When it comes to food, I like to think I’m fairly adventurous. I cook in a slapdash ‘throw-it-all-in-and-see-what-happens’ kind of way, and am fairly indiscriminate about my ingredients (if they look like they’ll go together, they probably will). I love strong, contrasting flavours – sweet, hot, sour – all fused together on one mental (if inelegant) looking plate.
My personal food carnival extends to eating out. A couple of weeks ago I was at a Chinese restaurant, and I allowed someone else to order for me – a method I am fond of as I am extremely indecisive. Twenty minutes later, I was confronted with a big bowl of translucent jellyfish.
Surprising, yes. A challenge? Hell no. So I ate and shortly forgot about it, not giving much thought to what I was eating; rather, that I was just trying something new and palatable and I could tick the ‘I’ve tried jellyfish’ box. Then the next day, a friend asked me what jellyfish tastes like: a question that I have been pondering ever since.
Now this is a challenge: to write about taste. It’s all very well to eat, but how does one accurately encapsulate the individual experience of taste? I once saw a programme where bonkers chef Heston Blumenthal did an MRI scan on someone who’d eaten varying levels of chilli heat to measure the pleasure-pain scale in the brain. It explored the most basic cerebral function of food, which by its very nature must be subjective. I started to ponder: are everyone’s taste buds completely unique, like fingerprints?
For the record, this is what jellyfish tasted like to me:
Soft to the tongue; slow, steady hints of miso soup and spring onions, a simple smokey flavour, like fish stock. Once bitten, traces of toughness and an imagined squeak reverberating from tooth to ear. A sudden sharp suggestion of chilli. String-like tendrils, like stray vermicelli: not altogether unpleasant. Memories of eating scallops outside a restaurant in Provence: hot night air, an inky sky.
So there you go, that’s my writer’s attempt at what jellyfish tastes like … or what jellyfish tastes like in words.