Jared Witt | April 9, 2020
You ever stop and muse how odd it is that food tastes good?
It didn’t have to. It could just taste like nothing. Or for that matter, taste could have never been a thing at all in the first place. You know, the very specialized cells in our nose, mouth, and throat, which interact with these specific chemicals and in an instant create multiple layers of signals for our brains to interpret resulting in a number of endorphins which make us feel a certain way that is oddly subjective but also objective? Yeah. There’s no rule that said it had to be that way.
Think about that. You smell sourdough bread or some fontina cheese hits your tongue, and you feel things!? What!? That fact alone should keep a permanent smile on our faces. What is essentially a rote chemical transaction suddenly has us remembering our grandmother or becoming whimsical about Chicago or starting to fall for the person sitting across the table.
Now I know that those of you who are all hopped up on way too many grown up books and not nearly enough children's ones are saying (in a Tom Brokaw type voice), “Ah, well, Jared, you see, humph, yes, we can explain these things, you see. The endorphins are themselves chemicals, and that’s where the feelings come from.”
Yes, but why!? You’ve merely just transferred the magic from one set of chemicals to the next, but you’ve not explained it. A child knows the difference between naming things and understanding them.
Speaking of labels, did you know that endorphins are technically classified as an opioid? Think about that. The second you catch a whiff of Dad’s famous green chili stewing on the stove, you’re on drugs. The reason we seek out more dangerous drugs manufactured in some basement lab to feel some kind of euphoria is not because God has blessed us with too few pleasures in this world but too many. We’ve grown old and oversaturated and bored with amazing things. We’re spoiled. If we could just learn to taste a mango or a pear again for the first time, and really taste it, then the only opioid use you would hear about would be a blessing, not a crisis.
There’s an old guildhall in Amsterdam called the Waag that served as a city gate and weighing station as far back as the 15th century. It’s not exactly “where the locals go,” but the building is so fun that you can’t not check it out at least once. I ordered a Flemish Stew on chive and garlic mashed potatoes. I chose it because the Flemish have a predilection toward cranberries and carrots, not my go to ingredients. So I dared them to impress me. I'll be danged! Mix in some creativity from a knowledgeable chef, add a yeasty Belgian beer to pair, and boom: instant joy.
I know, you activist types are thinking, “Well, that’s a nice little thrill for the privileged. Must be nice.”
Maybe the setting was a bit decadent, but can you believe that carrots and cranberries are just coming up from dirt and marsh out there on their own? Sure farmers put great skill and a ton of work into creating the best environment for them. But no farmer has ever successfully made a carrot grow by yanking on it. And the good ones know to honor all the mystery and sacredness involved.
I know. I know. You read the book about how the sense of taste developed as a naturally selective measure to prevent us from eating things that were harmful. Our bipedal ancestors to whom a cranberry tasted like a cranberry survived and procreated because they had a taste for things that actually nourish rather than arsenic.
Ok. Fine. But the grumped out ogre who wrote this book has obviously never had a homemade butter palmier fresh from the oven and an espresso to start his day. Or he has, but he’s never stopped to savor it, which is even more tragic. Otherwise, wouldn't he rejoice that evolution seems to have gone well above and beyond the call of duty on this one?
It’s our overabundance of blissful and astounding things in this world that’s left us with a ton of knowledge and very little wisdom. Our species needs to know that palmiers are safe to eat. We don’t require them to whisk us away to sunny days in the Latin Quarter or conjure images of school kids breaking formation to chase pigeons around the Jardin-des-Plantes.
The author of Psalm 104 has more wisdom than knowledge about such things.
Bless the Lord, O my soul…
You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
They flow between the hills,
Giving drink to every wild animal;
The wild beasts quench their thirst
By the streams, the birds of the air have their habitation.
They sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladded the human heart…
These all look to you
To give them their food in due season…
When you open your hand,
They are filled with good things…
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to the Divine,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
Cheers and Peace,
A blog that is too churchy for your drinking buddies and too drinky for your churching buddies.