For years Yigal Ziv has held the opinion that if one goes beyond the experience of using one’s basic senses like sight, hearing, smell, taste, etc. and adds information to the mix, it will result in a much-enhanced experience in any activities that involve our primary senses, such as dining, travel, music, reading and nearly everything else.
Yigal Ziv brings as an example the book ‘Steak,’ written by Mark Schatzker, is a quest to what makes the perfect steak, reminding us that most people remember that one single experience when they ate the best steak ever and could not find another steak like it since. Is it possible to repeat the great experience consistently?
Enter the role of information. The first distinction Yigal Ziv recommends making is about the difference between taste and flavor.
Taste is the basic sensation we sense on our tongue; it could be sweet, bitter, salty, or sour, and in recent years also umami; which, translated from Japanese, means deliciousness.
Flavor is much more comprehensive; it includes the tastes described above but also aroma (smell), temperature, view, texture (tender), juiciness, and spiciness (hot or mild).
Adding the concept of flavor to our expectations when we eat a steak or anything else, says Yigal Ziv, turns the experience into a much more exciting and enhanced experience. Now we can break the experience into the specific components that make up the flavor.
So how do we consistently get to eat the best steak? Even understanding that flavor is the essential tool, says Yigal Ziv, there is still more to know.
The role of ingredients. In the interest of efficient production, most ingredients in North America, such as beef, vegetables, and fruit, are raised or grown in ways that maximize output from a given set of resources. For example, cattle that are bred using these efficient methods will develop enough fat in their muscles (marbled) to qualify as Prime Beef in half the time it would take if the breeding is done in old-world ways (feeding on sugar-rich grass).
In the case of beef, we should also pay attention to the breed of the animal. Again, in the name of efficiency, different breeds of cattle were mixed to create the most efficient ones, almost eliminating pure breeds in this country.
These economic methods resulted in a lack of good tastes, which in turn resulted in a whole industry that produces flavors for ingredients that don’t have them, like salad dressings, steak sauce, etc.
In Europe, one will find good beef almost everywhere; this is what they expect. In North America, one must investigate where to get quality beef that was raised on sugar-rich grass for over 20 months.
One should also think of the cut. A cut from a working muscle of the animal, like the shoulder, will not be as tender as muscles that are not active (Filet).
A great steak should not need any sauces or spices besides salt & pepper, claims Yigal Ziv.