In French there is a term “terroir." It means “a sense of place." You may have heard it when people talk of wine, or food.
Terroir is the principal that these items take on special qualities based on their location. As in, the tomatoes in my garden taste nothing like the ones from my friend’s garden in Calgary. That’s because of many factors: soil, sunshine, climate, etc.
I also believe this same concept applies to experiences in one place versus another. I am going to give it a name similar to terroir, in Latin so it sounds impressive. “Gustus animus." It means a taste of the mind. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Gustus animus might come from the memory of a special meal you had on holiday, like the paella in a small Spanish restaurant on the Costa Brava or the bottle of wine you shared with friends to celebrate a milestone.
Have you ever tried to recreate one of those wonderful experiences at home? Everyone I have spoken with says those efforts fall flat. I don’t think the wine or food lost its lustre; rather, that lustre comes from the magic of having that moment in that place at that time in your life.
Even if you returned to the same place and had the same food and/or drinks, it would be a different experience. It could still be wonderful, but it would have its own qualities.
For you gustus animus would perhaps come from something more mundane, but with a special significance for you. I don’t believe anything exotic is required. It’s just that perfect storm of deliciousness, camaraderie and ambience.
For me, having popcorn at the movie, in a theatre, is like that. I have enjoyed many movies and plenty of popcorn outside the theatre, but neither is the same without the full experience. Still enjoyable, but without the extra bit of magic that captures a moment, a feeling.
Maybe it all has more to do with taking the time to enjoy those moments at their fullest - something we can forget in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life. Do you savour a dinner on your own deck the same way you do if it’s on a deck in a beachside restaurant in the Mediterranean? Maybe taste of mind, my gustus animus, goes with the peace of mind we have when we stop to watch the world go by.
As we close out many of the summer vibes this weekend, I do hope you have the opportunity for a bit of your own gustus animus. And if that doesn’t work out, I’m convinced a bit of terroir from local craft beverages or garden harvests would make a very respectable second choice.
Bon appetit, and cheers.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.