Sunday, August 4, 2013

Culinary Perfect Pitch

I have perfect pitch. (NOT Pitch Perfect, the movie.)

For the uninitiated, that means that when a musical note is played, I can tell you what the pitch of that note is (or notes, or key signature, etc.) without needing a reference note. Most people, even those with "good ears" for music, need a reference note to figure out what the next note played is.

For example: if you play Middle C and then play another note, a person can figure out the distance (interval) between those notes in order to come up with the name the second note.

But to hear a random note from out of nowhere and say, "That's an F sharp"—and be correct—is called perfect pitch. (Also referred to as absolute pitch.)

It isn't always perfect, though. Our Western ears are geared to our Western type of music, but many cultures use microtones in their music that fall in between the notes we've grown up with and are used to hearing. That range of microtones is also the reason instruments tune up before a concert, and why the judges on American Idol and The Voice criticize singers for sounding "pitchy."

Back to having perfect pitch.

As a teen, I always knew when I was going over the speed limit, because the tires on my Chevy Impala hummed an A flat at 55 miles per hour. If the pitch inched up to a B flat, I knew I was speeding and it was time to slow down.

(Oh, and my perfect pitch has always helped me with my music, too . . . )

But there are other types of "perfect pitch," many of which I do not have.

My husband gave me a sip of his soda the other day. It was Diet Coke, doctored with something, and he asked me to guess what it was.

"Hmm," I said, stumbling around my taste buds for an answer. "It's . . . um . . . oh! You added lime to it."

He rolled his eyes.

"I can't believe you can't tell that the flavor I added was ORANGE."

"Well," I said. "At least I could tell it was citrus something."

Yep. I'm that bad.

I can tell if something tastes good or not so good. I can tell if I like it. But I cannot figure out what herbs and seasonings are in a dish or which ones would go well with chicken or beef—or anything else.

I'm afflicted with culinary tone deafness. Well, okay, maybe tone deafness is a little harsh. I was competent enough to cook for my unassuming children until they grew up and discovered that they, along with their dad, have culinary perfect pitch.

I look into our refrigerator and see nothing with which to make a meal. My husband looks in the refrigerator and sees possibilities. And they all taste fabulous. My son has that gift. So does at least one of my daughters. They watch COOKING SHOWS! I just don't get it.

But, I tell you what, I'm a lot more sympathetic than I used to be with people who aren't musically inclined. Musical perfect pitch doesn't feed the hungry with much frequency. Oh, it may feed the soul on occasion . . . as a result, I often play the piano for my husband while he makes dinner—that's how I rationalize my abdication of kitchen duties, anyway.

To my way of thinking, it's the perfect compromise. And I'm not asking my hubby if he agrees. Besides, he's busy cooking while I'm writing this blog post.