Tag Archives: taste

T is for Taste!

TVery excited about taste. Tasting. Tasty.

This weekend I have the great privilege of being on the faculty at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. And one of my workshops is called Eating Your Words: Make Them Tasty! It’s all about using the sense of taste in your writing to impact your readers’ connection to your characters.

I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified to give this workshop. I fear I’ll either blurt everything out in under ten minutes, or I’ll never be able to get through all the material in my outline.

People, I made a PowerPoint. It is certainly not the finest example of a PowerPoint presentation, but it will work.

It features two different photos of chocolate cake. But only one of my dog.

Um…now I feel like I need to state clearly, for the record, that the chocolate cake photos speak to using how things taste, while the photo of the dog is one of several photos used to emphasize that eating or consuming is a universal concept, and everything alive must consume something. I would never presume to speak about how dog food tastes, even though I accidentally ate a Milk Bone once.

One of the things I love about tasting new dishes is trying to figure out what’s in them. It’s a very palatable puzzle for me. Does this chili haveĀ cinnamon in it? Did the cook put someĀ tarragon in the spaghetti sauce?

In my opinion, the former is a wonderful idea, as long as one uses a light hand with the cinnamon. The latter is not a good idea, but that’s because I’m not fond of tarragon. Too much like licorice, a flavor I have never enjoyed.

Really, though, there are very few flavors I have a strong aversion for. It’s more about texture, which is luckily another “T” word. I was subjected to liver and onions, periodically, when growing up. All that iron was supposed to be good for growing bodies. And I could just about tolerate being in the same room with, until that fateful day it was my turn to cook dinner and liver was on the menu. After I stuck a fork into a piece of raw liver, I never put another piece of liver in my mouth.

Addendum: this applies to beef liver. I’m nuts about chicken livers. Go figure.

Tapioca. Can’t get around the texture. Canned asparagus, to me, takes on a texture no vegetable should be forced to endure, limp and slimy and yet somehow still chewy. Oysters. I want to like them, and will eat them fried, but slurping a raw one out of the shell? No, thank you.

What are the tastes and textures that drive you wild, either in a good way or a bad way?

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O is for Orange

OIt’s day 17 of the A-to-Z blogging orange-webchallenge, and I persevere!

Never mind finding a word that rhymes with orange. Tell me how you would describe the flavor.

You can’t just say sweet. That could be a candy bar, a popsicle, a blueberry pie, or rice pudding.

I suppose you could say it’s a sweet citrus flavor, because citrus implies a certain tang on the tongue .

But imagine you’re talking to someone new to our world. Before they bite into that orange segment you just handed them, presuming you’re not the kind of asshat who would hand them a whole orange without instructing them to peel it, how would you describe the first juicy taste of an orange?

How would you describe the unpleasant taste of biting into orange peel? Not talking the candied variety here, just the straight up peel. Bitter, for sure, but what else?

I’m always amused when people try to describe a flavor by saying it tastes like chicken. Because first, it never does, and second, they never specify which part of the chicken. Is it tiny crunchy earthy bits like the toenails? Acrid like burning feathers? Earthy like the liver, or rather bland like the breasts you buy at the Megalomart? (Bonus if you get that reference, by the way.)

My sister once described fresh eggs as tasting more chicken-y than store-bought eggs. After considering it, I had to agree. And then there are duck eggs, which take egg-ness to yet a higher level, kind of the pinnacle of something you want to dip toast in when cooked over easy.

Not only are the yolks bigger, fatter, and richer, they come in a deeper orange hue.

You could pair them with a glass of orange juice for breakfast. But only if you tell me how you would describe the flavor of an orange.

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C is for Coffee Talk

How things taste has been on my mind a LOT lately. I’m giving a class on using the sense of taste in your writing at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference at the end of this month, thus my recent obsession with how to describe taste.
CAnyone who knows me well knows that I am not a coffee drinker. I never acquired the taste for it (and some days I wish I could say the same about (beer).

I have vague memories of when I was very young, sitting in my father’s lap at the kitchen table and drinking from his coffee cup. The man liked a lot of milk and sugar in his coffee, that’s for sure. Another factor that my mom later pointed out to me: if she wanted me to eat something as a child, she made sure I saw it on my dad’s plate. Whatever he ate, I ate. There was a hardcore mutual admiration society going on between us.

(Side note: Dad is also responsible for my love of sardines on Saltines. Although my occasional craving for ruffled potato chips dipped into cottage cheese comes straight from Mom.)

That was my first memory of coffee. My second? There was a gathering at our house after my father died, following the funeral. Tons of people, tons of food, lots of people hugging and laughing and crying and having conversations I didn’t really understand. (I was nine and didn’t understand a lot.) On the counter in the kitchen sat a big coffee urn, borrowed from either the church or the fire department, gleaming silver and occasionally sending little coffee-scented burps into the air. It was flanked by a stack of cups plus the cream and sugar set from Mom’s good china. Nobody noticed when I took a cup and poured myself some coffee. As long as I wasn’t delving into the liquor cabinet, why would they?

Smart enough not to scald myself, I blew on the coffee to cool it before I took my first sip. My mouth filled with a taste that was both bitter and burnt, and I was horrified by the idea that people drank this stuff of their own free will. I quickly went back to the counter and added milk and a big spoonful of sugar.

Nope. Still tasted like dark caverns, motor oil and grief.

I haven’t felt moved to try coffee since then. I don’t even like coffee-flavored things, like ice cream or tiramisu or Kahlua in any format.

Mom, a lifelong tea drinker, is a much kinder woman than I am. She continued to happily brew coffee for anyone requesting a cup, whether it was my grandparents stopping by for dinner or one of my uncles stopping by on a cold fall afternoon after hunting. She faithfully made a pot every morning for my stepfather, and any time one of my stepbrothers came to visit. By all accounts, it was terrible coffee, bitter and strong to the point of almost melting the spoon the inevitable sugar was stirred in with.

The thing is, Mom wasn’t trying to make bad coffee. I, on the other hand, have made the worst possible coffee on the rare occasions I’ve been asked to make some, thus insuring the person on the receiving end will never ask me again.

Would anyone like a cup of tea?

 

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