Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Flavor of Words: My name is Roger

If you have an incredibly rare condition called lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, you can actually taste words. These people involuntarily “taste” words when they hear them, or even try to recall them, said Julia Simner, a cognitive neuropsychologist and synaesthesia expert at the University of Edinburgh. Her study, “Words on the Tip of the Tongue,” was published in “Nature” last month, She has found only 10 such people in Europe and the United States. Magnetic-resonance imaging indicates that they are not faking. It can be surprisingly unpleasant. One subject hates driving, because the road signs flood his mouth with everything from pistachio ice cream to ear wax. And Simner has yet to figure out any logical pattern. For example, the word “mince” makes one subject taste mincemeat, but so do rhymes like” prince.” Words with a soft “g,” as in “roger” or “edge,” make him taste sausage. But another subject, hearing “castanets,” tastes tuna fish. Another can taste only proper names: John is his cornbread, William his potatoes. They cannot explain the links. The flavors are just there.
Article from the St. Petersburg Times, Sunday, December 3, 2006, “A Little Perspective”.

My immediate response
As a reader of many recipes I strive to bridge the gap between the words and the taste they describe. As my culinary skill grows my ability to sift out mediocre recipes improves. Upon reading the article“ Eating their words” I thought wow! this is cool, to pre-taste the meal by reading the recipe, a perfect meal every time. Then reconsidering, I thought no, beyond the visual, the pleasure of a well prepared meal is the gustatory surprise and the saver of each bite. Imagine enjoying a suptuous desert of Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie while hearing a waiter introducing himself to a table of new dinners, “Good evening my name is Roger I will be your waiter tonight”.

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