From the Braver Institute
There is a restaurant in the Upper Peninsula where I love to eat whenever I am in town. I have sampled much of their bill of fare, and everything is exceptional. It is perhaps my favorite restaurant in the north. More often than not, I order their prime rib. If you are a fan of prime rib, it is to die for.
I can no longer eat their prime rib, or any prime rib for that matter.
It is not that there is anything wrong with their prime rib, or that I have had a sudden attack of veganism, nothing of the sort. The reason I cannot eat their prime rib anymore is because the taste reminds me of something else, something that I don’t like.
Since this change of appetite has occurred, I am able to better understand why my ex-wife doesn’t like coconut. She won’t eat coconut because it smells like suntan lotion. I always came to the defense of coconut, claiming it was the originator of its scent, and for some reason suntan lotion companies made their products smell like coconut. Even so, she won’t eat the stuff—she can’t help but think of suntan lotion.
For some reason we humans like consuming things that taste like something they are not. Chocolate milk, for instance. Now, chocolate milk is not trying to fool you into thinking that you are eating chocolate, as opposed to drinking flavored milk, but for some reason milk on its own wasn’t good enough. Milk needed to be better. Milk needed to be chocolate. I have known quite a number of kids who do not like plain milk but do like chocolate milk, so perhaps this originated as some sort of trick to get them to drink the stuff.
My big brother, Farr, always said that menthol cigarettes are for people who want to smoke, but don’t like the taste of tobacco. I would argue that the same is true for people who drink flavored beers and coffees. I have said it before and I will say it again—I like beer-flavored beer, and coffeeflavored coffee.
Ketchup, I am convinced, is for people who don’t like anything.
Things that are bacon flavored get a free pass though. In my world, bacon flavoring has diplomatic immunity, and can be used in all things without fear of negative comment. Baconflavored coffee would be welcome in my percolator.
Margarita-flavored schnapps (it exists) makes no sense to me whatsoever. I have to think that if I want an alcoholic drink that tastes like a margarita, I will just drink a margarita.
On the other hand, there are things that truly need to taste like something else.
Medicine of any kind, in its natural state, rarely tastes good. These days, the medicine that once tasted like a mixture of lighter fluid and drain cleaner, now comes in cherry, grape, or strawberry, with only a hint of lighter fluid and drain cleaner as an aftertaste. The intention to make these things taste like something they are not is warranted, and almost noble. I only wish that they had been doing such things when I was a kid.
A more subtle example of things that need the help of additional flavoring are the less than choice cuts of meat. Some fast food burgers have flavoring added to them to give them a savoriness that would otherwise not exist. You don’t really think that a chunk of meat riding on a conveyor over a gas flame can really get that flavor from said conveyor ride, do you?
Which leads me back to why I can no longer eat prime rib.
Every time I eat prime rib, especially at my favorite restaurant, there is always a background flavor to it that I cannot quite place. It isn’t a bad flavor, it is just a flavor. A familiar flavor that reminds me of something else. This has gone on for years. And then one day, as I was mowing my lawn, it hit me— hot dogs. Prime rib tastes like hot dogs.
I immediately caught and corrected the thought; prime rib doesn’t taste like hot dogs, hot dogs are made to taste like prime rib. There is no way that this concoction of the jetsam and flotsam of the slaughterhouse could ever have a universal, and consistent flavor of its own, and so it makes perfect sense to make it taste like a wonderful cut of meat—that cut being prime rib, of course.
But now that the mystery flavor hiding in prime rib has been firmly associated with hot dogs, I can no longer eat it without thinking of hot dogs. I don’t eat hot dogs, and now I don’t eat prime rib, even though it had its flavor first.
On the other hand, maybe I can try to convince myself that hot dogs are actually made from prime rib.
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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com