This poem came from the December 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from wyld_dandelyon. It was sponsored by Shirley Barrette.
Here I'm exhibiting one of my odd quirks: I feel that spelling influences the subtle connotations of some words. I used the British spelling of "savour" and "flavour" in this poem, because I feel the extra "u" gives the words more breadth and weight and complexity. Also, notice that one verse focuses on the scientific process of taste, using big fancy chemical words in a culinary context with a positive connotation -- rather than the negative connotation of food additives as in some other poems from this month's session. Later lines reinforce the idea that kitchen chemistry can be a cool thing. So poetry is good for exploring different aspects of an idea.
The taste buds recognize
bitter, salty, sour, sweet --
and the ellusive other
of savoury foods, a flavour
with no name in English.
Borrowed from Japanese,
umami is the taste of that which is
rich and dark, meaty and earthy.
It is the ooo and the umm
of birth and nurturing,
first flavour becoming first word.
It is the tongue mother
which encompasses all other tastes,
embracing and completing them.
It mellows and blends other flavours,
spreading them deliciously
throughout the mouth.
It is particular to the taste
of glutamates and nucleotides,
the amino acid L-glutamate
like guanosine monophosphate
and inosine monophosphate.
The carboxylate anion of glutamate
activates specific receptor cells
in the tongue, sending a message
to the brain: tasty.
The science behind the savour
illuminates what we already knew:
like the fifth element,
umami unites the other four,
spirit making matter lively.
The cook in the kitchen
is secretly a chemist,
boiling bones and peels for stock,
blending tomatoes and parmesan,
adding a dab of fish sauce to this or that ...
molecules dancing invisibly, evocatively,
to the twirl of a simple spoon.