The Savoury Feast

The first Edible Event of the project focussed on the taste of savoury.

Alexander McNaughton

Alexander McNaughton, Wild forager and local food systems consultant, brought together a tasting of savoury delicacies to introduce everyone’s palates to the concept of “umami.” Loosely translated from Japanese the term means “delicious” and refers to a specific taste molecule found in many of our favourite foods.

The Edible Events focus on a different tastes – Savoury, Sweet and Sour.  For me, the sense of taste is intriguing because of the interplay between culture and physiology.  When we are young our sense of taste is incredibly powerful. Over time it is shaped by our cultural context.  If we over-indulge in one taste – such as sweetness than we loose some our ability to perceive it, demanding more to create the sensation.  Imagine Europeans of the middle ages whose only taste of sugar was to sweeten a particularly bitter medicine. Now compare that to drinking a tin of Coke today.


The complex relationship that we have with food was a point of meditation for the French traveler, Jean Brillat-Savarin.  In 1825 he published his observations under the title The Physiology of Taste. In this text he defined a new term “gastronomy” as

…the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment. Its purpose is to watch over his conservation by suggesting the best possible sustenance for him.  It arrives at this goal by directing, according to certain principles, all men who hunt, supply, or prepare whatever can be made into food…

Gastronomy is part of:

Natural history – by its classification of alimentary substances

Physics – because of the examination of the composition and quality of these substances.

Chemistry – by the various analyses and catalyses to which it subjects them.

Cookery – because of the art of adapting dishes and making them pleasant to the taste.

Business – by the seeking out of methods of buying as cheaply as possible what is needed, and of selling most advantageously what can be produced for sale.

Political economy – because the sources of revenue which gastronomy creates and the means of exchange which it establishes between nations.

This book of accumulated gastronomical observations is prescient in many ways. In our contemporary moment it brings to mind the work of journalist, Michael Pollan and his embodied investigation of our troubled relationship to food in North America. In his well known book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan examines the principal food chains that sustain us today; industrial, organic, and hunter-gatherer. He makes it clear that our relationship to food has enormous ethical implications that requires a deeper knowledge of  the food we grow, eat and share.

Alex Preparing Food

In order to consider our relationship with food, Alexander took us on a brief walk to identify and discuss edible plants that can be found around Deer Lake.  These plants, included Himalayan Blackberry, Spruce needles, and Fiddleheads.  We followed up the walk with a series of three tastings focussed on the taste of savoury using locally foraged or farmed foods.


First Course: Pastich Paté (Hemp, grain and seed) with fresh bread. Think rich creamy savoury flavour with bright, spicy greens, fresh garden radishes and edible nasturtiums.


Second Course: Local field cherry tomatoes with purple and green shisso chiffonade, white apricot balsamic and high polyphenol olive oil drizzle.  Think sweet field flavours combined with sharp edged bitters, the acid and bitter softened by the sweet fruit flavors in the vinegar and the olive oil.

Parma Shavings

Third course: Wild mushrooms on bread with parma shavings and cherry wood smoked salt. Wild mushrooms provided by Mikuni included their chef’s mix (Chanterelle, Chicken of the Woods, Hedge Hog, Black Trumpet and Fried Chicken Mushrooms) and foraged porcini or boletus mushrooms. Think savoury wild flavours.


At the end of the evening we shared a toast with some spiced mead.  A brief taste of the Sweet Edible Event which will focus on the taste of honey.


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