Taste is so tightly bound to memory that I have a hard time believing that I can appreciate or even even taste food on its own, in a void of context. I wonder how many of my likes, dislikes, loves and hates are like that; not about the thing, but the echoes of memory that come with it, the place I was, the people I was with. And the person I was, maybe, and let’s not pretend there’s not some tightly-wound feedback loops in that part of your brain.
I have some fairly clear insight into some of these things, introspectives that come to me at odd moments and are often a little to easy to romanticize, but I think I should make a habit of being as honest as I can with myself about my motives in loving and hating what I do.
This all occurred to me while I was putting some sauerkraut on a street dog down at Yonge and Dundas today. If you’d told me once upon a time that cabbage fermented in vinegar was delicious, I would have told you that was a lie, because that’s not even food and what the hell is wrong with you. But at some point in my childhood I’d read an Encyclopedia Brown mystery in which Bugs Meany is caught out in some scam involving a rare penny by a miscue involving mustard and sauerkraut. I remembered that (and even remember remembering it, oddly) but I don’t think I’d ever actually seen the stuff in the wild until my family went to New York to visit some relatives. I might have been ten, maybe? Eleven? And I’m pretty sure that was the first time I had a dog from a street vendor, and a pretzel, remembering Bugs Meany and giving it a try.
And I still don’t think I know what sauerkraut tastes like on its own. Whatever else it is, to me it tastes just a little bit like the completely uncynical, unalloyed joy of being eleven years old and seeing New York for the first time.
Today at Yonge and Dundas, for no obvious reason, there were a couple of kids playing some classic eighties hiphop on a big old boom box at the corner, dressed in old-school Adidas jackets and (yes!) hustling people at three-card monte. Some days I think these things are part of some elaborate Truman Show production, staged just for blissfully ignorant me. That can’t be, can it? It seems unlikely, but thanks either way, random kids. I know it’s a long story, but because of you my lunch tasted even better today.