Participation in old age is an acquired taste for me. According to Wikipedia “an acquired taste often refers to an appreciation for a food or beverage that is unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it, usually because of some unfamiliar aspect of the food or beverage, including a strong or strange odor.”
When I was still living at home, my mom always seasoned my salads with pepper, vinegar and oil or some other concoction which assaulted my taste buds with a fury. I pleaded with her to serve my salad plain, but her memory seemed to fail her every time she prepared my salad. I constantly and strenuously objected to those extra tastes which I thought ruined a salad. “Why can’t I just eat my salad naturally without those heavy extras,” I guess my mother’s maternal instincts included knowing what tastes good to everyone.
Years later, however, I was surprised to see myself readily accepting any and all kinds of dressings for my salads, even oily Italian dressings. I wondered how it could be that now I enjoyed them. The same was true of other foods I had snubbed when I was younger, like cheeses. I was now enjoying them. What happened?
It occurred to me that possibly when I was young, my taste buds were overloaded by those strong flavors causing a gag reaction. Years later, those same nerve endings on my tongue had been worn down, becoming significantly less sensitive and so the same tastes now were pleasant. I actually enjoyed them.
I wonder whether the same may be true with getting old. When I was young I just assumed old people were all naturally ornery and cantankerous. In fact, I remember being so angry at old folks because they were driving so stinking slow and now I have trouble keeping up with the flow of traffic.
The years have flown by and I too have experienced terrible losses of loved ones, too many visits to the doctor, inflammation, numbness and physical limitations. I have learned these are some of the seasonings that come with this time in life.
But there are other flavors which are part of old age too. There are grandchildren’s smiles and delightful hugs. There are ears eager to hear what it was like when I was growing up. There are important questions to answer like “what do YOU think I should do, grandpa?” There are photographs to pull out and recall the many parts of my life. There’s my journal I can search with keywords to bring back details of a day in my life. These tastes are gradually overcoming the bitter bites of the older years.
Looking at old age through the prism of taste and my experiences, I conclude that going through old age is an acquired tasted. It can be bitter at first, but one can eventually get used to and even enjoy it.