philosophical joe

by Elizabeth de Barros

At some point, everyone develops a philosophy of life. Not so much a religious creed — and not even a parenthetical mission statement posted on a sticky note — I’m referring more to lifestyle, a way of doing things. Some really do like it hot. Sriracha is their new ketchup. Meanwhile, others prefer to cool their tongue, along with a cucumber slice and sprig of mint.  Nobody is wrong here. It’s simply a matter of taste.

Tomato, tom-AH-to.

But you know all that. No matter how it’s pronounced, it’s the same juicy slab of beauty on a BLT. Or BLT with cheese, if you happen to like cheese. Havarti? No, I prefer cheddar, thank you. The horseradish kind. I’ve decided to live a little. And if you add a handful of thinly sliced turkey (rice paper thin), it’s called a BLT&T with C, hold the mayo.

Whaddaya mean, hold the mayo? 


If your world is easily shaken by how others do things, maybe it’s because you’re not fully convinced why it is you do what you do. Often, people either fear they’re not “doing it right” or get mad at everybody else for doing it wrong. Absurd that I actually used to think this way, before I learned to live a little. 

If by a certain age, say 40 — nah, make it 45; people are taking longer to mature these days — you have not yet stepped over the threshold into that exquisite state of being where you’re comfortable in your own skin, then please receive this missive as a friendly, lighthearted (read: dead serious) permission slip to get on with living. Settle the matter. Develop your taste. Nothing’s worse than living out of someone else’s proverbial suitcase.



Taste, or lifestyle, is one of those things that, once you have acquired it, nobody can take from you. It’s yours, internally. It only adds to who you are, never subtracts from, so it won’t be a line item on your tax return. It’s a hidden thing, a nearly imperceptible cache of personal likings — ways of doing things that make sense perhaps only to you but help maintain that other indispensible thing: equilibrium.

I imagine right about now an example would help.

Tea has been a longstanding commodity in our house, though now it’s in flux. For years, Twinings Darjeeling was my go-to every morning. Another cup in the afternoon and one again at night. Out from the purple box came a domestic ritual performed with a certain amount of solemnity. Equilibrium. Remember that word.

But something happened. Earlier this year, I lost my, dare I say, taste for tea. Whether due to a hormonal shift or something less exciting, I couldn’t tell at first. But I needed to blame it on something. A kind of epicurean whodunnit. I say it was the Styrofoam cup — the one they expected me to drink my Darjeeling from when I was in the hospital this past December. It ruined everything. I know it’s odd, but I still buy the purple boxes, tossing a few in the cart to revive my loyalty somehow. Twenty-five years is a long time. But the white foam cup just killed it.

So now it’s Assam. Loose, preferably. Or Irish Breakfast. Same thing, but not really. Ridgways Assam is a brand I’m not too proud to beg for, but it’s hard to get around here. For now, I’m living with Taylor’s of Harrogate, a box of 50 tagless bags I found online. A cut below what I’d actually like, which is a loose organic Assam sold at Wegmans. Malty to the max and fuller-bodied than most. But they’re out — been out for over a month. “Not sure if it’s coming in on the truck this week.”

Um, okee dokee. Thankyouverymuch.

Am I the only one in the world who follows Stew Leonard’s policy?

But all is well, truly. Growing accustomed to that lovely mid-morning cup o’ joe. Peet’s is good, but Caffè Verona never disappoints. French press all the way. Steaming hot. To the brim. In my new favorite mug with the “L” on it.

Want to know what I love most?

Didn’t think so. And nobody else does either.

That’s taste, my friends.