Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium 2020

Betray the Family, Save the Planet

Opinion paper

By Leena Samin Naqvi, ‘the EAT project’, Umeå, Sweden.


Food impacts the everyday life of everyone and is more than just sustenance. It tells the story of a family and culture, of history, of hope and identity. In diasporic communities, it helps them connect to their language, their roots and their places of origin. Dish after dish they recreate familiar flavours to match the taste of their memories.

There is something unique about understanding that although taste is not quantitative and therefore cannot be measured, it is however an individual and a deeply personal experience. Taste lingers in memory, often denies reason and logic and thrives outside the confines of recipes. A recipe is but merely a set of instructions of how to recreate a food. So, while the consciousness, science and the traditions suggest that taste may be impossible to replicate, a simple google search reveals that taste holds five primary sensations. Salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami.

Ingredients in recipes each stand to represent the primary senses of taste. Recipes are handed down within families for generations and the ingredients are almost never altered for fear of changing the flavour. So how does one make these recipes and reproduce the flavours when the key ingredients are not available? And how will our sense of taste eventually save the planet?

Through the discoveries of ‘the EAT project’, one understands how the sense of taste dictates and alters traditional recipes when substituting individual ingredients with locally grown and sourced produce. The EAT project is an evolving three-year investigation which has been attempting to understand the concepts of home, roots and memory through food for the diaspora settled in the city of Umeå in northern Sweden.

Marzie, who is from Iran and a former participant of the EAT project, loves the cold climate of Umeå but longs for her mother’s badmejoon khoresh. She is a skilled cook but could not find pomegranate syrup which is an important part of the recipe. An exchange of conversation took place over the sour element of her recipe which led to the suggestion of using tamarind syrup, a souring agent the Pakistani food culture employs. Her bademajoon khoresh turned out tasting exactly as she remembered it.

By sharing knowledge from across cultures it raises the possibilities of replacing ingredients and altering recipes based on taste profiles rather than their generational use. It allows us to reduce the unnecessary movement of food products across the globe and offers our bodies a chance to let the food heal. THIS is how we will save the planet. By allowing our tongues to navigate and lead us to the tastes that we know, by allowing the new to feel like the familiar and by trusting that our sense of taste will not betray memory.