And what a gift it is! Today is the 12th day of appreciating things we often take for granted, and our sense of TASTE is on the docket. If you can, grab something to snack on while you read. You might suddenly feel hungry.
Taste and smell go hand in hand, but there are foods that smell better than they taste. Movie popcorn for instance. Vanilla extract. Coffee. Lavender. (Steve and I debate whether this can really be a food. I say it is, and lavender/lemon cookies are delicious. He thinks they taste like old lady soap.) Cinnabon rolls. McDonald’s fries. Feel free to add from your list.
Last night, Steve & Emily & I ate at an Algerian crepe restaurant. Oh. My. Goodness. Flavors exploding all over the place. Fresh mint tea with honey, served in tiny glass mugs. Lamb stew with chick peas. (Lamb fat is a flavor that will always be a comfort from my past. It is distinct from all other meat flavors and tends to polarize people into two camps. I’m definitely in the ‘thumbs up’ camp.) Roast garlic, brie and escargot. (Yes, together in a crepe. Tres decadent.) Sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, caramelized onions, olive tapanade, pomegranate seeds. And strong coffee, poured from a copper pot with a long handle into a demitasse cup that made me think of the film “Notorious” (Alfred Hitchcock). After sipping my cupful, I found a substance at the bottom that I could have used to make adobe. It smelled of allspice, I think.
Taste and texture are also inseparable experiences. “Mouth feel” seems a totally inelegant way to communicate the pleasure, but it seems to be the term of choice. Creamy, crunchy, grainy, watery, smooth. I’m not sure how to characterize ‘fiery’ spice. Is that a taste or a texture or a mouth feel or a chemical reaction? “Tastes like burning!” as Ralph says on The Simpsons. In the documentary “El Bulli” (about the famously avant garde restaurant in Spain), they experimented with serving a cocktail that was simply water with a little hazelnut oil floating on top. It was all about feeling the smoothness of the oil on your upper lip while the clear, cold water glided below it into your mouth. Ah, concentrating on a singular sensation. How wondrous! How hedonistic! How delightful! Why not? “I’ll have what she’s having!” the old lady says, pointing to Harry & Sally’s table. Have you ever had a taste experience that bordered on climactic? I have. I savor them. Here’s one that pops in mind: my sister’s homemade Mexican chocolate ice cream. The first time I ate it, I almost passed out. Chocolate ice cream has never meant the same thing to me since. Hungarian fry bread rubbed with a garlic clove at Paprikas Fono in San Francisco. I was pregnant for the first time and STARVING. Seriously, I hadn’t been able to keep food down and I was depressed. I craved that bread with goulash for nine months.
I could probably go on forever, but I won’t. I am so appreciative of my taste buds and the way they enhance my life every day. I did know a guy who’d suffered brain damage from 2 car accidents and couldn’t smell or taste much. I feel much compassion for his predicament. Not that it is insurmountable, but I’m happy to be able to enjoy the sensations I have. Thank you, Universe.