Thursday, January 20, 2011

Acquired Taste

Recall the first time you had alcohol. I'm willing to bet my right hand that you thought it had a horrible taste. It was probably a similar situation with wine (if you had it early on during your transition from a teetotaller to a social drinker or general drunkard) There's a pretty good chance that your mates would've backslapped you, with the unsaid comment - you'll start liking it soon enough. And not long thereafter, you're not only a regular drinker (social or, well, unsocial) but you even have a favourite drink!

For those of you wannabe cheese connoisseurs, most varieties of cheese taste like shit. And yet, you have all the experts fretting over it.

Implicitly or explicitly, either you're told or you realise for yourself that it's all about acquiring that taste.

What is an acquired taste all about? Correct me if I'm wrong - you're subjected to (or you subject yourself to) a vile practice or pursuit. Initially, it feels horrible. But once your worldview gets limited to this practice, you start finding positives in it ; the same way a quadriplegic tells you that not having limbs was the best thing that happened to him. If your world was to be mapped on a scale of 100 and alcohol came in at 5, you forcefully rescale your 100 scale over the 5 rating points of the original scale. And in that universe, alcohol is heavenly.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it is bad. I'm just trying to understand how it works.


  1. Haha, I agree with the re-scaling bit. Speaking of acquired tastes: I used to live in a small town where we got really bad alcohol. We got so used to it than when we tasted good quality alcohol for the first time, we were comparing it to what we had got used to, so much so that we thought the good stuff was really bad and vice-versa.

  2. I suppose re-scaling implies 'forced' taste. Alcohol, I believe is not a forced taste. It is truly an acquired taste. It reconfigures the neural pathways involved in deciding the goodness of a certain taste, and ultimately, it ACTUALLY gives you the amount of pleasure that you think it does. So, it is not just an illusion, associated with a shrunken universe. It is the real thing. I think. However, when you start abusing it, then it has a different effect on the aforementioned pathways. It down-regulates them so that you need a higher dose to achieve the same happiness, with anything that has a role in stimulating those pathways. In that case, 5 does seem heavenly, compared to how you feel the rest of the time because of the down regulation.

  3. Alcohol tastes awful. Except Bloody Mary.