When Van Gogh’s Sunflowers sold for eighty-three million dollars, it was not because two people were staggered by shades of orange – their senses transported them to a place that words can only signpost them to. Flavour in itself, along with colour, words, and sounds only take one so far. It is how they are expressed in combination within a personal context that speaks directly to our souls. Experience counts for everything – flavour bypasses the intellect. Bitter, sour, salt and sweet are the vehicles in which we learn directly of heritage, history, climate and customs – and what could be more important? They speak of our childhoods, ambitions and private desires. It is this medium of meaning which speaks directly to our humanity, which is both priceless and available to all. Bon Appétit.

The language of flavour