Farewell, until we eat again

When this column began back in the summer of 2010, the intent was to seek out places where one could eat good food on the cheap. It didn’t take long for it to evolve into something of a catch-all — an extremely tasty and satisfying catch-all, at least for me.

The column’s name came by way of plenty of brainstorming and batting around ideas until a former LEO employee named Ben Schneider suggested The Taste Bud. It was immediately the name everyone liked, so no other suggestion was necessary. It’s still a fun memory.

That first Taste Bud was about a Cuban sandwich I found at ValuMarket in The Highlands. Believe it or not, I still think about that sandwich from time to time, probably as much because it was my first Cuban sandwich as much as it was my first Taste Bud column. 

For the first eight or nine entries, the document file names for my columns were labeled, “Star Wars”-style, as Episode II, Episode III, Episode IV, etc. At some point, I finally figured out The Taste Bud wasn’t going anywhere and dropped the geeky numbering system.  

Over the years, I’ve written somewhere just over 400 Taste Bud columns, give or take (which makes me glad I nixed the Roman numerals). I’ve written about chili, chocolate chip cookies, quail eggs, hot wings, gyros and beans and cornbread. I’ve pontificated over blueberries in cereal, cow tongue in tacos, eggs on burgers and specials on blue plates.

I think what I always loved the most about writing The Taste Bud was that it kept me always on the lookout for new flavors, new cuisines, new everything, so long as it was something I either hadn’t tried or, at least, hadn’t tasted in a long time. The Taste Bud, for me, has always been about discovery.

That’s precisely what I hoped to bring to readers when I submitted my column every two weeks. When I went around town trying chocolate chip cookies in December 2011, it was certainly fun for me, but it was also because I knew I couldn’t have been the first to wonder, “Who makes the best chocolate chip cookie in Louisville?” (For the record, the answer at the time was Please & Thank You. But I think MozzaPi wins these days.)

Last year, when I saw hamachi kama, which essentially is the neck of a yellowtail fish, on a menu, I felt I not only needed to give it a try, but I also needed to share what I found. Because, yes, it’s really quite delicious, and I’ll probably order it again at some point. Same for uzura, aka the raw quail egg shooters that are commonly found in sushi restaurants. Discovery keeps life interesting.

It wasn’t all weird food, either. Along my journey, I gorged myself on nachos at the Back Door, got nostalgic with a Hinkle’s burger, went on a Taste Bud first date at Wagner’s Pharmacy, recreated the Ollie Burger with spices purchased on the Internet and inexplicably coined the phrases “the drunken hungries” and “luncheon roulette.” I’m also pretty sure no one had ever written the phrase “pure concentrated awesome juice” before The Taste Bud. Ditto the simile of “like being naked in a pool of kittens.”

But now it’s time to say goodbye.

That’s right, I’m moving on to a different path with my work, so The Taste Bud won’t be in these pages any longer. It makes me sad to end the streak, but sometimes things just change, whether we want them to or not, and this is one of those things. To paraphrase one of my favorite sports writers, Vic Ketchman: Sometimes, you just have to be new.

But Vic also tells us that memories make us rich, and my Taste Bud memories offer untold wealth to my soul (and my stomach). My promise to my readers is that I won’t stop trying the next intriguing food I read or hear about. I’ll keep being new, and I trust you’ll all do the same. Thanks for the memories; may your taste buds be forever discovering. •