Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts

What a cornucopia of contrasts we large-brained creatures enjoy!  All of our five senses combined with time, space, balance, aesthetic, and a host of other concepts gives us a spectrum of comparison and juxtaposition that is unparallelled (maybe – contrasts in perceived electricity, magnetism, light and sound might be more pronounced in other species than I imagine!  How do animals know when and how to migrate or mate or find a spawning place?).   Sensate – sentient – sensational.  The world is a vast canvas of contrasts.

prickly feathery coldPrickly, feathery, cold.  Down on snow, covered with a pine bough. 

I can lose myself in texture and scent and taste even more than with sight and sound.  My guts are more involved, my brain less so.  I am enjoying a book by one of my favorite writers, Walter Wangerin Jr.  What I like about his voice is that it is so thoroughly visceral and ancient.  It makes me feel grounded.  There’s a holiness in that.  Contrast helps me know that I am alive.

Advent Day #12 – Taste

Today’s Advent door opens up a world of heaven.  Taste is something that I appreciate with my whole being, like a baby wriggling in delight.  I baked bread twice this week, and made turkey soup and deep dish pizza from scratch.  I am looking for Whole Foods markets within driving distance so that I can taste their Truffle Gouda one more time.  I get really excited about food!  My Christmas magic is gradually boiling down to simply cooking and eating good food.  I’m not decorating or exchanging gifts or going to church or to parties, but I am going to enjoy being busy in my home making tasty things for people I love.  

You’ve Got Taste

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.

 

Fried Chicken picnic at Ravinia on my birthday

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.

Advent Day #11 – Smell

Inhaling deeply, through the nose.   A breath meditation and a sensory celebration.  Smell is a marvelous gift!  Pleasurable, informative, playful and useful — something for which to be grateful as we count our Advent blessings. 

You Smell

Well, at least I hope you do.  I knew a young man who lost his sense of smell after a motorcycle accident.  I had periods of olfactory disability when I had chronic sinusitis.  I found those days flat and uninteresting.  I have always enjoyed the stealthiness of fragrance; it can surprise you and delight you and make you suddenly aware as if playing a game with you.  “Wow!  What is that?”  Your mother’s favorite brand of perfume, the beach grass from your childhood vacations, the star jasmine that bloomed beneath the porch.  It’s amazing how specific smells are.  Many animals identify their own offspring by scent alone.   So today, I am challenging you to become aware of and appreciate your sense of smell.  What is this season’s particular redolence?  Cinnamon.  Allspice.  Pine.  Onion.  Sage.  Vanilla.  I stopped at a spice shack the other day to buy Chai Tea Spices.  The place was a heaven of smell.  Pungent pepper and cinnamon.

There are place odors that are painful.   Hospitals and vets’ offices, for instance.  The stairwell of the parking structure in a big city.  The landfill.  Gary, Indiana in the late ’60s.  You know a few, I’m sure.

Garlic.  French fries.  Chocolate chip cookies baking.  Okay, now I’m just getting hungry.  Breakfast and then drive to Chicago for the Lyric Opera: Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss.  Dinner with Emily at the Algerian crepe place.  Never been there before.  Looking forward to smelling that!

You Smell

Well, at least I hope you do.  I knew a young man who lost his sense of smell after a motorcycle accident.  I had periods of olfactory disability when I had chronic sinusitis.  I found those days flat and uninteresting.  I have always enjoyed the stealthiness of fragrance; it can surprise you and delight you and make you suddenly aware as if playing a game with you.  “Wow!  What is that?”  Your mother’s favorite brand of perfume, the beach grass from your childhood vacations, the star jasmine that bloomed beneath the porch.  It’s amazing how specific smells are.  Many animals identify their own offspring by scent alone.   So today, I am challenging you to become aware of and appreciate your sense of smell.  What is this season’s particular redolence?  Cinnamon.  Allspice.  Pine.  Onion.  Sage.  Vanilla.  I stopped at a spice shack the other day to buy Chai Tea Spices.  The place was a heaven of smell.  Pungent pepper and cinnamon.

There are place odors that are painful.   Hospitals and vets’ offices, for instance.  The stairwell of the parking structure in a big city.  The landfill.  Gary, Indiana in the late ’60s.  You know a few, I’m sure.

Garlic.  French fries.  Chocolate chip cookies baking.  Okay, now I’m just getting hungry.  Breakfast and then drive to Chicago for the Lyric Opera: Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss.  Dinner with Emily at the Algerian crepe place.  Never been there before.  Looking forward to smelling that!

Steve & I made challah last year for our Christmas bread pudding