February 13th, 2007

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Food Writing - Assignment Two

My second assignment was more difficult than the first one. It relates to three tastings we did in class, and we were supposed to write about "either about the experience of tasting the honey, olive oil and chocolate, or the taste of them – in 500-800 words."


The Taste of Memory

 

The sky is a brilliant blue, and the stalks above me wave lazily in the slight breeze. They’re right on the cusp of turning from green to gold, and the smell of the field saturates me as I lie on my back staring at the sky. I reach up and grab a stalk of barley, and pull it through my fingers, stripping the seeds with my hand so they fall onto me. My hand seems small and I am suddenly aware that I am seeing the world through a younger pair of my own eyes. The shock jolts me back to the classroom, where I have just smelt and tasted Rosto Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Bewildered I wonder how one writes this. How can I describe a taste and smell in terms of a long forgotten memory, devoid (even for me) of context? I do not remember the field - where it was, or how I got there - but I see it when I taste and smell the oil. A second taste summons the same vision, but it progresses no further – just a few frames of an otherwise lost moment in time, drowning in the heady smell of grasses turning from green to gold. Feeling a little sheepish, I try to write this experience into words that I can compare with my classmates.

I taste the second oil, a 2006 Joseph Extra Virgin Olive Oil, only to fall into the vortex of a fresh-cut lawn. I’m more ready for it this time, but the experience is still surprising to me. I have been an urban dweller for the last ten years of my life, and I presumed that the drone of lawnmowers had long since faded from my memory. I can even see my feet, dusted with fresh cut grass, in a pair of long forgotten thongs…

Someone remarks that they wished they had ordinary honey to taste before sampling the less-known honeys on offer, and I ponder this. What, for me, would be ordinary honey? Would it be it the Capilano Honey I grew up with on the family breakfast table? Or is it perhaps my personal epitome of honey (and here again, I am lost in reverie, remembering the luscious simplicity of the liquid honeycomb accompanying a golden wedge of Meyer Vintage Gouda, as I sat outdoors on a roughly hewn wooden bench, surrounded by giant bees in the grounds of Pegasus Bay Winery in Waipara, New Zealand). I wonder if revisiting these tastes will help me describe the unfamiliar taste of Jarrah, as it swirls in my mouth.

I conclude that perhaps the best help for me is not what I consider ordinary honey to be; rather it is that Jarrah summons up for me no picture memories. The flavour is totally unique, so instead of tasting a memory, I get fragments of coffee, the smell of mocha, a strong taste of treacle and a hint of salt on my palate. It’s a pervasive flavour that lingers while I consider whether I am in fact making a memory taste that I will later return to. And what will I recall if I do? Perhaps it will be the slight flicker of fluorescent lights, the cool beige desk under my elbows, and the bashful sounds of my classmates’ quiet sniffing in my ears…

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