I really like this book – How to Cook Without Recipes, by Glynn Christian.
The section on fats and oils is particularly interesting (though the rest is too)…
Christian writes: “Fats and oils can have such arresting flavours we often don’t care what else they are doing in our mouths – think of butter and cream or of walnut oil and hazelnut oil. No wonder we like to eat so much of them. Other oils and fats bring rather less pleasure. Indeed they are often chosen because they have so little flavour, like the oils used for deep-frying. Yet all oils and fats coat the palate and thus inhibit us from detecting other flavours. That’s why we often use such inordinate amounts of salt on greasy or oily food – fighting a losing battle against both the blandness and the coating qualities of the fat and oil, we opt for salt as an easy option and then salt is often the only primary taste and only flavour we experience.
High fat or oil content and low flavour combine to define stodge. We do get a full comforted feel from eating them – that’s why they are called comfort foods, and there’s definitely a place for them. But the comfort in our guts is what later becomes uncomfortable pot bellies, because comfort eating is the basis of [-p.172] most obesity – that and the undeveloped palate fixated on sweetness about other tastes. Better food education early in life at school, which included tutored tasting of a wide variety of fresh foods, would go a long way to eliminate the undeveloped palate common to many overweight people.” (pp.171-172)
“Adding vinegar to fish and chips, at first the most baffling of Britain’s curious food peccadilloes, also has its genesis in the palate-binding attributes of fats and oils. The vinegar cuts the fat, certainly, and thus exposes our taste buds rather more, but the vinegar or ‘brewed condiment’ is often so one-dimensional in flavour it again sets the tongue up for nothing but disappointment. The tongue is ungratified, whatever the calorie content slipping by, and the stomach is still not satisfied: ‘Gimme another deep-fried Mars bar, mate, and double chips’ …
This is a simplified but true explanation of why we eat so much fish and chips or other fatty fast foods: if the fat wasn’t there we would eat less and be just as satisfied. On the other hand, fats and oils are often beguilingly flavoured and the pleasure of their lingering in the mouth is the highlight of many good things we eat – like a good olive oil, or of butter baked with flour and spices in a biscuit or cake.” (p.172)
Ref: Glynn Christian (2008) How to Cook Without Recipes. Portico Books: London