From my notebooks: Serve It Forth

by M. F. K. Fisher

Almost all people are born unconscious of the nuances of flavour. Many die so. Some of these unfortunates…remain all their lives as truly taste-blind as their brother sufferers are blind to color…

They like hot coffee, a fried steak with plenty of salt and pepper and meat sauce upon it, a piece of apple pie and a chunk of cheese. They like the feeling of a full stomach. They resemble those myriad souls who say, ‘I don’t know anything about music, but I love a good rousing military band.’

Let the listener to Sousa hear much music. Let him talk to other music-listeners. Let him read about music makers.

He will discover the strange note of the oboe, recognize the French horn’s convolutions. Schubert will sing sweetly in his head, and Beethoven sweep through his heart. Then one day he will cry. “Bach! By God, I can hear him! I can hear!”

That happens to the taste-blind in just some such way. He eats apple pie, good or bad, because he has always eaten it. Then one day he sees a man turn his back upon the cardboard crust and sodden half-cooked fruit, and eat instead some crisp crackers with his cheese, a crisp apple peeled and sliced ruminatively after the crackers and the yellow cheese. The man looks as if he knew something pleasant, a secret from the taste-blind.

“I believe I’ll try that. It is–yes, it is good. I wonder–”

And the man who was taste-blind begins to think about eating. Perhaps he talks a little, or reads. All he really need do is experiment.

He discovers that cream is good in coffee in the morning, but that after dinner black coffee is better. He looks for the first time at soup, and pushes it away if it is too pale, too thick or thin.

Potatoes become more to him than the inevitable companion of meat, and he finds unsuspected tastes in the vegetables he has been gulping since his infancy.

He is pleased. He is awakened… Yes, he can taste at last, and life itself has more flavour, more zest.


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