There seems to be an evolutionary basis for the fact that salt, fat, and sugar taste good to nearly everyone: we need minerals and calories, and those tastes are associated with exactly those necessities.
So is there an evolutionary basis for the widespread appeal of grilled and/or smoked foods?
uhh… Xtra-large eggs?
Ok, I admit it got a little dicey there towards the end, but yeah, there are a lot of awesome smoked foods.
I was just watching a Canadian show where the caught and ate a goose cooked over an open fire. With no other seasoning the tag-along person doing the show remarked on how well it tasted. I would imagine this goes back to the safe preparation of food and the genetic propensity of survival over those who ate raw meat.
This is pure speculation, but human ancestors on the savannas of Africa likely made part of their living as scavengers. Lightning-set grass fires were probably common, and killed many rodents and other small animals (and an occasional large one) when they swept through an area. Our ancestors who found smoked warthog tasty might have had an advantage over those who rejected such fare. Later, once we developed the ability to make fire and cook food, a liking for a smoky taste would also have been beneficial.
I’m sure it’s the smoke. One time we marinated two pork tenderloins and cooked one on a gas grill, the other on a charcoal grill (using lump hardwood charcoal). In a blind taste test, my wife and I both agreed the charcoal-cooked pork tasted better.
So, if taste for smoke is evolutionary, that means the most advanced evolutionarily speaking among us are places where smoking/BBQing has been raised to a high art. Places like Texas and South Carolina
But charcoal grilling doesn’t necessarily have the same heat pattern as gas cooking. Wouldn’t a better test be to have two tenderloins identically cooked on a gas grill and then you add liquid smoke to one of them afterwards?
I do not like the smoked taste in food. (I actively loathe artificial smoke flavoring, but with naturally smoked products it’s just a dislike.) I cannot be the only person for whom this is true, can I? Am willing to give a DNA sample for scientific research.
Why would it need to be genetic? If you grow up with smoked foods, you come to like smoked foods.
Just like fermented foods. Every culture ferments foods, but for the most part we find the fermented foods of other countries disgusting. Chinese people generally think cheese and wine are gross. We turn up our nose at stinky tofu and baijiu. These are not genetic preferences- it’s stuff we grow up with and learn to enjoy.
I would’ve thought it was the other way around – I figured my friend who loves smoky foods has a fairly dull sense of taste and that’s why he like strong-tasting foods (like hot peppers, strong coffee, etc.).
I certainly agree there are some tasty smoked foods, but it’s difficult to say exactly how much of the deliciousness is coming from smoke alone and not the cooking technique, the sauce, etc.
The worst smoked food I ever had was some smoked tofu from a Chinese grocery store. It smelled (and tasted?) like it had survived a house fire.