Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Taste, and an error in classroom

I don't know what a blackberry tastes like. This is not because I have never eaten a blackberry. In fact, I have been eating them at a slow, yet continuous rate for the past hour or so. Rather, it is because I haven't eaten them before today, which basically means that my taste vocabulary for them is lacking. We--or at least I--don't have either a very sophisticated palate or a very extensive vocabulary when it comes to taste.

Take a strawberry. If pressed on how a strawberry tastes, I would say, first and foremost, that it tastes like a strawberry. And because the odds are whoever I'm talking to is also a person who has grown up eating strawberries, that would suffice. If you pushed me a little further, I might say that a strawberry is sweet. While true, that wouldn't be particularly helpful, as I'd say the same for sugar, chocolate, cookies, peppermint, certain apples, pears, and so forth. "Juicy" would probably be added as well, though only because I have a vague idea that if it is a fruit, it can also be converted into a juice. I might attempt to describe the texture as well, but that would only be by comparison, at best: it's more crunchy than a blueberry, less than a carrot. I could go on and on in this manner, getting increasingly flustered and you probably wouldn't be any wiser than we started--although you'd definitely have a lower opinion on my relative wisdom levels. Strawberries taste like strawberries. And that tautology becomes a taste category for anything else that may taste like strawberries.

Blackberries do not taste like strawberries. They taste... kind of like grapes, I guess? Only more bulbous? Like raspberries with more internal consistency? Sweet, sour, juicy, and tart? Are those compatible flavors? They don't particularly taste like blackberry jam--not enough sweetness, which says more about jam than about blackberries. I don't have the experience to say "blackberries taste like blackberries." I don't have the vocabulary to accurately compare them to anything else. And compounding the whole problem, my perpetually plugged sinuses mean I'm swinging with a handicap when it comes to tasting to begin with. And the whole issue has reminded me how much of our sensory experience is beyond language's ability to easily parse.

I don't know what blackberries taste like. I know I don't particularly like eating them. That's something.

On the class news: you may remember last post I was nervous about teaching my digital studies course. Well, I went to the classroom, and no one showed up. For a full ten minutes. At that point, I checked the course's time again, and it turns out it is a Wednesday / Friday course, not Monday / Wednesday as I assumed. So I've had an extra 48 hours to be anxious! Hurrah.

Later Days.

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