“Taste” on the road


Bangkok, Thailand

Most of us have tongues, and we keep them for the duration of our lives. There are exceptions to this, unfortunately, including the 300 individuals in Cairo who had their tongues cut out by Sultan Baybars al-Jashankir about 700 years ago (he didn’t like their political humor). But the average reader of this blog will keep his or her tongue for a lifetime.

And this is good for numerous reasons, not least because the tongue allows us to taste, and taste, along with hearing and sight, is a key component of travel.

Our tongues taste the concentrated saltiness of the Dead Sea in Israel or Jordan, the slushy delight of a pineapple shake on Bangkok’s Khao San Road, the spiced and roasted chicken at Abdu’s Restaurant in Siwa after a long day in the sun. They taste the fresh-squeezed orange juice available for the equivalent of 35 cents near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the ceviche at a roadside stand in Costa Rica, the okra in Islamabad and the naan in Delhi.

Our tongues taste the fullness of a meal offered by strangers, just as they taste the emptiness of temporary hunger, and the absence of a food we love back home. What our tongues experience can affect our mood, our health, our memories. It is your tongue as much as your sight that recalls the Rubik Cube chunk of lamb fat poor men honor you with in a village in Uzbekistan during a Ramadan feast, just as it is your tongue that recalls the amazing sensation of a cold bottle of water after hours in the desert.

All this to say, let us give thanks that the ill-humored Sultan Baybar died a long time ago and isn’t our ruler, and that the tongue will be one of the things we take with us everywhere we go.

Posted by | Comments Off on “Taste” on the road  | May 27, 2010
Category: Images from the road, Notes from the collective travel mind

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