What It's Like to Go Out to Eat When You're a Supertaster
Visiting from college, I was having lunch with my mom and stepfather at one of the approximately 50,000 diners in the state of New Jersey. I was finishing up a delightfully soggy plate of disco fries — french fries smothered in brown gravy and mozzarella cheese. It served as my perfect almost-last meal.
My mom stared in disgust as I shoved another fry into my mouth. “I have no idea how you can eat that, with how food-picky you are.”
“Hey, my ‘supertaster’ taste buds enhance bitter flavors. There is nothing bitter about this! Just cheesy, carb-y deliciousness.”
Ah, supertaster. Such a silly word for an actual condition. But I relished finally having an explanation for my food-freakishness, courtesy of my Biological Psychology class: I had more tastebuds than the average person. There’s nothing super about this abnormality, though, other than making me miss out on things most people find delicious: tea, wine, grapefruit, yogurt, etc.
What a terrible superpower to have. It mostly just singled me out as a freak in any social dining setting.
A short time later, our meal was cleared, and dessert arrived. A portent of doom settled upon our tiny table as the waiter set a sundae dish in front of my stepfather. It looked like a dirt parfait with its beige-and-brown layers. At first bite, his expression changed to one that should only occur in a bed behind closed doors with my mom.
“Here, hon, you have to try this,” he said, feeding some to my mom. At which point she proceeded with her own reaction that rivaled the infamous “When Harry Met Sally” restaurant scene.
After their mutual mouth-gasms subsided, the moment of reckoning had arrived. My mom twisted to me in almost slow motion, raising a spoonful of that suspicious glop to my mouth.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Just try it. You’ll love it,” Mom said.
Famous last words.
My taste buds imploded as a monstrosity of flavors descended on their fragile, unwitting existences. My tongue recoiled with the horror of what I imagined a Tide Pod smoothie tasted like. My stomach churned with the disgust of watching the guy in “Saw” hack off his own foot. I gagged through swallowing the lump of death.
I grabbed the glass of water in front of me and washed out my scorched throat. “What… is… that?”
My mom stared at me with a confused expression. “Tiramisu.”
“Oh,” I choked out, “You mean just the amalgamation of the two most vile tastes on the planet: coffee and alcohol? Thanks, Mom! Are you trying to poison me?”
“I’m sorry, honey, I should have remembered your condition. Here, water won’t get out that taste. Try this.” I took a swig of whatever Mom just handed me, and my taste buds gave a slight whimper and died. Tea.
If looks could kill, my mom would know the same fate as my poor taste buds right now.
Getty image by Stanislav Ostranitsa.