Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lingua Strana

It turns out I'm a mutant with special super-powers. It's only fitting; I come from a long line of Ripley's Believe It Or Not aspirants. My mother can close one eye while maintaining the other perfectly open and relaxed, and (at the same time, if you want) she can clasp her hands together and use her arms as a jump rope. My sister has Siamese-twin toes. Or maybe she has one toe with two heads--it's hard to tell. But she was proud to show them off when she was a kid because my mom called them "special." Word has it that my great grandma could touch her nose with her tongue. Anyway, you get the idea.

however, am a super-taster. I've suspected as much ever since my aunt made a gelatin dessert by combining three different flavors of Jell-o, and I was the only one who could name cherry, strawberry, and lime after one bite. And now it's pseudo-scientifically confirmed; I have more taste-buds than the average person, which means that I can taste things with great intensity. In other words, every bite is a mosh pit in my mouth.

And this, at last, explains my cocktail party problem, which surfaced during an otherwise blissful summer in New York City. I fully believed that I, a 23-year-old law student living in Mormon suburbia, could blend into the sexy New York law firm scene even if I had never had sushi, didn't know what "still water" meant (and that it cost money), thought Greenwich Village was an environmentally-friendly Wiccan gathering place, and didn't drink alcohol. But Mormon suburbia, where the word "drink" triggers images of red Kool-Aid and Sprite in Dixie cups, had ill prepared me for my first obligatory work-related cocktail hour.

The law school career placement office had thankfully etched the internationally-recognized cocktail hour rules in my mind. Players must always have a drink, and keep it in their left hand. The point of having a drink in hand, as I understand it, is to absolve the holder of any responsibility for the direction of the conversation. If the conversation dead ends in a bunch of lawyers muttering "M-hm. Very interesting . . . ", participants rush to take a drink and thereby assert, "Not me!" The last one to do so must introduce a new topic of conversation.

So, as you can imgaine, I was very careful to keep a drink in my hand. My drink of choice? Orange juice. The bar offered an infinite supply of natural, fresh-squeezed orange juice. (Must. Always. Have. Drink.) But it was all too much for my sensitive tastebuds--the sharp citrus notes (when guzzled in gallon increments) set off a reaction that did not end well. The orange juice started to taste like hot peppers, and, in a matter of minutes, I was sweating profusely as I tried to quench the heat with even more orange juice. I imagine the other cocktail-party guests thought I had ingested a little too much alcohol for the night. A good first impression, I'm sure. Since then, I stick to water, which makes me the most boring cocktail party guest in the world, but if it keeps my tastebuds out of overdrive . . .

I know I'm a super-taster for a reason--I probably will save the world someday. But until then, being different will be hard. There are so many misconceptions and falsehoods out there about super-tasters. We are not picky eaters. We are not food snobs. We're just trying to make it in this world. Are you a super-taster, too? Join me in my quest to raise super-tasting awareness. Embrace your super-power. Use it for good. The world might depend on it.


  1. You MUST find a way to capitalize on your super-tasting!
    May I recommend the Shirley Temple as a non-alcoholic beverage in future cocktail hour situations? The thought of bar- vended diet sprite (my original drink of choice) makes me gag. I'm thinking of branching into the juices section of the bar soon, but I'm not a super-taster, so I don't have as many concerns as you do.
    I'm still trying to find a way to justify my picky eating--and I don't have the super taste buds to do it.

  2. You should look into being a quality control checker at Dreyers in the Ice Cream Department--wouldn't that by yummy! (I hope!)

  3. Sorry, Carolina. Your super-tasting power doesn't compare to my left-eye-closing power. Keep searching; maybe you'll discover a super power yet. Ask Kaleb! He has lots of super powers. Remember? And he's not even five yet. I bet he'll have some great tips.

  4. My nephew has a sensory disorder. He can taste even the slightest change in a food. He has a really hard time eating. It makes it very difficult for my sister.