You know how there’s lavender everything now: soap, tea, ice cream, etc.? This makes me think about the things we run into every day that seem as though they just might be really delicious ice cream flavors, if only they were food. Please to enjoy today’s game:
The 32nd Flavor
Pretend you’re at the ice cream shop, and you can have one scoop of any of the following. Which would you pick?
Glue. You know you want it.
The gel that old laptop screens are made of. The gel turns every color, and changes very quickly. Would its taste do the same thing? Sometimes it would all taste the same, and sometimes each part would taste different. Also the gel seems like light comes from it, which could be a spectacular ice cream topping. This brings us to…
Firefly guts. I can barely believe that I don’t literally know what these taste like, having smeared them on my hands aplenty. I continue to imagine that they taste like very bland limeade that’s made with waaaaay too much sugar and has a faint food-coloring aftertaste. In their best state, they could taste like lemon verbena soap smells, but sweet: like an herby key lime pie custard.
My yellow dress. I have a dress that is sunshine yellow cotton pique. It’s not lemon yellow, and it’s not butter yellow; it’s not the color of any known food, but its yellow still looks delicious.
The soot that is on buildings in New York. Obviously you’re not going to waste your one scoop on this one, because you think that you know exactly how it tastes. But are you sure? Or is there some nagging doubt? Diamonds come from coal, you know, and maybe soot is the precursor to champagne. Soot sorbet could have a sparkly, not-too-sweet mineral taste that’s perfectly refreshing.
When you confuse a pickled mushroom for a tomato, and can’t tell that the chicken you’re eating is actually lamb, you emphatically fail the blind taste test. This is a crying shame, as you would have won the bonus round through your ability to pick out traces of fennel fronds in a dill and arugula salad.
…and for those of you who enjoy some context:
There’s a restaurant in Hamburg that’s called UnsichtBar because you can’t see anything you’re eating. You are led by the (blind?) servers through a series of doors and into utter pitch blackness, and then you eat some food and drink some wine. It’s pretty awesome! It makes you appreciate the textures and tastes of the things you’re eating, and really made me think about how much food I’ve thoughtlessly stuffed down my craw while driving or typing or both.
One of the interesting things about the experience (besides wondering how the wine-based Rorschach print I was making on my shirt front was coming along,) was that I was scared that the experience would ruin me on some foods that I thought I liked. When ordering, you can choose one of several menus: a vegetarian menu, a fish menu, a chicken menu, a lamb menu, a cheese menu, a beef menu or a surprise menu. I chose the surprise menu because I like surprises (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) but also because I was afraid that the lamb, the fish, and the cheese would have elements that were too strong to really focus on; that flavors that I thought that I liked would turn on me in the dark. Little did I know that in the blackness, even lamb tastes like chicken.
Last night I stayed at an utterly charming hostel.* The room was light and airy, and the WC was located right down the hall (which I find much more pleasant that the prospect of flushing a toilet mere feet from my pillow.) The hostel is smack in the heart of St. Pauli (which the Hamburg Tourist Board describes as “a quarter with some problems on the one hand, but very vivid on the other hand” and which I describe as “very oh-dear-are-those-poor-girls-victims-of-sex-trafficking on the one hand, but excellent inexpensive food, interesting art and great hostels on the other hand”), and is upstairs from a restaurant that specializes in bio food. The breakfast buffet (have I mentioned HOW MUCH I LOVE GERMANY AND THEIR AWESOME MORNING BUFFETS lately?) contained many, many items that were labeled ‘bio’, including the honey. Tobias and I had a nice laugh at that; even though we haven’t settled on a mutually satisfactory explanation of the term bio, we do agree that as bio is likely a combination of natural, biological and organicish, there is no such thing as non-bio honey.
Just as I was launching into what was sure to be a hysterical riff about how there’s no such thing as BIO-WURST (referring to the salami and liverwurst standing out like sore thumbs in the midst of the bio-bread and bio-milk and bio-radishes,) a delivery truck pulled up outside. As I turned to look, I realized why sometimes Germans have a bit of a haughty, smug look when there are Americans about who laugh too much over breakfast and who forget that English is not their own special made-up secret code language: the delivery truck said “Bio-Fleisch”. The bio-meat delivery had arrived in all its bio-wursty glory.
*I would gladly tell you the name of the hostel, but I can’t remember it: as soon as there are more than 7 consonants in a German word, they all look the same to me. Sorry! It’s the hostel in the old Mont Blanc factory, and google is spelled G-O-O-G-L-E even in German.
I love how Deb P. describes diner food: she cocks her head to the side and says, “Oh, Bets, you know, it’s comforting.” I find the same thing in Korean food, but not in the same way. When I order a mix of raw beef, Asian vegetables, an egg yolk and spicy sauce, I am pretty sure that it will:
• Come in a bowl, with a long-handled steel spoon on the side
• Have Asian pear masquerading as a vegetable
• Be delicious
I’m also certain that there will be a number of small bowls filled with pickles, small fried fish, kimchee, and other wonders, and that some of the wonders will be new and different. Some of them will be foul, slimy and way too fishy, some will be crisp and spicy and refreshing, some will be thoughtful (like the tiny ice cubes nestled into plain dill pickles,) and some will be bizarre (a perfectly round scoop of cold, smooth, pointedly bland potato salad, anyone?)
It’s the newness, the difference that is comforting here. I like to visit cities, countries and people that remind me that there are new things and thoughts and ideas everywhere, and very little drives that point home more reliably, or more cheaply, than a walk from my Manhattan hotel to a quick meal on 31st Street.
…and now for some schlock which is no less schlocky for having been specifically requested by mine own grandmother…
All of this reminds me of one of my first favorite things about Tobias; it was the source of our first inside joke. We were talking about bizarre foods and the fun that comes with having new and different experiences. He was describing some foods that he willingly sampled during his time spent doing business in China, and the foods kept falling into two categories: foods were either “delicious” or “special” (and sometimes “very special”, as in the case of the bile gland in the shot glass of whisky.) Brilliant use of language, no? What a terrific way to honor one’s host: “This green tea ice cream is delicious! That fish eyeball soup was so special!” And, once your giggling girlfriend catches on, what a lovely way to begin describing all of the things you encounter in your new world together.