Does the Way You Cut a Vegetable Change Its Flavor?

iStock
iStock

Knowing the difference between a julienne cut and a chiffonade is an easy way to impress guests at dinner party. But does preparing your vegetables with fancy—or not-so-fancy—knife work really affect the way they taste? Your gut instinct may tell you no: a vegetable's flavor will remain the same whether it’s diced, sliced, or grated. According to a story from NPR, however, that instinct would be off-base. Chefs and food scientists both agree that the cut of a vegetable has an impact on its final flavor, and the reason why can be explained with a bit of chemistry.

The chemical makeup of a piece of produce is what makes it taste so flavorful. When a vegetable is crushed or sliced open, those ruptured cells release enzymes that trigger a chemical reaction, which to some diners may take the form of a pleasant taste or aroma.

Charles Forney, a physiologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, told NPR that every fruit and vegetable has a different response to being cut. Tomatoes, for example, produce a fresh, pungent scent when first sliced open. According to Forney, this chemical reaction isn’t too different from the one behind the smell we associate with freshly cut grass. The finer a vegetable is cut, the more enzymes it releases, resulting in a more intense flavor.

This is especially noticeable when chopping up onions or garlic. If you take a whiff of a clove of garlic while it's still whole, you won’t smell much. But slice into it, and that strong garlic scent will be hard to miss. That’s due to a specific type of enzyme called alliinase. Alliinase converts molecules into allicin, a sulfurous, unstable compound that breaks down into other stinky compounds that cling to our breath and skin. More allicin is produced each time you chop up a garlic clove, so a dish with roughly chopped chunks of garlic will actually taste milder than if the garlic has been finely diced. Grating garlic, on the other hand, creates a flavor so strong that it may be enough to turn off even the most extreme garlic lovers.

Broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are also examples of vegetables that grow more intense in taste the more you cut them. If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation when eating finely chopped cabbage, you can thank a chemical reaction for creating compounds that contain sulfur. So even though diners do eat with their eyes first, the prettiest cut may not always end up being the tastiest for some.

[h/t NPR]

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Antoninapotapenko/iStock via Getty Images
Antoninapotapenko/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images
Tevarak/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER