Why does ev­ery­thing taste like chicken?

Guru Magazine - - Ask A Guru - Asked by ‘MJ’ via Face­book

“Hmm, that tastes nice!” “What does it taste like?” “Chicken!”

How any times have you heard this? There’s no deny­ing it: new meats of­ten taste like chicken. Granted, beef tastes like beef and pork tastes like pork (and so do hu­mans). Yet so many other meats taste like chicken: quail, goose, frog, snake, snap­ping turtle, gi­ant sala­man­der, pi­geon… (I con­fess I haven’t eaten the last two.) To un­der­stand why this is, you need to know that there are only so many dif­fer­ent types of mus­cle (or meat). The meat that you usu­ally eat comes in two main types: white and red. White meat (like chicken breast) is ac­tu­ally a type of mus­cle de­signed for fast move­ments (called ‘fast twitch’). Red meat (like beef steak) is a mus­cle de­signed for en­durance and pro­longed stand­ing (‘slow twitch’). Chick­ens don’t do much in the way of en­durance ex­er­cise – just lots of flap­ping – so they have mostly white meat. Cat­tle, on the other hand, do lots of stand­ing and walk­ing and so have more red meat (‘slow twitch’ mus­cle). Many other an­i­mals are sim­i­lar to the chicken in the ex­er­cise they do (for ex­am­ple, a frog will do short bouts of swim­ming) and so have a mus­cle com­po­si­tion sim­i­lar to the chicken. There’s a bit more to it: chicken meat (par­tic­u­larly from the breast) doesn’t have much fat. This makes the chicken meat dry in tex­ture and fairly bland. (Just ask any­one on a low calo­rie diet if you doubt that low fat food tastes bland.) Many cuts of meat from other an­i­mals are sim­i­larly lean, giv­ing it a sim­i­lar tex­ture and bland­ness – there isn’t much fat on a snake, for ex­am­ple. There­fore, when a meat tastes bland, we say it tastes sim­i­lar to a bland meat we are fa­mil­iar with: chicken. If we ate lots of frog, we’d prob­a­bly say ev­ery­thing tastes like frog! One zo­ol­o­gist, Joe Staton, has a the­ory that sums it all up. He thinks that meat flavours have evolved over mil­lions of years. Af­ter eat­ing lots of meats, he drew an evo­lu­tion­ary tree of meat flavours: he claims that most meats that we eat have come from a four-legged chicken-flavoured an­i­mal an­ces­tor (with the ex­cep­tion of beef, pork and veni­son which evolved from a dif­fer­ent an­ces­tor). Check out his

chart here. You can also use his evo­lu­tion­ary meat tree to make pre­dic­tions about what cer­tain meats will taste like. For ex­am­ple, Tyran­nosaurus Rex tastes like chicken. And so does cat. I think we’ll have to take his word for it on that one.

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