I find it quite interesting, sometimes amusing and often times frustrating when confronted with people’s dislikes in certain foods.
As somebody who will try literally anything at least once before pulling up my nose at it, this is difficult to wrap my tongue around but, for the sake of humankind and my own sanity, I thought it might be helpful to explore some people’s aversion to certain foods and hopefully the little wander down the food aisle will give me a better understanding, more tolerance and more compassion when a guest at my table, politely gags when I put a plate of food in front of them.
And I’m not talking about sucking on an eyeball or relishing a piece of rotten smelling fruit here. Nothing that exotic. I’m also not referring to ethical food choices. That’s a completely different coloured animal all together.
Let’s start with the inane little green pea. To my palate it is sweet when it’s fresh and I’ll pop one after the other in my mouth like peanuts. There are very few things I like more than these blanched jewels mixed with mint and glistening with a glug of olive oil. Imagine my surprise when I found out some people find these tiny green pearls highly offensive! Apparently it’s a texture-thing. The skin that pops when you bite into it followed by the mushy interior have sent a few individuals running for the bathroom.
Staying with green stuff, next on the list is coriander, also known as dhania or cilantro. I can eat this basically on everything that might land near my gob, regardless whether it ‘goes’ with it or not. I feel immediately super healthy and my taste buds do a two-step of happiness.
If you detest this leafy herb, you are actually in very good company: Julia Child absolutely hated the taste of it and we can all agree that this lady had a very sophisticated palette.
It turns out that the aversion to the taste of coriander has actual scientific backing to it! There is an olfactory-receptor gene that increases your sensitivity to the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which coriander contains. You can lay the blame squarely at your parents feet for this, among all the other things that they managed to screw up and turned you into the picky eater that you are at 57 years old.
Shit…did I just say that out loud?
Still staying on the fresh produce side of the aisle, next up is the dreaded Brussel sprout. For many of us, this fart-smelling-mini-cabbage is the stuff nightmares are made of…until you step away from the boiled to death way of cooking and roast them in the oven with bacon and finish them off with a drizzle of honey. Yummy.
If you don’t immediately start salivating at that, then science yet again, is coming to the rescue. According to the clever people, we are born to reject bitter foods because for every one plant in nature which is bitter and good for us, there’s probably 50 which are bitter and poisonous. Free pass right there.
Another love it or hate it vegetable is the eggplant aka aubergine aka brinjal. Once you remove the bitter skin, this nightshade veggie is a creamy and buttery delight. It’s a texture thing again, right? Too squishy for some, not to mention the fact that if you are battling with inflammatory bowel disease, eating this might contribute to your discomfort. If that is the case, you do have a valid excuse to push it to the side of your plate. That, and the tomatoes fresh from Farmer Joe’s field. Although, personally, I will also not kill the bull for a tomato but for me it’s more about the acidity and not the texture. And did you know a tomato is actually a fruit and not a vegetable? Like avocado? Fancy a fruit salad with avo and tomatoes?
Moving onto fruit, let’s look at that spiny sweet thing called a pineapple. Oh the dreaded Hawaiian pizza! If you believe people who love pineapple on pizza should go straight to hell, then you might suffer from one of these two aversions: one is again that dreaded texture thing; the second, there is absolutely no good reason to cook fruit.
I’m on the fence with this one because I don’t think it’s the adding of pineapple that is the problem-child here but rather the execution of it. If you slice the fresh pineapple thin (definitely not the syrupy sickly sweet canned variety) and combine that with equally restrained pieces of ham, then there is no reason not to partake in this sweet-savoury delight.
And here you thought I was a food-snob, didn’t you?
I’ve just realized that most of the food people find offensive are fresh vegetables and some fruits. I can count on my one hand the amount of times I’ve heard somebody said no thank you to a donut or koeksister and heaved at a bowl of ice cream.
So here is my theory:
Most food likes and dislikes happen during childhood and our choices are influenced by a combination of rewards, punishments and eating behaviours we observe in others. These food aversions are further validated by our senses when we perceive something that we might not like.
Culturally we are taught how food should look and taste and if we are served something that does not match our expectations, our first response is to reject it. Not to mention the impact media and advertising has on our choices. And as we get older, changing these food preferences becomes progressively more difficult.
If we don’t force ourselves every now and again out of our food-comfort-zones, our childhood palate will never evolve and grow and experience new challenges.
Did you see what I did there? I used this whole food thing as a metaphor for growth and tolerance.
I’m subtle like that.
“How we do food is how we do life. Every meal is a metaphor for how you show up in the world. Are you present? Are you complaining? Are you multitasking? Add love, celebration, time, communion, and gratitude to every meal and make every meal the best meal ever.”
- Marc David & Emily Rosen