2.24.2014

an acquired taste



Coffee is an acquired taste. As a young adult, I often wondered why one would bother acquiring a taste for something. If I don't like something the first time, why would I keep trying to like it?

If I dared to take a sip of my father's coffee as a youth, I would recoil in disgust, marveling that adults would actually drink, even enjoy, this bitter beverage. In my mind, I placed coffee in the same category as vegetables and tuna - the avoid-at-all-costs category - and left it there for years to come.

My relationship with the bean took a step forward in the summer of 2006. The setting- Iskitim, Siberia, Russia. My closest friend in all the world, April, and I were teaching Vacation Bible School at a mission church for three weeks. The people of Iskitim were not well-off, but rarely have I come across a more generous and welcoming people. They offered us food from their garden, plenty of tea, and the dreaded cup of joe. I ate and drank many things on that trip out of politeness that I didn't care for - caviar, more cold soups than I could keep track of, kvass - a fermented bread drink with floaties (a technical culinary term). Suddenly, a simple, albeit bitter, cup of coffee didn't seem so objectionable.

Fast forward to Quito, Ecuador, the scene of my Spanish Immersion Program in the summer of 2008. April and I were staying with a gracious old married couple, Ernesto and Maria. Maria took such care to prepare nutritious meals for us. Every afternoon when we returned from our classes at the Academia, she would ask the same question, "Quieres una frutita?" (Do you want some fruit?). She would summon us for meals by calling, "Abril! Ehghkmkhg! A comer!" (April! Ehghkmkhg! Time to eat!) We are fairly sure she didn't know my name. And each morning a lovely meal of fresh bread, fruit, and Nescafé awaited us at the table. Now older, wiser, and still trying to be polite, I would down that cup of instant coffee with a small shudder.

While I still was not smitten with the acrid taste, something about the morning routine, the daily cup, stuck with me.

Once stateside, a college graduate, and a new teacher, I discovered the delight of flavored creamers. Their ability to at once take the edge off the bitterness and add a hint of hazelnut, cream, or vanilla suddenly turned the beverage from palatable to downright enjoyable. (In the back of my mind I will always be somewhat embarrassed that I'll never take my coffee black. Except in dire situations such as when the alternative is powdered creamer.) Coffee became something to look forward to each morning.

Now that I have (almost) acquired the taste, I feel that it was worth the time and effort for the pleasant routine and rich flavors in return. In fact, many wonderful things on this earth require time and effort for adjustment. Besides coffee, my list includes wine, spicy food, fresh fish, yoga, quinoa, foreign languages + customs, and some types of music.

I love the feeling of branching out and trying something new, even if it takes a few tries to truly enjoy it. The new experience in and of itself is gratifying, and makes me feel alive! Now the question is, what taste to acquire next? What are your acquired tastes?

Also, Here is an interesting article that says that acquired tastes are basically tricking your brain into liking something until you actually do like it. Fascinating!


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