In The Physiology of Taste, Brillat-Savarin asserts that people cannot taste or smell while dreaming. He also claims that people cannot dream of unknown things because “dreams are no more than the memory of the senses.” (225) On this cold sunny morning in Chicago, I would like to refute that notion with my own dream from last night. Granted, taking on a man long passed and one immersed in the snake-oil hilarity of Enlightenment era science is akin to being the first to answer out loud, as an adult, which planet has rings around it in a planetarium full of fourth graders. I will no doubt take as much smug satisfaction from it now as I did then. (It’s quite a bit.)

The dream started off with Jeff and I trying a new restaurant. It was in the same vein as the many French bistro/speakeasy hybrids expanding across Chicago like so much mildew on a bathroom ceiling in August. It was packed. The waitress had speech impediment. The bartenders were surly. The food was difficult and not at all French. As I pushed my appetizer of impossibly small ravioli garnished with shaved parmesan and tapioca pearls around, Jeff says to me “This is boring. Want to get out of here?” Relief flooded over me. We call for the check and start finishing our sazeracs. Leave no man behind, after all.

I hadn’t paid much attention to my cocktail at this point because of all the other stimulus. As I brought it to my mouth, I noticed it was clear and had little green leaves in it, much like a mojito. According to Brillat-Savarin, this would make sense. I’ve never tasted a sazerac. However, I know what one looks like from a friend’s photo. I also know what’s in a sazerac from research. This knowledge was enough for me to become indignant in my dream.

“This isn’t a sazerac!” I exclaimed to Jeff, who rolls his eyes at the addition of one more thing wrong with the restaurant.

We continue drinking. I continue to wonder just what’s wrong with this cocktail. It’s cold, refreshing – not bad in and of itself. I taste sweet and alcohol, a little bitter from the absinthe wash. Then it hits me. The bartenders used rum instead of bourbon. They’re resting on the 19th century NoLa cache of the drink to lure people in and, instead of investing in some decent bourbon, cutting corners with cheap rum. The dream continues from there in ways that aren’t entirely pertinent to Brillat-Savarin’s hypothesis.

From this description, anyone can note that I obviously tasted something in my dream. However, what I tasted was a mojito; a drink with which I have ample experience. However, the mojito had absinthe, a key ingredient of sazeracs, in it. I have never had absinthe. Yet clearly tasting it in my “sazerac” tipped off the bartender’s dupe instead of the mojito signifying a “cocktail” in the dream.

Did I also mention that I could smell the petrol and old stones when I got lost in the streets of Paris afterward? Yeah.

Saturn!

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