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In Good Taste

January 16, 2008  |  11:19am

My sense of taste is apparently significantly atrophied.

I have friends who are connoiseurs of coffee, beer, and wine. They discuss the alluring complexities of Ethiopian dark roast and the tangy zest of Jamaica Blue Mountain. They debate the merits of Belgian Trappist beers and blonde ales. Don’t even get me started on the wine discussions.

I’m a McDonald’s man, myself. They don’t serve beer and wine, of course, but they do serve coffee, which is generally labeled “Coffee (S/M/L).” It contains caffeine, which is a desired ingredient when I show up for work at 7:20 a.m. It tastes okay to me, but I don’t really savor it, roll it around under my tongue and search for the hint of blueberries. It tastes like coffee.

And yet I know many people who would be horrified by such an admission. It is akin to some sanctimonious bore pontificating that all rock ‘n roll sounds like irritating noise, and I would be horrified by that statement as well. Those are the people who need to hear Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, or a Skinny Puppy album, I think malevolently. You don’t like irritating noise? Try this. Just trying to be helpful. So I get it. I understand the tendency to smirk and to roll the eyes. “You just need to learn to be more discriminating,” my friends tell me as they extol the wonders of Guatemalan Antigua Los Volcanes. “You need to look for the chocolaty overtones.” Sure thing. And I wish I could. But I’m sorry. It tastes like coffee. No chocolaty overtones. No piquant nuttiness. Just coffee.

Some of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that I have nuked my taste buds, and that I have seriously undermined my ability to discrminate between, say, skim milk and single-malt Scotch due to decades of gastronomic abuse. I sip the Ethiopian dark roast. “Zest” is not the word I would use. “Zest” is nineteen jalapeno peppers on a burrito. But this just tastes like a Medium coffee at McDonald’s.

I wish I could do better. Alas, I fear that I am a hopeless case.

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