Turning Weapons Into Pleasures: Just Add Food

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
And yet humans have come to prize these weapons that are meant to repel us. What makes herbs and spices not only nontoxic and edible but delicious is a simple principle of cooking: dilution. If we bite into an intact leaf of oregano or a peppercorn, the concentrated dose of defensive chemicals overwhelms and irritates our senses; but those same chemicals diffused throughout a dish of other foods—a few milligrams in a pound or two—stimulate without overwhelming. They add flavors that our grains and meats don’t have, and make those foods more complex and appealing.