Close your eyes and picture biting into your favorite meal. Does it taste sweet or sour? Is it bitter? Is it salty? Is it indescribable? You have probably heard the cliché that “food is life” and it certainly is a requirement for existence in this physical plane. In fact most people need a different “Rule of 3” to survive:
- Breathe within three minutes
- Find warmth/shelter within three hours
- Drink water within three days
- Eat within three weeks
So, life is usually forfeit if food is not available for three weeks. But life is also like food in that it has different tastes. Sweet, sour, bitter and salty are the basic tastes westerners were brought up to know. Those in the culinary world also recognize a fifth taste that the Japanese have called umami. Directly translated umami means “a pleasant savory taste” and has been described as slightly indescribable but close to what a shitake mushroom or ripe tomato tastes like. And what is weird is that it wasn’t until 1985 that umami became an officially recognized and distinct taste.
Likewise, sometimes life is sweet, sometimes it is sour or bitter or salty. And yes, it can even be umami. Most people strive for the “sweet life” while others work too hard (salty) and others still have hardships (bitter) while the rest mire in their perceived sourness handed to them
I have talked a lot (probably too much) about the need for balance and that’s why I think we should all strive for an “umami life.” It seems to me to be the most balanced of tastes. The other four tastes seem to be extremes and in excess can leave any palate (or life) feeling a bit extreme or even one-note. By definition savory usually comes in combination with something else obfuscating the extreme as well as the one-note possibilities.
I could ramble on and on on this topic but I think I will just end with this one thought: I would observe that an umami life is the ideal; a life to be savored, to be lived, to be appreciated for the gift that it is. The journey is the destination, not the destination itself, so savor it.