Flavor Enhancement

One of the benefits of cutting down or eliminating added sweeteners to food and eating mostly natural ingredients is that everything tastes better.  It isn’t necessarily that the food itself changed, but the palate that is receiving the food is cleansed and ready to taste fully whatever it is that it is about to consume.  It isn’t a carrot anymore, it is carrot PLUS, chicken PLUS, broccoli PLUS.  What disguised or dulled the senses before has been removed and now we can taste the full potential flavor of the food. 

It has been a while since I drank a Pepsi.  I used to drink Pepsi daily, even through the time when I was pregnant with Lydia (that could explain her energy levels).  I love Pepsi.  It is by far the superior beverage above all other carbonated beverages.  I would choose it over sweet tea and for sure over water.  Oh, sweet nectar of America! 

But Pepsi has high fructose corn syrup, an obvious added sweetener, and we cut that from our diets back in January.  A few months ago I was working a weekend conference at the University, manning the check-in table, and it was quiet.  All of the other tasks had been done, and it was just me. Alone. With a vending machine filled with Pepsi products.  Mmmm, Pepsi, I thought, and started to fish around in my purse for a dollar and a quarter.

I shimmied over to the vending machine and looked around.  No one was watching.  No one would need to know.  Twenty ounces of glorious syrupy soda would emerge from the vending machine into my eager, waiting hands.  I put in my money and the robotic arm retrieved a Pepsi from the top row, dropped it down the plastic tube to the bottom where it clunked against the doorflap.  I reached out for it, twisted off the cap and heard the k-shhhh of cold pop fizzling.  I took a sip and grimaced.

This was not at all what I expected.  Where was the rush of sweetness, the refreshing sizzle down my throat?  This was sticky and dried out my mouth after I swallowed; the aftertaste was terrible.  I rubbed my tongue against the roof of my mouth and tried to work the taste away.

It seems that not only does ingesting healthy foods bring out the powerful flavors of the good, it also strengthens our ability to taste how wretched the artificial and the processed really is, that its fast-and-easy benefits are far outweighed by its lack of quality and sustenance.

The more I ingest the real, the true, the pure, and the lovely in life (food, time with husband, time with children, working in the garden, laughter, friends), the less inclined I am to indulge in the false, the artificial, the impure, and the ugly that try to disguise themselves as virtuous and satisfying.  If I find myself faced with temptations, lust, anger, jealousy, fear, or insecurity after eating well for a long time, immersing myself in the things of God, his good word and his good people, listening for the Holy Spirit, then the bottled-up and processed gunk tastes bitter in my mouth.  I don’t want anything to do with it.

Sure, after a while maybe my tastebuds would numb out to the high fructose corn syrup again and I’d actually like Pepsi, crave it, need it every day or else, but do I want to be ruled by this artificial happiness, this fast high and sudden plummet into lethargy so I need it again and again, more and more to achieve the same level of satisfaction?  No.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

2 thoughts on “Flavor Enhancement

  1. I gave up Diet Coke several years ago after we made changes to our diet as well. Your experience is very similar to what mine was, but I love the added meaning at the end of this post. It isn't just about food although this tangible thing helps us understand better what it is about. This makes me think of communion, too.


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