Weekend Meditation: Bitter

Recently I'm discovering that I have an appreciation for the bitter flavors: almost unsweetened chocolate, endives and radicchio, Campari, even molasses and certain olives. Certain beers, too. What used to make my sweet-tooth recoil is now interesting, complex, cleansing.

How absolutely odd and delightful!

Bitter is one of the tastes I associate with winter when grapefruit, kale and endive are in season and I pour molasses over my pancakes. Bitterness has a brightness, a kind of vivid nature which wakes up my sleepy, hibernating palate. I imagine slivers of deep red radicchio in salads, the juice of a grapefruit used in the dressing. Or just the taste of a good, bitter chocolate melting in my mouth, chased by a shot of espresso.

The synonyms for bitter are for the most part quite negative: rancorous, peevish, nasty, ill-natured. A bitter woman is someone best avoided; a bitter blow is far more agonizing than a mere upset. But despite the fact that we are inclined from birth to like sweet things, we also have an appreciation for the bitter. Easy proof: if it were just caffeine people wanted every morning, we'd down a can of Pepsi instead of cup after cup of rich, bitter coffee.

I'm excited to explore my newfound bitter flavors this season. I'm happy, too, to discover that my tastes are still changing and evolving, that I wake up each day not quite the same person that went to bed the night before. How exciting, and strange, and bittersweet it is!

Related: Weekend Meditation: Salty-Sweet

(Image: Radicchio up close from Italian Culinary Tradition)