A Matter of Taste

Last night my wife and I went out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. She remarked that we seemed to have swapped tastes. She was ordering Philadelphia rolls and Texas/Japanese fusion style items that would make a sushi purist cringe, but are actually quite tasty, and I had ordered simple raw fish and rice. This is the complete opposite of what we used to do.

This got me thinking about even more profound shifts in my tastes. When I first met my wife I didn’t even eat sushi. Certainly not the raw clams, snapper and tuna that I was savoring last night with a decent glass of Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, I didn’t even enjoy wine back then. How did my tastes change so radically?

Is this the result of growing up and accidentally developing “grown up” tastes? Does the physical act of aging cause us to taste things differently? A reaction to new influences? There might be something to those ideas, but I don’t believe that they are more than contributing factors.

It seems to me that being open to new experiences, ideas, flavors, places, people and cultures is the key to expanding tastes. Going back to last night’s sushi, I was in heaven as the buttery texture of the raw fish, its clean fresh taste and bright notes combined with the hint of saltiness from the rice, and the way the wine brought all of that into crisp focus. However, that required a long ago leap when I overcame years of cultural conditioning that told me not to put that raw piece of fish into my mouth.

That took conscious effort. Possibly even a leap of faith. As much as I’d like to report that I immediately appreciated and fell in love with sushi at that moment, the truth is that I found it disgusting and had to order some dumplings so as to not go hungry. So, how did I get to raw fish nirvana last night? After that first taste of sushi I found myself curious to try it again. Next time instead of trying to shove a hunk of raw fish into my mouth I tried a California roll and then moved on to cooked sushi and items that featured crab meat, etc. Slowly I began to appreciate more and more of the raw items.

Falling in love with wine took time and effort, as well. My first experiences with wine were limited to wetting the cotton mouth after a joint or two with a few pulls of Annie Green Spring or MD 20/20. For many years even better wines only tasted marginally better to me than those bum wines. Then the white Zin craze hit and made me an even more confirmed beer drinker.

When my wife was in law school she dragged me to a wine tasting seminar put on by one of her professors who believed that, as future lawyers, some knowledge of wine was essential to their success. We only attended so that she could earn brownie points. Little did we know that it would be the spark that kindled a passion for wine in both of us.

Speaking of beer, this is another area where my tastes have changed radically. That Budweiser that my dad would share with me on a hot day as a teenager would taste amazing after cutting the grass back then, but I probably couldn’t stomach it anymore. An American mass-produced lager of any sort could never taste like I remember those beers tasting. My tastes have moved on, even though pleasant memories of that taste remain. I would be much more inclined to grab a serious hop bomb on a hot day than anything thin and tasteless.

Sometimes our tastes expand more than actually change. My repertoire of foods that I enjoy continues to grow larger and larger, yet there are times when nothing tastes better than a peanut butter and jelly on squishy white bread with an icy cold glass of milk.

Musically I tend to listen to Jazz, Blues and Alternative Country these days. While I haven’t left behind my love of punk and heavier stuff from my youth, there is something to be said for mellowing with age without forgetting how you got there.

Those who drink Miller Lite probably look at someone who walks in and orders an Anchor Steam as a snob, and I am perfectly alright with that. If expanding my horizons makes others uncomfortable because they are being left behind that is on them. I have had it happen to me, too. I guess the more adventurous among us tend to eventually catch up.

Come on, I’ll race you to the next adventure.

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