Eight Flavors takes the reader from the search for black pepper in 1801 in Salem, MA to the birth of Sriracha in CA in 1980. The twists and turns of the eight flavors and their arrival, embrace and in one case rejection (MSG) in the US makes for an interesting read.
Sarah Lohman has done her research and produced a book that not only deals with the history of the eight flavors but the chemistry, the human interest angles and many ways to experience them.
The eight flavors: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha each have their unique story of the how and why they became an integral part of American cuisine.
The most interesting to me was the much-maligned MSG. I had bought into the Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS) with the culprit being MSG. Although I am not a migraine sufferer, I had blamed MSG on various ailments that seemed to present themselves after indulging in a Chinese buffet. But always in the back of my mind was remembering that little canister of Accent that my mom used as a flavor enhancer. The fact that MSG is in many foods we American eat that don’t cause the CRS symptoms was an eye opener for me. An example given in the book was Doritos which contains MSG.
The most inspiring flavor to me was the introduction of Sriracha. I have to admit that at the time of this writing, I have not knowingly experienced Sriracha. But I plan to alleviate that very soon. I always assumed it was very hot. I like some very hot food. But I was picturing a reaction similar to eating a tablespoon of wasabi. But after finding out that tabasco on my eggs which I like might be hotter than Sriracha on my eggs makes me want to find out if that is true.
If you are into food and into history Eight Flavors will welt your appetite for both.
I received a free copy of the book from NetGalley in exchanged for my honest review. Thank you.