Meat and Gas, a Sensory Experience

24 May

The harlequin pattern of the metal plate lining the Kogi truck reflects a fun house like image of the hungry patrons queued along the pavement. Strolling up to the infamous truck serving a hybrid of Korean and Mexican fare is an experience of curious synesthesia. A faint cloud of exhaust cleanses the palette, while the smell of sweat and dripping meat catalyzes a primal urge to consume. Like a scent hound, your nose detects a smell then moves to an associated color.

The smell of sweat.

Ah, that must be the Mexican laborer in the sweat stained blue polo. Does such a foul odor make the blue hue of his shirt even more vivid?

The noxious, yet addictive smell of gasoline.

Yes, that must be the chrome tail pipes. Why does the smell of gasoline trigger a nostalgic yearning for barbeques and outdoor adventure?

What other motley smells fill the air? I close my eyes and count them. The aroma of cheap perfume from the girl from the pharmacy. Her face is caked in makeup and the oily residue of a taco hangs from her protruded lip like a tear. Does the sweet perfume make the meat taste sweeter?

A man with a cracked thumbnail lights a slim cigarette. The thick Kogi dog in his hand contrasts starkly with the narrow cigarette.

The smell of tobacco.

A memory flashes through my head of the Korean businessmen shrouded in the shadows of the skyscrapers of Teheran-ro in Seoul.

At last, the spicy short rib taco is in my hand. The warm simmering fat drips into my palm. I open my mouth and chew.

Sweat, gasoline, cheap perfume and tobacco. The pungent aroma of roasted meat.

This is the essence of Kogi.

Cheap gourmet.

The pharmacy worker’s delight.

The smoker’s respite from a cigarette.

The fat drips like a tear.

Afterword: I chose to focus on the sense of smell for my blog entry because I believe it is a sense often trumped by the sense of sight. Sometimes in life we forget to pause and take a good whiff.

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