This seems to be my time to re-visit my past. My brain is just bursting with memories. Most wonderful, some not so great. Just like life, itself. So today I am thinking of a crazy friend I had, back in Montreal. Sadly she passed away from cancer, a few years ago.
She smoked like a chimney (Gitanes, a brand of French cigarettes she got hooked on when she lived in Paris). She used one of those filtered cigarette holders, thinking it somehow protected her from the evils, and perils, of smoking. Considering she ended up with lung cancer that travelled to her kidneys, I’d say her thinking was flawed. She also drank like a fish, but never got drunk. Or obnoxious. Her voice was husky, her laugh infectious; and she told one and all that her breasts (which she’d had enlarged way, way before it was fashionable) “were so beautiful they belonged on a mantle.”
I have enough stories about her to write a book. She was just fun. Gorgeous (a model). And from an extremely wealthy family, although you would never have known it. She was the wild one in the group. Her name was Jayne — spelled with a “y”, as she would be quick to point out, the minute she was asked what her name was; and I swear if you were to google Auntie Mame, it would be her picture you’d see.
And she loved radishes (ergo, my ‘bitter” reference).
They had to be whole, slathered with unsalted butter and dipped in salt before every bite. She ate them by the bowlful. Often after a very late night on the town (which was most nights). And trust me, of all the strange and sometimes disgusting concoctions she consumed at 4 in the morning, the radishes were the most palatable. Even waiters in all-night deli’s, who’ve seen everything, would stare at her, open-mouthed, when she ordered.
So, of course, this little trip down memory lane has made me think of some of the bitter foods (and drinks) I like: Campari, espresso, marmalade, horseradish, escarole. If I really thought about it I could probably come up with a few more, but I don’t really think it’s necessary. Do you? And from here how long a trip is it, really, for us to leap to the subtleties of the English language? To all those words that have so many, different meanings?
Okay. We’ve established that food, herbs, and even some drinks, can be bitter. But what about ‘bittersweet’ moments? When, even though you might be celebrating good news, or a happy occasion, it’s not without some element of sadness. What about when you’re feeling bitter (or resentful) as a result of being wronged? It seems like ‘bitter’ is not necessarily ‘better’. It’s not about the best of times. Or the best of tastes.
Then there’s the positive side of bitter: The Buckley’s TV commercials that proudly proclaim that their cough syrup, which is bitter as gall, may taste lousy but it’s good for you. Which, by the way, it is. It works.
And if you don’t want to take my word for it …