This time of year, I revisit food choices that I often ignore. Some folks find spiritual growth in the Lenten fast, but I am not among the pious. I do think that Lent makes you appreciate more the food categories that you forgo, but it also allows you to recognize the little joys of foods not regularly eaten. I consume far more salad and enjoy grainy cereal, especially oatmeal with nuts, more frequently than during ordinary time.
Many people give up sweets for Lent, but I probably consume more sugar during the fasting seasons because I use jams and fruit spreads as a substitute bread topping for my beloved cheeses. Like Wallace from Wallace & Gromit, I am quite a cheese fanatic, and I am not much of a sweet tooth. I would take fatty protein over sugary items any day.
I am sharing my riveting diet to set up an observation that I had this morning. I decided to put blackstrap molasses on an English muffin, and, upon eating it, I thought that it tasted like a red brick late nineteenth century factory. I cannot really defend the imagery that my taste buds suggested to my mind, but the strong flavor is something akin to a smokestack. I like molasses, and I like old industrial buildings; so, maybe it makes sense.
I then wondered how much tastes have changed in the English and American populations over the past century. Several foods that I consider old-fashioned just taste a bit out of step with my normal diet. Orange marmalade, English pickle relish, Marmite, black licorice, and a host of vinegar-treated foods come to mind as other strange fare—seemingly indicative of a less delicate palate. Did our great great great grandparents find such food normal? If there is any truth in this change, I wonder if it has to do with the abundance of sugar and corn syrup put into processed food over the last several decades. Have we been habituated to expect sweeter food? Would poor little Oliver Twist prefer blackstrap molasses to Mrs. Butterworth?