Growing up, I attended an afternoon and weekend morning Hebrew school, typically 3 days a week. We learned about various aspects of Jewish religion and culture, not the least of that has been the Bible. In younger years, we learned simplified (but hopefully not critically altered) versions of key Bible stories, and we discussed some pieces to which we’re able to relate.
One story from the book of Exodus was the Israelites eating manna in the desert. I remember learning that manna tasted like “the greatest food มานาประจําวัน imaginable,” which devolved into manna tasting like “whatever you want it to.” I distinctly remember a concern being asked of my class: “What do you consider manna tastes like?” A number of predictable answers came up: cake, candy, cookies, quail (in reference to another divine food source in the desert.) I do believe my answer was pizza.
Now we know far more accurately what manna is and what really tastes like. Manna is normally based on dried plant sap processed by insects, or perhaps a “honydew” that’s expelled by the bugs who eat the sap (think the foundation of honey, nothing worse.)
Along with its source, manna even offers distinctive flavors. They aren’t tomato sauce and cheese. Just like a fine whiskey or wine, manna has subtle notes and variations. In reality, there are numerous types of manna, some that are now being found in cooking. New York Times Food writer David Arnold says that Hedysarum manna’s flavor is reminiscent of “maple syrup, brown sugar, blackstrap molasses, honey, and nuts.” Shir-khesht manna contains mannitol (a sugar alcohol that has the cooling effect of menthol minus the mint flavor) and even offers “notes of honey and herb, and a light little bit of citrus peel.”