Overlooked Ingredients: Surroundings and Circumstance

Why do things taste better in certain environments and under unique conditions?  We all have a story or two where a meal or dish is infused with a particular set of factors and turns out to be some of the best tasting stuff ever, never to be duplicated again.  More often it’s something considered ordinary that has been elevated to the level of extraordinary through an ingredient called adventure.

This can work in the opposite fashion as well.  For example, in anticipation of our upcoming trip to France, I bought some French chocolates from the online boutique of the famous chocolatier La Maison du Chocolat.  They arrived next day air and with great anticipation I served myself and my husband each a personally chosen chocolate treat . . . which we ate in our living room.  It was simply amazing chocolate, no doubt about it.  But I just wondered how much more stunning it would have been to have experienced the chocolate sitting at a Parisian cafe gazing at the Eiffel Tower or on the bank on the Seine River enjoying a picnic of a baguette, wine and cheese.  Oh you had better believe I’m going to have a re-do of the chocolate experience once in France!

Speaking of France.  I have added a cheese course to a few of our dinners lately to get us used to the French tradition.  I wanted to try the famous French Camembert (from Normandy) and so I added some on our cheese plate at home.  Once again, not quite the same.  Even though I have never had Camembert before, I can take an educated guess that it’s not going to taste like this in France.  I am eagerly looking forward to tasting cheeses in France due to their lack of regulated pasteurization. Pasteurization can kill many of the sensational bacteria that gives cheese it’s phenomenal taste.  So not only will cheese (bread, butter and pretty much everything else) taste better in France, due to the quality of the items and the joie de vivre of the French, but it will taste better simply because we are eating it in France.

So location seems to be an obvious taste enhancer.  What about circumstance?  Nine years ago when my husband returned to the US from six months in Kuwait as an Army dentist, the first place he went was Katie Downs.  Located on the famous waterfront avenue Rustin Way in Tacoma, Katie Downs is a tavern themed restaurant specializing in gourmet pizza.  He describes his dinner of pizza and beer as one of the best meals of his life whilst sitting outside on the deck overlooking the water and Mt. Rainier on a beautiful sunny Northwest summers day.  For him, it was the perfect sitting for an introspective moment and the perfect meal for a man who was happy to be back safely in his home country.

While Michael’s Army story will certainly trump my next tale, it’s once again an example of how our mind can enhance the flavor of something, if the circumstances are right.  I am 12 years old and on my first airplane flight (to South Africa).  It’s a  ten hour flight to London England and as we are getting ready to land, my tummy has a mind of it’s own.  It didn’t help that my Grandmother told me I looked a little green in the face.  Just as the wheels touched down on the tarmac at Heathrow airport, I asked for an air sick bag.  And used several.  As we were de-boarding I could hardly stand in the isle but a nice lady offered me a simple piece of gum.  Not just any gum.  It was the old school, blue label, Original flavor Trident gum and I can not remember a tiny piece of gum ever tasting so good . . . EVER!

I find it astonishing that within our minds, we have the unbelievable capacity to intensify the flavor of various things based on the components of environment and circumstance.  That, my friends is truly remarkable.  Take note the next time you find yourself in a unique set of conditions and steal some time to stop and savor the flavor.

One response to “Overlooked Ingredients: Surroundings and Circumstance”

  1. […] . .  how were they?  September of last year I wrote a blog post titled Overlooked Ingredients: Surroundings and Circumstance.  Things I make at home never taste as good (to me) when I have an extraordinary first experience […]

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