Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Gift of Taste

Which would be worse: being blind or deaf? Most of us have thought this or even had the question posed to us by friends, often leading to spirited debates as to which would be the bigger loss. While a loss of either of those senses would come with enormous every day obstacles, something I did not personally consider until recently - and I'm embarrassed to admit that this never occured to me given its importance in my life - is what it would be like to live without a sense of taste. Although not nearly as challenging as losing one's sight or hearing, something that is a huge part of my world would be taken from me.

So many of the happy, small moments in my day-to-day life revolve around my use of this sense. I recently received one of life's cruel reminders to appreciate what you have: a close family friend is fighting a difficult battle with cancer that robbed him of his ability to taste. A man who loves a great meal, the last time I saw him he told me that he has dreams of certain foods and how they taste. I have a strong suspicion similar dreams would come to me if I lost the ability to taste, like the phantom twitching of an amputated limb. I'm not normally a fan of list posts, but this got me thinking about some flavors I would miss the most should the sense of taste be taken from me. In no particular order:

The smoke and pepper on a well rendered fatty slice of brisket: That unforgettable flavor of bark mixed with buttery fat, it would be heartbreaking to be able to smell this Texas barbecue staple and not taste it.

The spicy, fish sauce-y goodness of som tam: While I love the fragance and complexity of Thai curries, the green papaya salad popular in several countries across Southeast Asia is a must order at the better Thai restaurants in Houston. Thinly sliced green papaya is tossed with a mixture of sugar, lime, fish sauce and chilis. The combination of sweetness, acidity, spice and the terrific funk of fish sauce, each bite of som tam is a different experience. Vieng Thai's version is excellent, as discussed in this Kaitlin Steinberg article.

The Bravo sauce at Pollo Bravo: If you've yet to make it to Pollo Bravo, the small Houston chain known for their rotisserie chicken, you're missing out on a great experience. The chicken, with its beautifully seasoned skin and juicy white and dark meats are exactly what a rotisserie chicken should be but so often isn't at your local grocery store. Their sides and desserts are tasty as well, but what keeps me coming back to Pollo Bravo is the delectable green sauce served as an accompaniment to the chicken. One small cup is never enough, as I will mix it into the Mexican rice and dip almost anything else I'm eating into it.When picking up a to go order, one of my favorite things to do is order an extra bravo sauce and mix it into omelettes later in the week. The mayonnaise based sauce has a touch of lime and healthy dose of chili peppers thrown into the mix that make it a creamy, spice tingling addition of which I cannot get enough. To lose the ability to taste this would truly hurt.

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout: Much has been said about this Colorado brewer's popular beer. I contemplated putting one of the specialty release or seasonal beers I enjoy on this list, but decided to stick with Nitro Milk Stout, my favorite year-round drinkable beer. I know some may say this should be a cold weather beer due to its dark, full-bodied flavor, but it has such a smooth finish that I enjoy it no matter the season. Would I drink it poolside? Perhaps not, but my house has air conditioning.

Perfect chocolate chip cookies: Few foods on the planet are more satisfying than a warm, soft, chocolate chip cookie. A personal favorite spot is Ooh La La Dessert Boutique. They make a splendid chocolate chip cookie, though cupcakes are this popular westside bakery's calling card.The cookies are perfectly textured with the butter and brown sugar flavor always present but never overpowering, and the quality chocolate they use for the chips takes them to another level. Not in the mood to drive out to Katy? Their location in Town and Country Village is a bit more convenient for the inner loopers.

There are so many flavors whose loss I would mourn if my sense of taste were to leave. In a number of ways, it would alter my life almost as drastically as would the loss of sight or sound. The next time you sit down to a meal, whether at a Beard nominated restaurant, fast food parking lot, or from your own kitchen,  I hope you can take it in with every sense you've been gifted. I'll try to do the same.

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