Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another dead rat story

I’m a foodie, and evidently a bit of a “super-taster”. Let me get wind of some obscure taste sensation, and I want to try it. More often that not, these “taste sensations” come from the humbler ranges of the food spectrum. Cilantro provides a good example: when I became aware of cilantro over twenty years ago, it took many trials before I could get used to its distinctive taste and smell. But get used to it I did: a day came when I smelled a bundle of fresh cilantro and began to salivate profusely. Since then, there has been no turning back.

Some people can not abide the taste and aroma of cilantro, even after many trials. I’ve been feeding Wayne cilantro, or trying to, ever since my own conversion. But to this day it’s “soap plant” to him. There is speculation that the aversion some people experience is genetic in origin: try as they might, these people will never get over their dislike of cilantro.

Cilantro has its enthusiasts, and I’m happy to count myself among them. But if it had turned out that I could not get used to it, I probably would not have cared much. But what happens when your genetic makeup denies you a pleasure which is, if not universally trumpeted, at least widely and persuasively pressed? I’ve got truffles in mind as I write this. It turns out that all the exquisite things attributed to truffles are genetically denied to some of us. To some people they are the food of the gods, evidently the naughty gods in partiuclar. To a smaller group they are nothing special. And to a third group, they are repellent. It’s my misfortune to be a member of that third group. To me, truffles smell like dead rat.

Years ago, when white truffle oil began to appear in the high end food shops, I parted with about twenty dollars for a tiny container which probably deserved the name phial. When I got home with this treasure, it was with a sense of exalted high purpose that I unscrewed the cap and brought the opening of the vessel up to my expectant nose. I sensuously inhaled the long anticipated essence - and nearly barfed. What a reek! It was not just the vague smell of rancid oil, it was the assertive scent of dead rodent. I was furious: had I been sold an out-of-date bottle? Then I tried it on someone else. I didn’t tell them what to expect. I mischievously waited for them to get the whiff of dead rat. But they seemed to like it. I tried it on the dog: the dog loved it!

What was wrong with me?

Years later I Googled truffles, began to read what other foodies were saying on their blogs about them, and discovered that I was not alone in my reaction to the aroma of truffles. In fact, I found one blog entry which described this odor exactly as I did: dead rat.

No one else complained about the odor coming from under the stove this week (see the previous entry). Were they all smelling truffles?

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