Yes, we all know about Americans’ love affair with food, and the broadening of our palates the past twenty years. One of the reasons I decided on an early career in advertising was that, back then, it meant a move to NYC, which meant an increased food spectrum. Where else could I get Malaysian delivered to my door on a whim at 11pm on a Tuesday evening?

Alas, no longer. The dance of Asian and Latin cuisine has changed what we expect from food, and all kinds of food, especially ever-present junk food available at arms length in every corner C-store. Nowadays food combinations are not just the providence of chefs, but chemists in laboratories such as International Flavors and Fragrances, who provide new potions to leading snack food manufacturers. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Miriam Gottfried, in addition to adding tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, food companies now seek to add “umani,” a Japanese word meaning “good flavor.”

Umani is not a flavor, but an experience to ‘amp’ food, bring up an intensity of flavor to satisfy the need for a spicier, fruitier, bigger flavor experience. The result? Potentially, the development of a generation of flavor junkies who become desensitized to the true flavors exhibited by ‘real’ food.

No  longer is hot good enough, now we need three levels of heat intensity. Fruit flavors blend to create a polyglot that really isn’t a flavor, but rather a fusion of high and low notes. We don’t really seek food that is flavorful, but rather a series of taste sensations packaged in various forms of food delivery systems.

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