Accepted Paper:

Cultivating uncertainty: the advent and transmission of « the numb taste »  

Author:

Léo Mariani (National Museum of Natural History)

Paper short abstract:

I focus here on the special human and ecological settings necessary for “the numb taste” to exist. I will thus show how durians, which can transmit it, are adapted to, and at the same time afford, the transmission of the taste within (very) local food pratices.

Paper long abstract:

The durian is a well-known Southeast Asian fruit. Among Westerners, it is especially reputed for its smell, but in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, it is a favorite over all other fruits for the wealth of its aromas. Despite its great diversity of flavors, it may be stated that the main criterion in durian lovers' taste lies on the way the fruits blend and balance sweetness and bitterness.

In some parts of Malaysia, however, amateurs are much less interested in these qualities than in a strange feeling that only lasts a very short time, and which is only found in some durians: "the numb taste". This unique taste seems closely related to the paresthesia effects caused by Sichuan pepper. In this paper, I focus on the special human and ecological settings necessary for the numb taste to exist. While focusing on the relationship between fruits, environments, and people, I show how durians are adapted to, and at the same time afford, the transmission of the taste within (very) local food practices. Finally, I speculate on what the world, and our way of inhabiting (dwelling) it, would be if the obscuring experience of the numb taste were as commonly popular as sweetness.

Panel LL-FWF05
Taste in motion: movement, placement, and localization of new food and beverages in the past and present