The book: We are surrounded by a world of flavors, says Helen Labun Jordan ’02, and we each have the capacity for that exploration. But Jordan’s curiosity may be greater than that of most diners. In Discovering Flavor, she recounts sampling rotted shark, pan-fried crickets, and a cocktail concoction of whiskey, gin, maple syrup, and pickle juice that, she recounts, tasted like vomit. But gourmet sensibilities aren’t necessary for appreciating food, Jordan says. She explains how to understand flavor using everyday foods — such as coffee, bacon, wine, and pie — and how to distinguish the subtle flavor differences of foods, as well as how to develop a vocabulary to identify them.
The author: Jordan ’02 has been writing about food for more than a decade, covering everything from pie contests to the future of apples for magazines and radio programs. She works at Bear Pond Books, an independent bookstore in Montpelier, Vt., where she reviews new cookbooks. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University.
Opening lines: “I realized how little I knew about flavor when I ate my first cube of rotted shark. Hákarl, the shark, is a traditional Icelandic delicacy — it comes in chunks about half the size of standard dice, taken from the corpse of a basking shark that has rotted in a shallow grave for several months. They’re served on toothpicks. You wouldn’t want to touch them. I might never have sampled it if a friend hadn’t decided to hold her wedding in Iceland.”
The publisher: Discovering Flavor is published by 99: The Press, which produces books that are 99 pages long on provocative and timely subjects.