July seems to be a good month for Yaya DaCosta. The former runner-up of 'America's Next Top Model' (Cycle 3) and Ivy League grad was recently named Esquire magazine's 'Woman of the Summer' and also has a supporting role in the film 'The Kids Are All Right,' which stars Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson.
LAST JANUARY, I LOST MY ABILITY TO TASTE. That would be bad news for anyone. Itmrs"s even worse if, like me, you make a living writing about food. I had just undergone endonasal surgery, which tweaked the nerves that helped me detect flavors, and the doctors predicted that my oh-so-discerning palate would not return for a month.
Ironically, friends kept showing up with edible get-well gifts. During my recovery, I found I couldn rs"t taste carby snacks—the donuts and cupcakes didnirs"t do much for me. But after a few weeks, more complicated flavors did begin to register: pizza with parmesan cheese; shiitake mushroom and bacon quiche; soy-marinated cod. Gradually, I developed a craving for this profoundly flavorful stuff . There was a certain hard-to-define quality linking these dishes— not quite saltiness but something more nuanced, a deep savoriness. It turns out this wasnlrs"t a gustatory illusion. With my surgery dampening the stronger taste sensations (sweet, bitter), I had finally discovered the old"fifth tastenrd": umami.
On the way home, inspired to experiment in the kitchen, I hit a Japanese grocery store. Unable to find the precise ingredients I need to make a true high-end dashi, I pick up some MSG in a salt shaker. The next day I cook a homemade chicken mushroom soup with a little soy sauce for some friends. They lap it up—umami victory. Then we all add a touch of the MSG, and the flavors really do seem to deepen.