Cooking and Aromatics: A Feast for the Senses – Learning As A Lifestyle

2014-03-07_16-25-10When I was little, I loved to eat fried oysters. In my mind, they were tasty, salty, and just plain good. Little did I know that my mom bought the oysters frozen and when they were thawing on a paper towel, they looked like squashed eyeballs. That accidental visual ruined my appetite for oysters. Eating is not just taste. It is a combination of smell, sight, and taste.

With all the cooking shows on television today, it is easy to find beautiful food, especially if you watch shows like Cake Boss or Cupcake Wars. I especially like Cake Boss, a reality show about Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey run by Buddy Valastro and his family. His cakes are truly amazing.

2014-03-07_16-25-21Cakes are not the only beautiful food. The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and Alton Brown, from Good Eats, make great looking meals look really easy. But have you noticed that the recipe you make at home does not look like the recipe the cooking show chef makes? You might follow the recipe exactly the same way and it is just not the same. That is when smell and taste come into play.

According to several cooking shows I watch, aromatics (smell) increase flavor and enjoyment of foods. Aromatics are a mix of spice, vegetables, and herbs that flavor dishes usually based on culinary culture. In Cajun cooking, for example, the vegetable trinity is onion, celery and green pepper. In Italy, the vegetable combination (or soffritto) is onion, garlic, and fennel. In a variety of cultures (including French and American) onions, carrots and celery make up the trilogy of flavors.


Without spices and herbs, the dish is only half complete. Spices and herbs may seem like the same thing but they are not. Alton Brown from Good Eats says the difference between spices and herbs is where they come from on the plant. Herbs are from the leaf or green part of the plant. Spices come from the other parts of the plant, (primarily roots, seeds, or stems). For a good reference regarding which spices go together and how much of a specific spice or herb you should use, go to There is a chart detailing different spices and how they go together, as well as when and how much to add.

Whew! All this talk about food is making me hungry. Maybe it is time to stop by the UnderGrounds Coffee Shop at the Center for Lifelong Learning to get a fresh apple baked scone. Yum. UnderGrounds offers a wide variety of specialty coffees, snacks, baked goods, and popcorn. If you stop by, let Tracy know you saw this story and she will give you a discounted price for your cappuccino, latte, mocha, or hot chocolate. While you are there, check out our calendar of events for an upcoming activity you will enjoy.
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262
By: Wanda Campbell


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