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mint condition

Here’s something not a lot of people know about me – I hate mint. Not dislike. Not “do not prefer.” Full-on detest. In fact, I cannot get past the scent of mint fast enough. For some reason, mint evokes a gag reflex in me. No, not a reflexive urge to do stand-up, but an “if you don’t get that away from me right now, I’m going to get sick in a hurry” reaction. Add that abhorrence to the fact that I have a particularly sensitive sense of smell and, well, sometimes all kinds of mayhem ensues. To wit:

Spearmint appears to be the worst offender (whoever named it was right about the “spear” part – it’s like a knife to my sensory system). Wintergreen has the same effect. If you come anywhere near me while ingesting it – let’s say while chewing a piece of gum – I turn green, no matter the season. And if I unwittingly step in gum (it’s always spearmint, it seems) and need to spend time cleaning it off the sole of my shoe? Absolute agony. (Not as bad as dog droppings but not much better.) As for those coffee places that sell tins of mints to help those with coffee breath? Let’s just say that I’d rather know you just consumed an espresso grande instead of inhaling your minty vapors, even from multiple feet away.

Which leads me to toothpaste. Most adult toothpastes are mint-flavored. So are mouthwashes. And then there’s mint-flavored floss. No, no, and just no. (In fact, I need to hold my breath just walking down the oral-healthcare aisle at the drugstore.) As a grown woman, I find myself brushing with Silly Strawberry toothpaste for kids (a great product, actually). And when I go to the dentist’s office (already a stressful situation for me), I need to say, no, please don’t put mint-flavored mouthwash in my cup, and have to ask, sheepishly, for a non-mint, kid’s flavor toothpaste for my cleaning. It feels like childish behavior, although the minty alternative results in the same kind of childish behavior exhibited in The Exorcist.

More obstacles? I’ve run into cleaning products (mostly used in hotels) that carry the, um, distinct aroma of mint – enough for B. to take one look at me and rush to open all the windows in our room until the smell fades. Speaking of hotels, for the longest time one of our favorites stocked guest soaps and shampoos from a luxury brand in, you guessed it, a rosemary-mint fragrance. (Which explains why I always travel with my own soap and shampoo – or else it’s either risk being submerged in mint or skipping a shower, the latter being more likely, believe me).

Even restaurants are not an assumed-safe zone. How many times have I ordered dessert only to find it garnished with a sprig of mint? I can’t remove it and risk getting the scent on my fingers – B. needs to be my knight in shining armor and slay the mint dragon. Or iced tea, my go-to choice. Often it, too, arrives with that pesky mint leaf just curled over the rim, giving off its fragrance with each sip (not that I let it get that far). Again, B. to the rescue.

When it comes to the winter holidays, visions of sugarplums aren’t dancing in my head – visions of candy canes chasing me down are haunting my dreams. Sure, they’re pretty. Sure, they’re festive. But just unwrap them and surely I turn into the Grinch (a little green in the face and not fun to be around).

My aversion to mint is so strong that I’ve even developed a strong dislike for it as a word (all evidence to the contrary in my use of it in this post). Given that I spent so many years naming and describing nail lacquer colors as well as writing fashion forecasts, coming up with a substitute wasn’t always easy. Pistachio, sea foam, celadon, and pastel green were close, but sometimes mint was the only way to go. (Remember when baby clothes basically came in pink and blue and, if you didn’t know the sex of the unborn baby and needed to buy a shower gift, you’d opt for yellow or mint green? I went yellow all the way.)

One final installment to my story. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I also detest fish; in fact, mint and fish are the two foods at the top of my list of “dislikes,” which is what makes this particular incident so ironic. When B. and I were the only guests at a bed-and-breakfast one night many years ago, the owner offered to cook us a special breakfast the following morning and asked if there were any foods we didn’t like. I said that the only two foods I didn’t eat were fish and mint (I’m not a big cheese or runny-eggs fan, but I didn’t want to limit her too much and figured I could eat around those). What could go wrong, right?

Turns out, quite a lot. She whipped up an elaborate meal for us that started with (and I kid you not) a cold cucumber-mint soup, redolent with that despised aroma. B. and I just looked at each other, my raised eyebrow threatening to soar straight into the stratosphere. Huh? I managed to get down a couple of tiny spoonfuls (each followed by a full glass of water, the same way I ate fish sticks as a kid). But that wasn’t all. Because the main course was scrambled eggs (what a relief, no runny-yolk eggs, right?) mixed in with – wait for it – smoked trout. Trout. As in fish. As in, are you kidding me?

I pushed the mixture around my plate, and when the owner, who hovered over us as we ate, asked why I wasn’t eating, I pleaded a delicate stomach that morning. Her solution was to bring me a cup of tea – peppermint tea, that is – which she said would help soothe my agita. Not really – because my agita was caused by her not really listening. I had to pinch myself – and kick B. under the table – to be sure I was awake and not having a culinary nightmare. Maybe there was a reason we were the only guests.

Not mint to be.

©2022 Claudia Grossman

2 comments on “mint condition

  1. Greetings. I like mint and fish. And I liked your essay too. Neil S.

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