Imagine driving in your car and the voices on the radio inspire flavors to fill your mouth. The longer the banter about the traffic report goes on, the stronger the sensation of taste. Imagine now having to chew through several minutes of Donald Trump, the man whose limited vocabulary, meandering sentences, and Queens accent both rivet and enrage so many people. That’s the plight of people known as “tasters,” who have a rare form of synesthesia—the perceptual phenomenon in which the stimulation of one sense activates the spontaneous response in another. In this case, sound turns to taste.
We looked far and wide for a nonpartisan taster, and finally asked 58-year-old Englishman James Warrenton, living in Germany, to listen to the voices from the White House (including a few outcasts) and give us his impressions. As we moved from one tape to another, he’d cleanse his palate with a sip of coffee.
“With my kind of synesthesia,” the retired IT systems analyst pointed out, “it’s not just the taste, it’s the texture as well. The texture is very important.”
“That would drive me mad, if I had to listen to that all day. That would drive me nuts. The overriding thing that came through her is a cake mixture, but it’s quite a crumbly cake. There are also bursts of sweetness—the only thing I can think of is jelly beans, because jelly beans are hard on the outside and they’re all soft and gooey on the inside. It’s quite meaty as well; it’s like ham. It’s not a pleasant mix.”
“It’s quite simple, this one. To be honest, it’s very, very nice. It’s a hard-boiled egg, but in slices. The lovely thing about this is he’s got a constant drip of chocolate buttons, similar to Hershey’s Kisses. There are blobs of chocolate. And his voice has a beautiful overtone of caramel. It’s lovely.”
“Salty and ketchup—sweet and bitter at the same time. The only way I can describe it is, it’s like a lump of dark chocolate. And you’ve also got the hard candy called Spangles.”
“Quite simple: it’s mostly like tiny, tiny chunks of meat. Overall, a very savory voice. There’s drops of the candy I know as wine gums, but it’s mostly savory and minced beef.”
“You know the muck you get at the bottom of an electric kettle? It’s carbon. When you drink the carbon at the bottom of an electric kettle? Ugh. And there are drops of maraschino cherries. It’s just that horrible, mucky, gritty carbon taste with tiny drops of cherries in there. That’s the worst one by far.” [Warrenton takes several large swigs from his cup after listening to Mr. Kushner.]
“Predominantly mashed potatoes with loads and loads of coffee. The way he says ‘time’—it’s like some sort of horrible, gloopy gravy.”
“The texture on that is extremely, extremely weak. The tastes and textures I’m getting on that are all liquidy. It’s like Lucozade [the British equivalent of Gatorade]. It’s also—and this is horrible—it’s ink. It’s like drinking weak ink—very, very light-blue ink. It’s weak, and there’s hardly any sweetness in it, which is unusual. Most women have got a nice touch of sweetness, but there’s nothing there at all.”
“It’s very, very sweet, like cream soda. The overall thing is there’s not a lot of texture. It’s bubbly and bland. I’ve had tastes like this before and they’re usually from vacuous celebrities that just babble on all the time. Loads of bubbles.”
“He’s always been the same: it’s like chewing on a lump of rubber. But it’s a very specific kind of rubber— it’s the rubber you used to get on Wellingtons. The horrible thing about Trump is, there’s a couple of other things in there: there’s more sliced hard-boiled egg, and there’s a minty thing as well—it’s a bit like Altoids. The rubber is the horrible bit.”