Is there an article on determining how tastes (bitter, sour, sweet, etc)/ingredients are used when building a recipe?

I'm trying to understand the basics of cooking, specifically ingredients. Why are recipes built the way they are and how is it determined which ingredients work well together to create the recipe?

Kelly Newsom


drshakyhands January 13, 2015
I like The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. It discusses a lot of ingredients, what the flavor profile of that ingredient is and what pairs well with it, while then listing good pairings and why they work. I like to use it when I have some miscellaneous items on hand - I look them up, see if there is an interesting pairing I haven't tried before, and then I experiment.
Kristen W. January 13, 2015
Kelly, unlike those lucky cooks who learned to cook as a child, I have learned (and am learning) to cook as an adult. I agree that this is learned over time, and I would just join the others in recommending that you continue to read, read, read, and cook, cook, cook, and your understanding of the interaction of ingredients and their flavors will deepen over time, especially in light of your curiosity about it. Nothing can replace simple experience.
Pegeen January 12, 2015
Heard this on NPR radio this weekend. Very interesting:

In "Tasty: the Art and Science of What We Eat," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John McQuaid offers a broad and deep exploration of the human relationship to flavor.
Kelly N. January 12, 2015
Pegeen, thank you! I will listen to this tomorrow.
luvcookbooks January 12, 2015
I find myself poring over the head notes of some food52ers. Emily C usually describes the way she develops flavors (and textures, Etc) in her head notes. Antonia James and Liz Larkin (scone lady) go through steps carefully. The books Looking for Mr Latte by Amanda Hesser and How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson are good for explaining general ideas about developing recipes(and flavors). I also find browsing the Hotline can turn up some thoughtful threads. Have fun! Oh and how to cook without a recipe articles on this site! A series, eg, lentil soup.
Kelly N. January 12, 2015
Thank you for the tips on the Food52ers. I will definitely follow them and I'll look into the books you've mentioned.
ChefJune January 12, 2015
Kelly, The Flavor Bible is a good read for you. So too would be Dornenburg & Page's "Culinary Artistry." and Julia Child's "The Way to Cook." Both focus on the whys and hows of flavors.
Kelly N. January 12, 2015
I will look at both of these. Very Excited!! Thank you.
Fat T. January 12, 2015
There is some good information in the Flavor Bible, it talks about building taste, the use of sweet versus savory, etc. One of the concepts they introduce as you look at the dish is it loud or quiet, and how to combine loud and quiet to make music with the various dishes in your meal.
ChefJune January 12, 2015
I have to say I've never thought about it that way, and I suspect it's at least in part because I started cooking as a child. I think if you start cooking from already existing recipes, you will come to that on your own. Not sure you can learn it from someone else, as "taste" is specific to the taster.
Kelly N. January 12, 2015
I get what you're saying chef June. I think I'm asking for the less literal meaning of taste. For instance, lemons are sour while their rinds are bitter. I'm looking for category lists of the tastes and then why you use them in a recipe. when I look at a recipe or even cook I am trying to figure my own questions out but that doesn't help me as to the why the ingredients were put together. Honestly, I think as you said, this is something that you learn over time. You were very lucky to have had your start as a child! Thank you for replying to my question.
Nancy January 12, 2015
What a good question! I look forward to seeing comments as they turn up. Meanwhile, partially addressing your question is this cookbook from Alford & Duguid focused on flavors hot sour salty sweet
Kelly N. January 12, 2015
Thank you Nancy. I'll look it up. I purchased The Flavor Bible too. Looking forward to learning!
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