Tuesday, January 20, 2009

kisses that aren't saccharine


Everything tastes sweet as coke
when eaten after artichoke:
they say its cynarin can fool
the taste buds on the tongue––how cool!
But there’s another way that you can treat
yourself with something that’s as sweet,
and that’s to savor, slowly, kisses
that you are given by your missus;
if you’re as lucky as I’ve been,
her kisses won’t be saccharine.

My wife, who is a lovely wench,
once kissed me in the way called French;
by Cupid's arrow I was stung
and could not find another tongue
like hers, or taste a winner in
my mouth as sweet as cynarin,
and when I'd recapitulate
she'd never once acidulate.
That's why I am her party bloke,
her petit chou and artichoke.

I wrote the first version of this poem in 1999, and added six lines to the first verse after the inauguration of President Obama, when Linda was being particularly sweet to me.

Amanda Hesser, in "from Out of the Mists, the Artichoke" (NYT, March 10, 1999), writes about the artichokes that grow in the Salinas valley just north of Santa Cruz, near Castroville and Davenport. At Yale University, Linda Bartoshuk found that cynarin, an organic compound in artichokes, causes everything eaten after artichokes to taste sweet. Cynarin inhibits sweet receptors on the tongue. When they wash away, the inhibiting effect is release, and the taste receptors interpret their disappearance as sweetness. Dr. Bartoshuk says that the effect, which is genetic, is more prevalent in women. There have been few studies to determine whether the incidence of French kissing is genetic or sex-related although anecdotal information certainly suggests that the latter is true.

© 1999 Gershon Hepner 3/10/99, 1/20/09

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