The elusive glamour of brown…
Picture this: You’re cooking, and everything is going ok, but the food you’re making just doesn’t seem, well, brown enough. It tastes good. It’s well-prepared. But you worry that your guests will be disappointed at the lack of brown-ness. You are not alone. For nearly 150 years, cooks have been reaching for a preparation whose main purpose is to make food brown. Kitchen Bouquet is a browning sauce made of caramel, vegetables, and spices. It’s vegan. It’s kosher. And somehow, it makes foods seem meatier. Or at least more brown.
We know that our experience of food is largely tied to smell and taste, but color is another important factor. We are conditioned to believe that certain colors will taste certain ways. In nature, super bright colors can mean poison. In the grocery store? They tend to indicate sweets marketed to kids. Green tastes fresh, vegetal, or sometimes bitter. Yellow evokes lemon or banana. And brown? Brown tastes seared. It is rich. It has a savory, umami flavor. Brown is comforting and deeply satisfying. But only if it is brown enough. That can require some assistance.
The practice of adding color to food is an ancient one. Saffron, carrots, beets, berries, and turmeric were all early natural dyes that made food more beautiful. The trouble only began when folks started using lead, arsenic, and mercury to create synthetic food dyes. Not only were the compounds harmful on their own, they were often used to hide spoilage or low quality products. That killed people. It also led to a lot of laws that said you couldn’t put poison in food on purpose. Even if it looked great there. So food manufacturers spent a ton of time and money developing new artificial dyes with their own set of risks. Kitchen Bouquet, you’ll be glad to hear, is more natural and less artificial. Its brown-ness comes from cooked sugar and while there is a preservative added for shelf stability, it seems a heck of a lot safer than some of the foods we discuss in this series. And eateries across the country agree. You will find it by the gallon in restaurant kitchens, just waiting to make your gravy as brown as it can be.
Whether we dine out or at home, we’re more likely than ever to take pictures of impressive meals. It’s not about memory, really. Food does a great job of being memorable without documentation. We take pictures of great food so we can share our experience with friends. But what if the food in your pics doesn’t look as good as it tastes in real life? Food stylists have been grappling with this for as long as there have been photographs of food. You know what they have to say? Kitchen Bouquet! With a few drops, a chicken appears perfectly roasted. That grayish burger can become invitingly seared in seconds! And hey, what’s in that coffee cup? Why, it’s Kitchen Bouquet mixed with water, of course! Great coffee appearance without the oily surface! This product is an endless font of brown!
Your food being insufficiently brown may seem like an insignificant problem. It absolutely is. But insignificant problems with easy solutions are my favorite things right now, so I may just pick up some Kitchen Bouquet.