Idea framing and axone mapping
Linguistical studies show every word is relative to a frame. The word axone comes from axo meaning aroma/smell and ne meaning deep/strong. Etymology unbeknown, could the mention of the word axone conjure memories of bad smells to those familiar to its taste and smell? Back to our college cookout days while eating ngari (fermented fish from Manipur) chutney, our dear friend joked that the smell induced nostalgia for his hometown in Kerala — it reminded him of the garbage dump outside his house.
According to George Lakoff, American professor of linguistics, we develop a pattern of metaphors by repeated neural circuits in the brain, some metaphors are universal while others are situated in their cultural contexts. Contextual metaphors often serve to explain complex phenomena.
While gorging on Nutella one morning, I looked at the nutritional value on the bottle to reassure myself of the presence of hazelnuts and had a brief aha moment. Nutella is given to Isaac, my 4-year-old sometimes as a breakfast treat, determined to change his association of axone = bad smell, I wondered if the nutty flavour of axone would combine beautifully with chocolate while masking its smell to some extent. He was part of the entire process and discerning about the chocolate moulds I ordered and cognisant of the experiment underway. I started by soaking the soybean overnight, boiling, straining and leaving it to ferment in its own bacteria for 4 days. The thought of making axone from scratch had never crossed my mind before. The fermentation process is undoubtedly stinky, although impermeable through the tightly packed cloth, once opened strong fumes filled the room, I was reminded of the septic tank scene in the movie Axone. Over the years, I’ve encountered friends who gladly partake in a meal of axone pork at a restaurant or at a friend’s home but not deign to cook it in their own homes, perhaps the analogy of someone raised in a strict vegetarian environment who will explore and perhaps come to devour meats outside of their home. Analogy as I learnt from Douglas Hofstadter is the perception of common essence between two things.
Before adding axone to the molten chocolate I asked Isaac if he’d like to smell, the act of making and eating chocolate seem to have clouded his brain, I asked him what it smelled like and his response was ‘like raisins’. Dry and shrivelled soybean look somewhat raisin-like and this visual reference seemed to have propelled his analogy of raisins in chocolate — an association formed on the basis that he’s eaten and experienced raisins in a chocolate previously. The frame of reference for him was 'raisins in chocolate'. The directionality of the metaphor would have reversed had he experienced the taste and smell of axone before a raisin and often enough for it to have formed a neural link. His association of axone is not entirely overcome by chocolate — when I reminded him I was going to add it to the molten chocolate he exclaimed ‘smelly but yummy’. His excitement was palpable, I looked away deliberately granting him a moment to sneakily have a go. Chocolate with fermented soy has found one fan!
I thought Jo’s reaction ‘tastes like raisins’ was an inspired meme of Isaac’s. He thought the axone was too strong especially the aftertaste, he suggested powdering it because the whole bean had too much bite to handle. My sister-in-law was my third guinea pig — on a weekend visit, she was served the chocolate as homemade, she looked suspicious as if being offered contraband. At first she couldn’t place the flavour and thought it to be hash, possibly because of our micro identities that have led to our shared experiences in the past. When the mystery ingredient was revealed, her expression changed to match her ‘tastes weird’ comment, almost like a food purist and a preserver of culture she wondered what people from back home who made and ate axone would perceive of this strange and irreverent mix.
My mind travelled back to yatsuhashi (a Japanese rice cake with sweet filling) that Jo and I brought back from our trip to Kyoto a decade ago. Our friends and family were delighted by the taste and texture of glutinous rice filled with an assortment of sweet potato, sweetened green tea paste, sesame and red bean paste. Red bean is similar to rajma, I thought of a sweet rajma momo, how fascinating and wildly inauthentic :D