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Jan 13, 2010 10:37 AM

Appearance affecting flavor

I've been thinking about this for some time, and am glad for this forum.

I know the saying, "you eat with your eyes first" and I totally agree. But if something made at home for yourself, not meant to impress anyone, looks weird but tastes wonderful, what's the deal?

A couple months ago, I made a cream of chicken soup from some leftover roasted chicken. There were tomatoes and mushrooms in these leftovers. When I buzzed it with the immersion blender it turned a terrible shade of pinkish gray. Smelled delicious, tasted delicious, but I just could NOT get over what it looked like.

What else have you made that you couldn't eat because of the way it looked? (It's part of my problem with crustaceans, too)

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  1. I think the green ketchup says it all. I think it started out as something heinz thought the kids wouldlove= but did not work out ( at least in ths us).
    If I had made it myself ( like you did ths soup), I probably could eat it regardless of the appearance, but if someonw else made it, I may have a harder time eating it, as I would not really know what was in it!!

    9 Replies
    1. re: macca

      OH my goodness, and purple, too! Glurg!

      1. re: macca

        Agreed - if I make it myself I don't mind appearance as much. I goofed with a pureed cauliflower soup last week and took a detour which saved it but made for a putty-colored soup. I tried not to look at it and was glad when I'd gone through it all. Although I like all the components, I would not make myself a dinner of baked fish, mashed potatoes, and parsnips. In the "get out your violins" department, I was in the hospital on Christmas Day a few years back, and was late in requesting a dinner tray so was stuck with what they had left, which was baked fish, mashed potato, and a dinner roll. I think there may have been cauliflower or white corn. Vanilla pudding. It was REALLY depressing.

        1. re: greygarious

          Maybe the hospital was trying to give you a white Christmas. Food-wise.

        2. re: macca

          To Macca:

          This is very culturally specific. I didn't know Heinz had tried and failed a 'green ketchup', but South Asian cuisine has several green chutneys, which are widely beloved.

          To OP: (Southern Expat) you could have added some other ingredients (e.g. saffron or turmeric) that would have changed the colour without affecting the taste.

          Greygarious: similar suggestion to you. Some spices/ingredients seem designed by nature for this purpose.

          1. re: Rasam

            rasam, how can saffron or turmeric *not* affect the flavor? it may be subtle -- and turn out better -- but either spice will affect flavor.

            1. re: alkapal

              Saffron may affect flavour (but it's so delicate that it can easily be overwhelmed by the other ingredients)
              Turmeric adds more colour than flavour. I've always eaten turmeric in Indian food, and the other spices are what you can taste. You can taste individual notes of cumin, coriander, hing, curry leaves, fenugreek, etc, whatever you've put in it. I cannot pinpoint an individual flavour coming from the turmeric. Highlighter yellow colour, yes. Taste (in the middle of the other medley, no).

              And turmeric is usually used in very small quantities (1/4 tsp or less for an average "serves 6-8" dish). If someone goes overboard and throws in a teaspoonful or tablespoonful of turmeric, then I'm sure you'd taste something wierd.

              ETA: I am talking about the dried powdered turmeric. There are some dishes made with fresh turmeric, which have more of a flavour.

              1. re: Rasam

                You do, turmeric is sort of bitter when overdone.

                1. re: Paulustrious

                  Then that's not the fault of the turmeric, is it? Why "overdo" a spice, and then say it doesn't work? Used in an appropriate quantity as it should be, then it's great.

                  Saffron and turmeric, used appropriately might even add a certain something that enhances the flavour, and definitely does a great deal to enhance appearance.

            2. re: Rasam

              You are right- and that is why I made sure to clarify that the Heinz did not work in the us- though I think I read somewhere that is did ok in Canada.

          2. I invited a friend to an impromptu dinner saturday. I realized I didn't have anything for an appetizer. I had some leftover fresh ricotta which I mixed with fig jam to spread on crackers. It looked exactly like dog puke!!! We laughed about it & kept referring to it as barf but ate it anyway because it tasted good...but it was hard to get past the looks of it.

            1. We did a DooDoo Dinner several years ago with a group of very close friends. Appetizers were just a spiced liverwurst extruded onto crackers from a pastry gun with no nozzle attached, we had a spinach purée soup (not strained, so there were flecks), mashed yams... My masterpiece was the hand-formed individual corn-studded meat logs. Instead of napkins, of course we had a roll of TP at each place, and there was chocolate mousse for dessert. That was at least eight years ago, and every so often it still happens that we get introduced to someone, and they'll say, "Oh, you're the folks who had the s**t dinner!"

