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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, Katie Doman asks, "Why is ginger a palate cleanser?"
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Craig: Hi, I'm Craig, my favorite Spice Girl is Ginger Spice and this is mental_floss on YouTube. Today I'm going to answer Katie Doman's big question, why is ginger a palate cleanser? Let's get started.

(mental_floss intro plays)

First, let's talk about palate cleansers in general, then we'll move on to ginger specifically. So a palate cleanser is any food that's eaten mid-meal to remove the food residuals in the mouth from a dish. Then the next dish can be eaten without previous flavors changing the new flavors.

It's true that these food residuals can warp the taste of the next dish, often without us even noticing. What typically happens over the course of a meal is a decrease in perceived taste intensity. Basically, food seems more and more bland as the meal goes on thanks to those food residuals. Also, I drink a lot of booze.

So what's the most effective way to get rid of the residuals? Well, a palate cleanser needs to be relatively neutral tasting. Besides ginger, examples of palate cleansers include sorbet, bread, and citrus. Even water works just fine. In fact, most professional food tasters swear by a combination of crackers and water. I would say whiskey. Seriously, I drink a lot of booze.

Sometimes the need for a palate cleanser is more obvious than a slow reduction in taste. For example, often after eating a high-fat food like steak or salami, mouths feel oily, almost as if they're coated in something. This has a name, fatty mouth feel, also my nickname in high school, and even if people aren't consciously doing it, they're usually cleansing their palate with something like water or wine when this occurs. This explains why palate cleansers usually feel like they're drying out our mouths, they're able to break down the proteins in our saliva that cause that coated sensation.

So, now that y'all got a bunch of knowledge, let's jump back to the original question. Can I actually jump back?

In Japanese cuisine, gari, AKA pickled ginger, is often used as a palate cleanser, and the reason you often see it served with sushi is you're supposed to eat it when you go from eating one type of fish to another. Not putting it directly on the sushi, Mark. That's what he did the last time we went and had sushi.

It's used as a palate cleanser in that culture because the ginger plant can be found in Asia and historically it was considered good for the stomach, so it makes sense that chefs would serve it alongside  sushi. The reason it works as a palate cleanser is because of the vinegar that the ginger has been soaked in to pickle it. Vinegar is acidic, so it's able to effectively remove those food residuals. It's not the ginger, it's the vinegar, that's interesting. Huh, this is a good channel, you learn stuff here, you should keep watching. 

Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all these pickled gingers. If you have a big question of your own that you'd like answered, leave below it in the comments. See you next week.