Years ago, my mom and her sister took a trip to Hawaii. One of their excursions on that trip included breakfast on the beach, complete with Kona coffee. My mom said that her sister really savored it and talked about how delicious it was. Mom decided to buy a bag of it and bring it home with her since her sister would spend a couple of days with us before going home.
The morning that her sister was going to fly home, mom served her breakfast on our porch along with a cup of the coffee. My mom had imagined how her sister would take a sip, recognize it, then say “You stinker, this is Kona coffee!”. Instead, her sister sipped in silence without even a hint of recognition on her face. My mom talked about how the coffee tasted different than it did without the ambience and experience that transformed her taste buds.
My mom calls this phenomenon “Kona Coffee Syndrome”.
I have experienced this myself. This will be an unpopular statement, I assume, but I used to enjoy airplane food when we received a meal tray during flights. I have usually enjoyed flying so the food I ate during that experience tasted good to me because I was enjoying the moment. I have also tried to recreate recipes that I had enjoyed in a restaurant or in a different city, but it just didn’t taste the same back at home.
I think this syndrome is a byproduct of how open we are when we travel and how we are tuned into our senses in a way we aren’t in our everyday lives. I don’t think that we could live every day in that heightened state, and that our senses would dampen eventually if we did. But, there may be ways that we can bring a little bit of that attention into our everyday lives.
We can have time we spend with friends or family where we are looking at them as they speak so we can take in the nonverbal messages they are sending. We can slow down as we eat and try to notice the different flavors and textures of our food. We can drive a different path to a familiar location or spend an extra minute or two outdoors when the weather is favorable.
Going to new places and experiencing new things is exhilarating but in-between those trips, we can taste, hear, and see the good around us.