Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 12:51 pm
Welcome Salt readers! We're Sandwich Monday, a regular feature from the staff of "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me," and we're moving in here to provide an antidote to the informative and insightful posts to which you're accustomed.
Supertasters are the Olympic athletes of gastronomy, able to detect subtle differences in flavors that other people never register. That talent may make for more than a discriminating palate, though. It may also warn them about attacking germs, and help them defend themselves against sinus infection.
This notion isn't as bizarre as it may seem. Bitter tastes have long been considered a danger signal in foods, warning about potential toxins in potatoes and other vegetables. If the potato's bitter, don't eat it.
The soaring drone of a full bagpipe and drum corps greeted thousands of people who marched into a Denver arena for the Great American Beer Festival this past weekend. The martial music seemed a fitting way to prepare the crowd to test their palates, and their fortitude, against 2,700 different beers made by some of the best breweries in the United States.
Falafel — those crispy, filling fried balls of mashed beans, herbs and spices — is found in cafes and homes all over the Middle East and parts of Africa. It's like a common language shared among sometimes fractious nations.
But until recently, I always thought falafel was made one way — garbanzo beans, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro and cumin. (That's how my Sudanese mother taught me.) But it turns out there are many recipes out there, each with a flavor distinct to its region.
Nerds, rejoice! It's Nobel season — the Oscars for lab rats, peacemakers and cognoscenti alike. Every fall, big thinkers around the world wait for a middle-of-the-night phone call from Sweden, dreaming of what they might do with the $1.2 million prize.