              Despite plenty of wrinkled noses and expressions of Yuck, everything got eaten and pronounced delicious.

              17 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  will owen, what in the world inspired that?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    The innate propensity of all involved for potty humor, mostly. This was after Mrs. O had become a part of the livelier set at the LA Times (though a mere freelancer), and had won many hearts by introducing them to the Fart Machine. And I'd won quite a few by cooking for them, so one thing sorta led to another, beginning with a fun evening and enough drinks...

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      will owen, i'd suggest you repair to the site cakewrecks, which has been known to mention cakes that would fit with your theme.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        OMG, the first one looks like Mr. Hanky from South Park. Well, howdy-ho! That entire turkey page is hysterical!!! I couldn't stop laughing long enough to have a bite of any of those cakes.

                  2. re: Will Owen

                    Oh my gawd, I've had terrible thoughts about something along those lines, but I'd never actually be able to follow through. I really, really would like to hang out with you and your friends who'd actually be able to laugh through that.

                    But now, I have to quit thinking about it, because it's got me on the verge of gagging, amidst the laughs.

                    I usually don't have much problem with thinking foods look like non-foods. And really, vomit doesn't look like any one thing, so I don't think I'd have an issue with your delicious-sounding "dog puke," sparkareno.

                    Come to think of it, I make a roasted eggplant puree all the time that I'm sure some people would think looks nasty. Since I know exactly what's in it, my mind just doesn't go there.

                    I try again when my hard-boiled egg yolks come out green if I'm serving them to company. If it's just around the house, I go ahead and make slightly-gray deviled eggs.

                    1. re: dmd_kc

                      You ought to try my recipe for making them with wasabi mayo, which gives them a greenish tinge anyway. Then sprinkle on a little Spanish smoked paprika for a subtle flavor enhancement and a non-subtle color contrast.

                      1. re: dmd_kc

                        along with the egglplant dip, a friend has made some mighty strange looking caramelized onion dip. GAG.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          OMG--no you didn't!!! That is hilarious--can I hang out with you?

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            You have reminded me of a Valentine's Day menu I set up. It was slightly more romantic, and was primarily European so may not be recognisable to all North Americans...

                            Cock-a-leekie soup
                            Coq au vin
                            Spotted dick

                            1. re: Paulustrious

                              In an essay called "Lars Porsena, or the History of Improper Language", Robert Graves addresses the (then-current) English taboo against mentioning the buttocks with the story of some university students who hired a hall in some town with "bottom" in the name, sent out invitations for a dinner party to people whose names also contained "bottom" or "bum", and when the mutually mystified guests arrived they were served a meal featuring rump roast. Har har.

                              1. re: Paulustrious

                                Very posh - you could have just had a weenie roast. ;-)

                                1. re: BobB

                                  just don't introduce me to someone who's giving a "little smokies" party. ;^D.

                              2. re: Will Owen

                                Do you have a pool? You could have floated some Baby Ruth candy bars.

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  Will, you are hysterical. As much as I have always loved you, today I love you more. That's priceless!

                                  Not quite the same, but in one of my college/summer jobs (I was 19), I once made a "Sure Happy It's Thursday" cake with the acronym spelled out in M&Ms atop the cake and took it to work. My boss walked proudly around the office asking everyone, "Would you like a piece of SHIT?" Ahhh, those were the good ol' days. Thanks for the chuckle and the walk down $#*+ memory lane. ;)

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    I've always been tempted to make a litter box cake. Might not have been as tasty as your mousse, but certainly would have fit with the theme:


                                  2. I followed a magazine recipe for a mustard & green peppercorn steak sauce a few years ago that was truly delicious but the color was disgusting. (Anyone who's had a baby with gastrointestinal issues will get the reference here.)

                                    I ate it - eyes averted - but never made it again.

                                    1. Just to throw out another item that made me think about this topic, in James Beard's Four Seasons Cookbook he talks about considering the Carpetbag Steak, which is traditionally made simply by topping the steak with lightly sizzled oysters. He said that he found this not esthetically pleasing - those nasty ugly oysters all over that nice steak - so he proposed that a pocket should be cut in the steak and the oysters stuffed inside, and that's how they did it.

                                      This shocked me more than a little: how could anyone who wants oysters find their appearance unappealing? Yeah, the pocket thing is clever and all, but I'd prefer my steak come to me uncut, thank you, unless it's the sort you serve in slices. And I'm most certainly not going to react with disgust to a pile of nice curly-edged oysters!