Sunday, January 18, 2015

Taste Buds

Taste evolves. One of the ways we like to describe ourselves is by our likes and dislikes - but those aren't static. For the first 34 years of my life I didn't drink coffee. I didn't like the taste and had been told it wasn't good for you so didn't really feel the need to tweak my buds. Then coffee houses started to become the new pubs. Instead of meeting down the pub for a pint, we started meeting people for a coffee. When you don't drink coffee, your options are fairly limited. There are only so many occasions you can order hot chocolate with a poker face. Like whiskey and wine, there is also the attraction of the story behind the coffee. Where the beans come from. Exploring the different flavours. I think life is a little better when coloured by stories. So I pulled my taste buds into line and am now a coffee fan.  

Adventurous people like to talk about a willingness to try things once. You never know if you will like it. Sometimes it actually takes more than that. You have to train your taste buds. I can think of plenty of other things that I used to really dislike and then they became favourites. The idea of a Spinach and Ricotta pizza certainly didn't appeal to the younger me and is now something I will devour. In trying to shift my diet toward more plant based stuff, I am trying to add stuff rather than give stuff up. The idea being to find really tasty food I look forward to making. Scott Jurek talked about his Minnesota Winter Chili as being the thing that convinced him that eating plants didn't mean having to give up on taste. His book, 'Eat & Run' has a recipe at the end of each chapter and I decided this would be the first one I attempted and it is ridiculously yummy. I hesitate to say it is easy too, because the first time you do anything is never easy. Even going to the shop to get the ingredients is confusing. Then you don't know for sure if you are doing things right or if you are going to have to throw mountains of food out. Easy isn't easy till it is.

I think we should question first tastes and preferences when other people get a lot of joy from something. South Africans love it when people don't like biltong. It means more for them. One of the Brazilian equivalents I tasted last night is Brigadeiro. Friend Marianna and Roberto brought some over nervously saying that lots of non-Brazilians don't like these balls of delight (cooked condensed milk) which means more for them. Perhaps my taste buds had been trained by Koeksisters which are dough deep fried in syrup, but I wasn't a neigh-sayer. Yum.

I think the idea of Acquired Taste extends to learning which is why I am experimenting with the 'First 100 hour' concept. When you start learning a musical instrument, e.g. the piano, you have to build up physical fitness and strength in your fingers. It is physical, technical and academic. You have to learn to read music. You have to train your ear. You have to teach your hands to move independently. You have to do scales which are the equivalent of pushups and situps and can feel like a drag. For a creative, emotional person you can imagine them being keen but then being turned off by the initial slog. Josh Waitzkin talks of 'Numbers to leave numbers, form to leave form' when talking of chess and martial arts in terms of learning the groundwork till it becomes so entrenched that other stuff matters. That is the good stuff. The problem if you give things up because you are bad at the initial stages is that the initial stages may not be the thing that matters. The initial stages may just be an obstacle. The great musicians are the ones who tap into something else when the technical stuff disappears. When the mist lifts and they get in the zone tapping into their creativity. If we only ever do the things that taste good initially, we may miss out on the juice of life.

Don't always trust your taste buds. They are very very sneaky.

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