Taste: The Most Difficult Sense to Include

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Including sensory perception is a great way to pull readers into a piece of writing. It doesn’t matter if I am writing fiction or nonfiction, including sounds and smells helps the reader feel like they are there!

But the most difficult sense to include is taste. The reality is that you can go for hours without sampling something. Unless you are chewing a piece of gum or nibbling on a granola bar, it is very unlikely that you are tasting the beach or the forest or a museum.

And it doesn’t help if you are writing about foods but they are foods that you don’t know. Recently, my editor asked me to describe how a particular sausage tastes. I looked up recipes for preparing them and I looked up ingredients lists for the sausages themselves. It didn’t help that sausage is a fairly generic term. Generally they are savory but there are sweet sausages.

Writing about something that is more narrowly defined isn’t a whole lot easier if you’ve never eaten it. A manuscript that I’m currently drafting includes both nopales and prickly pear jelly. Nopales are prickly pear pads. After removing the tough edges and the thorns, they can be sliced or diced and prepared like other vegetables. My cousin has eaten them in fajitas. Me? I’ve never had them. Prickly pear jelly is made from the fruit of the cactus, not the pads. It is red in color and, I assume, fruity. I’ve had prickly pear jelly candies but not jelly.

The sausage in my earlier manuscript was pretty minor in the overall scheme of things. The prickly pear cactus and a boy are at the center of the latter manuscript. That makes them a little more important.

I’ve actually got a prickly pear cactus growing in my front yard. I have to admit that I’d rather by a pad at the grocery store simply because there are so many different species of cactus. I’m assuming that some are more delicious than others and really? It isn’t much of an assumption to come to the conclusion that I have never de-thorned a cactus pad before. Fortunately, I’ve found an international grocery several miles away. Let’s hope that they have both cactus pads and jelly. If not, I’ll be placing an order online so I can better pull my reader into my story.

–SueBE