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 smallest amount of of which was 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 could relate.
One such story from the book of Exodus was the Israelites eating manna in the desert. I recall learning that manna tasted like “the greatest food มานาประจําวัน you can imagine,” which devolved into manna tasting like “what you may want it to.” I distinctly remember a question being asked of my class: “What do you think manna tastes like?” A number of predictable answers came out: cake, candy, cookies, quail (in reference to some other 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 produced from dried plant sap processed by insects, or a “honydew” that is expelled by the bugs who eat the sap (think the source of honey, nothing worse.)
As well as 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. Actually, there are lots of kinds of manna, some that are now utilized 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’s the cooling effectation of menthol with no mint flavor) and even offers “notes of honey and herb, and a light bit of citrus peel.”