What does London taste like?
It's a question that cropped up in the office, and soon had us pondering the pitfalls of being caught licking the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.
And then we came across a man who could help.
James Wannerton is president of the UK Synaesthesia Association. He has what's called lexical-gustatory synaesthesia — a condition whereby he can taste words.
He has previously created the Synaesthesia Tube Map, and this time we gave James a 'menu' of London landmarks to sample. The results are strange and rather fascinating. Lumpy mashed potato is reccurring (which makes sense when you realise that lumpy mashed potato='London'.)
And there are a few combinations that all but the hardiest of pregnant women would gag at.
James explains, "The landmarks listed have always given me the exact same taste and texture from when they first appeared to me. This taste and texture is automatic, involuntary and can't be switched off or turned down."
"Lumpy mashed potato and baked beans mixed together."
Tower of London
"Ginger beer and lumpy mashed potato."
House of Commons
"Vanilla ice cream and lemon sponge cake." (Sound delicious. But it's a shame it's not HP Sauce.)
"Fruit Pastilles and tinned carrots." Very different from The Houses of Parliament as a whole.
"Marzipan." Nothing like a gherkin then.
"Ginger beer and pork pie."
"Pear drops." Well, at least it's confectionery.
St Paul's Cathedral
"Bacon and chocolate digestives."
"Sliced, raw carrot."
Royal Albert Hall
"Sliced, hard boiled egg."
"Lumpy mashed potato and dirty, hard marzipan."
While all of this may sound rather kooky, James is keen to point out that synaesthesia is a very real and well-researched neurological condition — not simply the product of an over-active imagination.
As he explains "My own personal synaesthetic experiences produce a real mouth-feel and not simply an association. It becomes 'personal' for me because putting things in your mouth is an intrusive and personal experience."
"If you don't like the taste of something, you tend to dislike that something and the effects last a lifetime and rarely change. Flavours you disliked as a child usually carry on over into adulthood. This applies to every person, object or situation I happen to come across."
You can also start to work out what various other landmarks taste like for James. So although we didn't ask him what London Bridge tastes like, using the above information, we can conclude it's lumpy mashed potato and pork pie.
We were, we must say, slightly disappointed to discover that James found we tasted like a green bean.