Sunday, December 06, 2009

Not Supertasty

Today was a day for a great realization. We had dinner last night at Shilla, a Korean restaurant, and it was a common meal experience. B ordered a good deal of expensive food and praised each bite, while I, wanting to offset his lavish habits, ordered a small dish and ate to quell my hunger. Specifically, he ordered sushi (smoked salmon, caterpillar roll, spicy tuna) and sundubu jigae, while I got a clear broth soup with pork short ribs and veggies. Afterwards, in our analysis, I looked around the table at our various dishes and the 10 small dishes of banchan and concluded that I was pretty much over Korean food. I had tasted each of the dishes, familiarized myself with their flavors, and found no particular desire to have them again. B, on the other hand, savored and loved his food. He talks about food, its flavors and mouthfeels, when he's eating it. And then he called me a supertaster.

I looked it up this morning, took a few informal short quizzes, and found out that I may be and probably am a supertaster. A supertaster is someone who has more tastebuds than the average person, is put off by strong tastes (like bitter, sugar, fat), prefers "bland" food, and is a picky eater. Part of me was hugely relieved that there is a term to describe people like this. I always thought I was weird and felt ashamed that I could not appreciate a wide variety of foods, since that is somewhat of a prized ability. For example, when people ask me about my preferences, I always offer that I don't really like cheese, except for white cheeses that do not have a strong flavor. Like mozzarella. Or gruyere. I can do pizza or Italian food. As a kid, I remember giving my mother a hard time whenever she tried to get me to eat a grilled cheese sandwich. She probably just wanted me prevent me from developing osteoporosis later on in life, but whenever I was asked to take a cheesy bite, I would gag and be unable to swallow. Pretty soon I made such a ruckus and even cried sometimes that my parents gave up. Same with milk, cream cheese, cheesecake, cream frosting. My brother and I were notorious for scraping the cream clean off our birthday cake slices (and wiping the fork) before even taking a bite. I now wonder why we never considered getting another celebratory dessert after all those years.

This self-label can liberate me from the fear of being abnormal in this category. Now I no longer have to feel guilty when I don't share B's zeal for a dish. Instead of beating myself up for not being receptive to new experiences (I will generally try something even if it looks distasteful), I can just accept that is how I am. I will admit that I used to enjoy eating a lot more, and that dishes I used to love are oddly uninspiring to me now. Like, I never suggest Thai places anymore, because I feel like so many of their dishes are all way too sweet. And I am completely over Mexican/Tex-Mex. Too many years of eating refried beans (hate the texture), forcing down shredded yellow cheese, and stinky flour tortillas. And I have yet to find a good dessert place in town. Usually, to satisfy an inconveniently strong craving, I will go to Quack's in the neighborhood for a quick fix. But their pie fillings are somewhat dry and the crust is eh. I've also tasted too many bad desserts in this town: Whole Foods has a gross, overly sweet dessert section. All their offerings are uninspiring and mediocre, at best. Bountiful Bakery and Sugar Mama's both make sugary bars that I found inedible. The main things going for Tiff's Treats is butter and sugar, neither of which impress me in a cookie. I strongly believe that people should have higher standards for dessert. The only place I have found worthwhile dessert is at Pie Slice (chocolate coffee pie only), and at nicer restaurants in general.

B gave me a look when I recently announced my favorite dish at Mandola's: thin pasta tossed with olive oil, garlic, basil, and fresh tomato. He prefers to go for more flavorful food, such as cured meats, organ meat/offal, strong beers, fish, etc. Tonight we ate at Peche for his belated 25th birthday dinner. It was a three-hour affair. I have to admit that I felt very much out of place there, since everyone was very much moaning from delight over their fine food and mixed drinks, and I thought everything was either OK or not for me. Can't remember the last time I thought a meal was awesome. I really yearn for that sort of culinary enjoyment, but unless some taste buds get killed off or my brain changes, it's not gonna happen. It stinks.


Rachel B said...

This is why I find lengthy restaurant reviews to be pretty much worthless. Everyone is so different! Working at Austin Java, I've noticed that the vast majority of people can't tell the difference between coffees, but there are a few who seem to taste everything! They can really tell the difference between Bolivian and Ethiopian, they can tell if it's not fresh or if it was brewed extra strong. I wish I had a keener palate...

Fern said...

You are right. Especially since lengthy reviews tend to be so anecdotal. I am one of those people who cannot tell the difference between brews or wine. But then again, I don't love drinking those beverages either.