I went to the dentist for a cleaning today, and while I was inside my mouth with two other people, I became visibly very uncomfortable. I explained that there was no real pain in my mouth but the sound of the drill and the obscene lights were making my face contort and groan.
Under the lead apron, and then the cloth napkin chained around my neck, I felt my body sink into a pleather chaise, and I thought about what these textiles might feel like in my mouth. What if everything and everyone in the room was inside my mouth. My jaw got tired. I imagined singing karaoke, and then I found myself groaning more melodically. They eventually just let me keep making noise to cancel out the machine.
I love the sensation of soft vinyl, and even the synthetic scent of it reminds me of childhood—hours cumulatively spent inside Sanrio stores, the first Asian cultural artifact that could cause raging envy in my classmates.
Let’s talk about food textures.
Vinyl reminds me of agar jelly, heavily scented, lightly flavored.
Grass jelly, konyaku jello in those perfect little plastic pods you have to tongue all the way around to get complete satisfaction. Gummy candies (Haribo gummies, a day stale), get me there, too, though they feel reckless to eat. I want to tell you Hi-Chew are a superior chew, but all of the packaging makes me self-conscious.
Raw oysters are delicious but raw clams are divine.
Raw mirugai, horse clam, geoduck. My god. Absolutely fucking obscene and I love it more than any food. At the apex of an apocalypse when the war comes to our doorsteps, I would forsake my own kin to eat mirugai at least one more time. That’s how much I love raw mirugai.
Lightly stewed ponytail radish. Any radish pickled. Pickles like this make me feel like an intellectual. Fermented food, and especially natto, gummy and putrid, take me beyond intellectual. Pedantic, natto. But I am a pedant.
Enoki in a dashi. None of this bacon-wrapped crap. Enoki in a dashi is a sublime thing.
Kombu after it’s been deprived for that dashi, but not obliterated. Obliterated kombu is of no use to my teeth.
Rice. Cooked to perfection, each kernel super-matured with water. Rice noodle, fresh and springy. Rice paper, refusing to let go. Rice cakes. All of them. Every kind of rice cake. I’m sadly a little less excited by red bean than I am sesame seed paste, but both can elevate a rice cake to the grade of celebration. The way this feels in my mouth, sublime. I’ll take rice over wheat every single time.
Cartilage, head cheese, tendon. In an actual sci-fi future context, I think this is what we’d be eating—an uncanny texture full of nutrients and hydration, not the dense bread imagined by fantasy writers. If we cannot abide by land mammals, we shall forage from the sea’s outer edges and shallow misgivings. Processed fish byproducts—plankton, algae, fish detritus, all blended into a simple tube.
If we cannot abide by the processing of any fauna, we return to sea vegetables and pickles. On this end of the spectrum, cucumbers in oil, green beans blanched, the little heart of Napa, romaine, red lettuce inside the pit of a flower, a fractal facsimile of salad.
All to say, not that these are flavors but textures. You are not a person, but a story. I am not a lover, but a wanting. I would keep my mouth open as long as it took for you to see inside it.