Acquired Taste is learned, Distinct and Personal

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Tansy's Pride

“Tansy’s Pride” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; ready to frame

I remember the first time I tasted pizza as a child. The heavy greasy cheese slid into my stomach like a bomb. The taste blew my mind, but my stomach churned. Thirty minutes later, I barfed up this delectable plate like a rock. Strangely, a few days later, I found myself hungering for another taste, another smell of this tantalizing taste treat.

Mushrooms were always used in my mother’s cuisine; however, I’d never eaten them raw. My first dry and papery bite was disappointing. The taste and smell reminded me of somebody’s musty basement. Once I got past that, their succulent, melt-in-your mouth texture and flavor made me a life-long fan. Japanese Shitake mushrooms are a favorite, along with Italian Portobello smothered in Marsala sauce, and American morels sautéed in butter for a light and delectable dish.

My first experience with pâté de foie gras came in Germany at the Ratskeller in Bremen. Goose liver pâté never tasted so fine, smooth and exquisite. The escargot brought back hints of musty basement, but I learned through continual tastings to linger and enjoy; that is until I saw a snail farm in Paris on Public Television. After watching these asexual creatures co-habit and reproduce in mounds of slime, I haven’t been able to enjoy them since!

Frog’s legs, rabbit, rattle snake, and locusts all require nibbling and experimentation to get the hang of it and to appreciate these newfound edible sensations. Of course, a little chocolate never hurts to hide what you fear.

Beer is a taste that many abhor, even after several mugs full. Once you get past the sour after taste, the rest is history. There’s nothing like a cold beer on a hot day to quench thirst. And what a great accompaniment with cheesy pizza or to soothe your stomach after eating Italian spices.

Wine is another love-it-or-leave it beverage that is literally time tested. Ancient as the “Ancient of Days,” wine is beloved the world over for its ability to enhance food, aid digestion, and quench the palate.

Our choices change as we age. Knowledge and experience mature our taste buds and our sense of smell. Our eyes no longer cringe at what we dislike, but embrace the exciting challenge of discovery. We not only become more discriminating with our food, but with our interests. Art becomes “eye candy” that we analyze and enjoy. The more knowledge we gain about the subject, the more we begin to understand ourselves and what appeals to us.

Books take us places we’ve never been before. The more we devour their pages, the more likely we are to expand our interests. For example, two of my friends, knowing that I was an avid reader, recommended books they thought I would like. The first turned out to be the longest book I’ve ever read, yet I was determined to finish it. There were too many details and too many tears. The lengthy descriptions and static pace prolonged the agony and bored me to tears. Even minor characters were examined under a magnifying glass until I felt tormented to “get on with it!”

I realized I read to get away from my own stress and to find escape in someone else’s adventure. I want something fast-paced, usually historical, and always exciting or meaningful.

The same goes for food. I hunger for delectable dishes that teach me about foreign lands and the people who live there. That’s why my paintings are usually filled with exotic people and places. I find other cultures and the faces they wear beautiful and telling. They remind me of our common humanity and give me hope in the concept of basic human goodness.

Taste and appreciation are both acquired traits. I’ve known people who are afraid to taste something new for fear it will gross them out. Fear keeps us from enlarging our sphere of influence and enjoyment. Fear of the unknown may keep us from lending a helping hand or experiencing the contributions of others. Don’t hold back! Give it a go. I dare you!

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