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Receiving the Gift of Flavor

by Ric Castillo | December 8, 2017

Acquired tastes--I have likened this description to something ostensibly unpleasant or prohibitive that eventually becomes one of your favorite things (or at least, situationally favorite). Naturally, being labeled as such becomes a hard objection to overcome. Distractible, sensory societal consciousness favors big, immediately gratifying things that make the biggest sounds, the sweetest and fattest flavors, the awe of the greatest amperage, and the most mercurial heart-swing. Subtlety and context are now more often perceived as enemies to the senses: they require substantially more input, synergy, perception, and headspace to process--multitasking is certainly not recommended--and both have a different kind of payoff. Once something looks like it might take too long to distill, the sheer amount of energy required to get the process started discourages many from even trying.

 

This does not come from the high plateau of a connoisseur of all-things-awesome-and-genuinely-worthwhile. It would be a lie to say I’m picking pinesap over honey among nature’s candy all of the time. Honey is versatile, sweet, accessible, and (depending on who you talk to) might help your immune system. Pinesap? Sticky, resinous and bitterly tallolic. Pine sap’s great redemption comes after chewing it for a while--it eventually gives way to a unique, fresh, woodsy taste that makes you glad to have stuck out the initial impression. Or maybe not. Maybe you combine the two and make pine honey. Or, add a third element: the indomitable cinnamon stick!  Cinnamon stick pine honey: there you go! Add hot water and make it seasonally delicious. Would it be the go-to for your tea all of the time? Probably not.

 

But while we’re talking about seasonally-appropriate flavors--or, alternatively, the thoughtful gift tin ready to be discovered after all of the big boxes and flashy gadgets have been opened-- permit my candor for a minute. Mesa, the city I now call home, is known as something of an acquired taste; after all, we don’t have the honey and prickly-pear nectar glistening off of us the way local apple-of-the-wandering eye Scottsdale, Tempe, or Phoenix does. Our downtown is a cinnamon stick swirling a mug of tea (sometimes cider), held by the semi-arthritic, stewardly hands of someone constantly warning us not to burn ourselves. We’re not the best tea and not the sweetest tea, but we’re willing to let all of the elements come together and steep something interesting.

 

In their own way, the same mechanisms that have you reaching for the sweetest thing on the table (and then maybe wishing you never did…) are the same ones that curl lips, furrow brows and outright reject the subtly repelling impressions of something unfamiliar... before even trying it. You might disagree with the preference of a particular taste, but remember that most of the preferences are acquired, and not innate. As the title of this blog suggests, maybe all your original assumptions ever need...is some more evidence...and some more flavors.



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