Monday, September 14, 2020

An Acquired Taste

I suppose a human palate is an organ that can be trained though it often seems to me that the art of tasting food is magic. My wife likes food show on television and I absorb some of the lessons imparted by osmosis as I thumb through my photos and edit and sort them of an evening. No cheese with fish, please. Caramelization reigns supreme and  portions should be so small they can hardly be seen with the naked human eye. I do pay attention to the food but my palate sucks. I grew up eating institutional food in a place much like a prison where if you didn't eat the meal time passed you by and you went hungry you growing lad.
I marvel when I drive home and pass the Square Grouper, a restaurant that always manages to fill its parking lot. During lock down we picked up to go food but my last trip I found myself surrounded by mask-less faces and a great many of them. Now the masses are back we don't have to step up. But it amazes me that there are people who eat out all the time and I feel the fault lies in me. Rich food night after night makes me bilious, and the only way I know that is because I have taken vacations. Ah yes the blessings of the van and a wife who likes to cook. This last summer we ate well and we ate at home on the road and it was good. But there again my taste buds are poorly trained.
I have a feeling eyesight works he same way. I have heard the argument that we see what we are trained to see, and sometimes we see what our genetic disposition trains us to see. So what does that do for taking pictures? Or is it making pictures? Or snapping snapshots? Is it learned or is it an intuition?  
Modern life is one long and often steep learning curve.  The number of things we have to learn never seems to end. When I got my current job in 2004 I figured that was it for job interviews and now all I had to do was rein myself in and survive till the pension day dawned. What I didn't know was that to keep the job I had to keep learning, months of on the job training then refreshers, classes trainings and travel to keep up with what I thought I knew. I never had time to train my palate, nor I dare say the inclination.
911 dispatchers are notorious foodies, in a trade that requires much sitting and waiting. Some days are so hectic even in a. small town that food becomes a luxury but most days are epics of waiting for something to happen and when it does you become suddenly madly busy. In between the extremes is the constant low buzz of paperwork and radio traffic and phone transfers and general daily tedium. Food can become a highlight and a curse.
My shift these days sees me wedged between fashions, a ketogenic on one side cutting carbohydrates and a vegan on the other side eating weird pasta meals with nothing that ever remotely had a face. I'm in the middle bringing food from home and  zapping lean cuisines as required. It is as I have always said, a strange life in dispatch. When I pack my lunch box at five in the morning I reach into the freezer and take a box at random starting from the right. One a. day keeps starvation away. Many years ago when I lived on a boat  a waterfront breakfast of eggs at Turtle Kraals was a treat before a day spent on the water making money from sailing.  Turtle Kraals is no more. 
The last time I took the ferry to Fort Jefferson I recall the food and early morning sun over breakfast watching the ocean slip by outside the window. Eating on the boat even if it was just cereal and bagels gave the three hour ride a nostalgic kick, memories of eating on trains as a young European, or enjoying the ferry ride leaving England with my motorcycle and stuffing my face on fried bread and disgusting institutional English breakfast food of the 1970s. Except it sounds delicious and was at the time. In France I switched to ride on the right side of the road and looked forward to crunchy bread and sloppy cheese for lunch with the same relish I ate baked beans and white bread in England. I make no excuse for my appalling taste buds. 
It took a lot of nerve and a massive motorcycle accident for me to step up to the demands of photography but I had lots of time as I recovered the use of my legs to think about something other than motorcycling and God knows digital photography is incredibly complicated. The opportunities for error abound, the pursuit of your own vision is endless and subject to endless criticism from yourself and others and the results mean nothing much to anyone other than yourself. It's a bit like eating with a duff palate. I actually enjoyed most of the food in the hospital and looked forward to their chicken salad sandwiches and the chicken breast and mashed potatoes.  As when dispatching the food tray broke up the monotony of laying in bed unable to move a leg and the sweet Haitian woman who brought me the food was easy to flirt with as a cripple helpless on his back merits at least a smile. 
I like the picture of the spiral staircase on Eaton Street across from the movie theater (still closed). But if you think it's a crappy way to end this essay on taste remember that I'm the guy who thinks a meal at the best restaurant in the world which I ate in Modena a few years ago is no more memorable than a really good bowl of vegetarian bean stew from my wife's Instapot in the van. I admit I do like some sour cream and some hot sauce on it which veers toward foodie snobbery but by way of compensation I never turn my nose up at ketchup.  So sue me, or make a nasty anonymous comment, or ignore me. These are my pictures and this is my food. I have some vague idea the two are entwined and i'nm still not sure either is worth my time or more importantly yours.