flavor

The idea for this post came about after an experience I had playing the game Skyrim. In case you aren’t familiar, it’s an immense fantasy game from the Elder Scrolls series. 

In the game, I was visiting a small tavern when a serving maid walks up and asks if I’d like her to play some music. I reply yes and pay her 5 gold to do so. She plays some soothing music for a time on what I believe was a lute and then she’s done and walks away. Nothing else happens.

Her family isn’t troubled by dragons. She didn’t lose her brother’s favorite sword. None of that. She just walks away.

In Skyrim, as in many games, just about every interaction you have with anything bears some sort of significance to the overall story of the game. It seems like nearly every person you talk with has some quest they want you to go on, usually with the reward of some advancement such as a new item, skill, gold, more quests, etc.

But, in this case, all you got was the opportunity to hear some nice music for a few coins. Nothing more. 

I was a little disappointed at first. But, when I stopped to think more on it, I felt admiration.

This bit of flavor without function made the world feel more real, more vibrant. 

It got me thinking how flavor serves no immediate purpose yet without it our worlds (both real and imagined) would be quite dull.

You could survive just fine on flavorless food as long as it had adequate nutritional value. In fact, they often seem at odds with one another—flavor and nutrition. But to live such a way seems almost unbearable to me. 

I heard they invented a loaf for prisoners that had all the necessary nutrients to sustain life while being utterly flavorless. In the end, it was considered cruel and unusual punishment.

I remember a point in my life where the only part of the day I really looked forward to was when I got to eat. Draw what conclusions you wish about my mindset here, but I couldn’t imagine having that pleasure taken away.

Taste aside, even the way food is presented adds a whole 'nother level of flavor. The value of going out to a nice restaurant comes from the fact that you aren't just paying for good food, you're paying for an entire eating experience.

Personally, I'm a sucker for plates where the food is arranged to look like a face. I love it when my wife lays out my sandwich and accompanying sides to look like a happy person with a mustache. And I love doing the same for her or my daughter just as much. I would even argue it does make the food taste that much better.

A life without flavor is as dull and gray as a day without the sun.

Flavor pumps lifeblood into an otherwise ordinary story.

Flavor is the extra bling in your attire that gives you style.

The flavor text you may read about a product provides a description to entice you to learn more. It’s exciting.

Flavor is that little bit of detail you add to your art, which, while unnecessary for the work as a whole, is the spark that sets it on fire—especially if you’re really into pyrotechnics. 

Sure, flavor alone may not be enough to fill your belly, warm your body, or engage you in the story. 

Still, I hope the next time you have the opportunity, whether you’re building a bicycle or baking butternut squash biscuits, you don’t forget to add a bit of flavor—just for fun.

A.P. Lambert

A.P. Lambert is a creative professional who helps others live with creativity and purpose.