For as long as I can remember, there were two kinds of people.
There were those with a cultured palate, who savored escargot dressed in a white wine and garlic sauce with a side of lightly roasted rosemary asparagus. Then there were those without such a discriminating sense of taste; the latter being the most likely to win a hot dog eating contest.
But palates are evolving along with everything else. We now have snack choices that include bacon-flavored milkshakes, birthday cake-flavored sandwich cookies and nacho cheese taco shells. Those of us formally thought not to be so discriminating might actually have a sense — albeit different — of taste after all.
So now, we have three kinds of people. We still have those with cultured palates as well as our iron-stomached everything eaters. And observing that which sells as food today, a third group has emerged, which I believe can best be described as people who have a motley palate.
The masses have become as desensitized to traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate and pistachio-cherry as they are to seeing blood spew forth as a head is chopped off in a movie or video game.
Just as movie makers and video game developers had to raise the bar to incorporate the money-generating shock factor, snack makers also had to become more creative. And that is why there are all sorts of new flavor combinations bombarding the food market.
I’m sure eventually the pendulum will swing back toward what I consider the classics, and vanilla will be sought after once again. But until vanilla becomes the new rhubarb-beef, I must weigh in on what would make my taste buds jump — and wallet open.
Having been reared by a full-blooded Italian, I’m partial to anything with garlic. My favorite hot sauce is the one that combines hot pepper with garlic. I have a garlic patch in my urban garden. I’m convinced, based on my German-English dad’s behavior in his later years, that garlic’s aroma can modify one’s DNA and incorporate Italian genes.
That said, I’m a firm believer you just can’t go wrong incorporating garlic into any foodstuff. I would put garlic flavored ice cream or garlic flavored cream infused doughnuts in my cart any day. But lots of people like garlic. So, to entice those with motley palates, there must be more we can do with garlic.
The ultimate Italian shake could be flavored with bits of roasted garlic, basil and oregano. Or how about pizza inspired coffee flavors, such as garlic, artichoke and ricotta?
Moving on to other motley-exotic possibilities, my children have birthdays coming up soon. Considering they enjoy chewing gum that tastes EXACTLY like blueberry pie — crust and a la mode included — and the fact that I imparted ever-so-slightly diluted Italian DNA upon them, they should appreciate my impending birthday cake experiments.
My oldest likes spicy foods, but also has a sweet tooth. For him, I am thinking garlic-chipotle butter cake with a honey-strawberry filling. My middle child will eat anything on a paying dare, so in tribute to his middle school years, a burnt French fry infused chocolate cake with ketchup and garlic frosting. The youngest has a more sophisticated palate. For him, I envision a garlic-avocado upside-down cake drizzled with an olive and caper glaze.
Cookie baking season next fall could prove to be quite motley, as well. To my chocolate chip cookies, I could add crushed garlic and then replace the chocolate morsels with olive bits. Served with a side of homemade marinara, I just might have the most loved holiday confection to ever be served.
It’s already clear that flavor possibilities are endless. The more I think about garlic, the more I believe just the garlic inspired flavors are infinite. Until I began listing options, I considered myself to be one who always cooked with garlic — even to the point of overusing it. It is time to live up to my motley Italian tastes and ramp up the garlic in my family’s diet. Until the food manufacturers incorporate more garlic flavored items, I will just have to do more garlic cooking of my own.
Of course, if all the garlic flavored treats I envision actually did exist, I’d be faced with a few dilemmas. First, I’d be a grocery store shop-a-holic with ever-rising debt. Second, I’d probably gain a few more pounds. Third, no one would get too close, as my skin would permanently emit a strong garlic aroma. Then again, I’d probably never catch a cold again.
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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau.