Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Sadly, thanks to search engines, it is no longer possible to spin b.s. assertions without being detected, making it necessary to actually perform research. So I was entirely wrong to tell you that my brother's collection of great big tastebuds made him more of a wine enthusiast than I. Actually, if your tongue is thoroughly tiled in big buds ("fungiform papillae"), you are probably a picky eater, averse to alchohol, peppers, brussel sprouts, and even peppermint.

You can find out if you are well-equipped, tongue-wise: paint a little blue food coloring on the front of your tongue. Your fungiform papillae will stay nice and pink while the rest of your tongue turns blue.

Naturally I had to test my tongue. I ran to the kitchen and dug out the powdered coloring I'd gotten for cake-decorating experiments leading up to my home-made wedding cake (a very bad idea, by the way; the night before my wedding, I was covered in flour, sweat and tears. Raspberry jam seeped through the marshmallow fondant icing, which I tried to cover up by tying a ribbon round it, prompting a guest to ask whether it was a ribbon or a bandage).

Just popping open the bottle of powder caused a cloud of it to settle on my hand, so I licked it, aware that an observer might infer I was ingesting deep blue cocaine. The results of the test itself were inconclusive; the powder was so strong it gave everything a bluish tinge, and my tongue looked like a forest of miniature blue toadstools.

Going by behavior, since I don't find broccoli bitter, do enjoy a glass of wine, and am able to tolerate moderate heat (that's chili pepper heat; when it comes to wasabi, I'm an absolute thrill-seeker, not satisfied until an unholy sensation has crawled through my eye sockets), I think I'm a middling taster, with a middling palate.

This would make my husband the supertaster in the family. His fine palate causes him distress, expressed thusly: "Yick." Green vegetables are yick. Wine is yick. He maintains that nobody really likes wine, but everybody pretends to enjoy it lest they be thought unsophisticated. It's a vast worldwide conspiracy.

He is not the ideal companion for crawling the hot night spots. Nor for savoring the fine tasting menu. But I have affection for him that exceeds my desire to do these things.

I once went to le Bernardin with a voluble artist. He was a raconteur of unrelenting hilarity. Le Bernardin is an exquisite French restaurant, the best in the city. Eric Ripert, the chef, specializes in meditations upon seafood, that should be savored and reflected upon.

The voluble artist filled the air with verbiage till my head spun. I thought I should have to stop the spinning by plunging a fish fork into my breast or his. I don't remember eating anything after the first course (fluke, 3 variations increasing in complexity) because the artist took it as an insult if I broke eye contact. Somehow, he hoovered up the most glorious culinary offerings set before him and never stopped talking for a nanosecond. And none of it about the food.

Were his tongue to stop long enough to be tinted, I am sure he'd be classified another middling taster. But what of the tongues of the great chefs? What of Eric Ripert? Would he be a sport and let us paint his tongue?

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