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Dec 11, 2006 08:53 PM

The Great Bay Leaf Hoax

Is there a second cook out there who feels that the bay leaf lobby
must be very strong? I cannot detect a flavor imparted by the addition
of one of these to anything.

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  1. how old are your bay leaves? that might be the issue. i cook rice with a bay leaf, and it completely changes the flavor of the rice.

    1. I really can't either and I've used both fresh and dried, grocery store variety and Penzey's... I still have never really tasted them in whatever I've been cooking, but I continue to use them!

      1. I agree that maybe yours were very old. They, to me, have a very distinctive taste that I always pick up.

        1. I have a bay tree growing in my yard. Good fresh bay has an aroma like nothing else...slightly menthol, very subtle, and a necessary component of many things I cook on a regular basis (courtbouillion, red beans, gumbo, etc). Try getting some really fresh bay leaves, or at least some relatively fresh dried ones. On the other hand, it might just be a fragrance you can't detect...we don't all smell in the same ways!

          17 Replies
          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            I agree with Hungry Celeste that it might just be a flavor you can't detect. My husband and I found this out the hard way after spending $50+ per person to eat a truffle brunch at a local restaurant. Everyone else was ooing and ahhing over the truffles and we couldn't taste a darn thing.

            1. re: SarahEats

              Yes, there is a certain segment of the population that cannot taste or smell truffles. I'm extremely sensitive to the smell; it usually knocks me out.

              As for bay leaves, I can certainly taste them. I once even made a soup where the bay leave taste was too strong (I accidently dropped some leaves in and never took them out).

              1. re: Shazam

                Not to hijack this post, but I've heard people fall into three categories where truffles are concerned - (1) they can't taste or smell them, (2) the smell/taste is overpowering or (3) they taste/smell amazing.

                1. re: SarahEats

                  Well, unfortunately for my wallet, I fall in category #3.

                  1. re: Louise

                    Maybe I should be thankful then!

                    1. re: SarahEats

                      By way of illustration: there are many streets here in Pasadena that are lined with camphor trees. When these are in full fruit, billions of the little berry-like offspring send out a pungent aroma that practically knocks me out. As we're driving down the street, the waves of smell are almost visible to me, they're so strong...but Mrs. O can't smell anything at all! She can smell a catbox that needs cleaning from all the way upstairs, and if I've neglected to brush my teeth she can smell that from across the room, but the sharp resinous bite of camphor-tree berries doesn't register at all.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        God, is THAT what the horrendous reek of Orange Grove Boulevard and Lake Street and... and... is?? When I go play tennis in South Pas I have to drive out of my way to avoid that God-awful stench...

                        ...and while bayleaves have a taste to me, it's not overpowering.

                      2. re: SarahEats

                        What about the forth category? People who say they smell/taste like gasoline?

                      3. re: Shazam

                        Same here. I'm very cautious with bay leaves because they can take over and obliterate everything else. Same with cloves, same with oregano.

                      4. re: SarahEats

                        I can taste even old bay leaves and have never used fresh ones. I can taste truffles too. But if my life depended on it I could not distinguish cod from pollock from turbot from hake, or any other fish with the same texture and oil level. Flounder from bluefish or halibut, for sure. But flounder from sole from dabs? No way.

                        1. re: SarahEats

                          Oh man, that's just so sad- to go through that and not be able to taste the truffles.

                        2. re: Hungry Celeste

                          Do a blind test, One dish with, one dish without. You will fail.

                          1. re: peanutaxis

                            You obviously have not had a good Bay Leaf of have a not so good Palate.

                          2. re: Hungry Celeste

                            Hngry Celeste: once my tree started growing, my neighbor made some "bay leaf tea" for me that was absolutely delicious!

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              I have bay laurels growing in my yard, I don't taste them much so I add a lot of them to dishes. Nobody's complained yet. I wonder if it's one of those urban chef myths, although I love the smell of a fresh leaf when I crush it.

                            2. re: Hungry Celeste

                              I'm fairly certain I'm also one of those who just can't detect its flavour. I've had bay leaf in dishes plenty of times but just couldn't ever really taste it. But then, my ability to sense smells and tastes fluctuates a fair bit from time to time, so I'm just weird anyway.

                            3. Gads...I'm so glad that somebody else thinks the Emperor wears no clothes! I mean, I put bay leaves in dishes whose recipes call for bay leaves, but I've never noticed the difference.