Acquiring new tastes

I often tell kids that they need to keep trying foods because their taste buds grow just like the rest of them.

But it’s much harder to convince adults to be adventurous eaters. You’ve heard the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?"

Well, you can, but it’s sometimes an uphill battle. Nevertheless, I keep at it. There is also that saying about an old dog with a bone, remember? You can acquire new tastes, and they can be pleasant experiences.

It might be warming up outside, but we are still in comfort-food mode, so that usually means we aren’t thinking about salad and healthy snacks.

This week, I’m going to offer a few ideas to try to switch up the foods we keep in our comfort zone and the heavy, rich, albeit yummy, foodstuffs of winter. A few quick ones, and a few projects – all designed to be fun, and even possible to share in the making and the eating.

Bear with me, and if you do try any of these, I’d love your feedback (good or bad). Let me know your thoughts, your tastes, send me your pictures. You can send an email, or post on the Happy Gourmand Facebook page.

We have natural preferences around our eating habits, and we should respect those if we are venturing out for new tastes. I wrote recently on my blog about Sweet vs Salty.

Did you know you are genetically predisposed to prefer one over the other? If you have a sweet tooth, how about using that to your advantage?

Don’t think of dessert, but think of making a salad dressing with a bit of honey or maple syrup that can be put on a salad composed of new ingredients. Like, maybe a Thai salad that could use some leftover chicken, beef or pork – or even be vegetarian if you want?

This is an easy one for everyone to help with, chopping and mixing.

Certainly, what we ate while growing up makes a difference in what we like and are used to as well.

Part of that is culture, part of it is environment (if you grew up on a farm, you are likely more familiar with fresh-from-the-field items, for example. But we can step outside our comfort zone, and many exotic tastes are more common now.

Think of something unusual that you like – maybe it’s hot sauce, or soy sauce, or cilantro… Maybe it comes from a culture or style of cooking. If so, why not try another dish from that part of the world? Or you could try a different dish with a sauce that you like.

When my stepdaughter was little, she liked pesto with pasta. She didn’t like salmon much, but if we slathered it in pesto and baked it, salmon was not so bad. 

Tapenade is another great spread that has many applications. Try it on a chicken breast, or with pasta, add some tomato sauce if you like and presto, you have an easy dinner that’s full of flavour.

If you want to impress guests, try this upscale appetizer, courtesy of my wonderful hubby, The Chef Instead.

Cashew Pesto Baked Brie

750 g of Canadian Brie - serves 6-8 people


  • 150 g Peeled Garlic 
  • 250 ml Basil Leaves, packed solid   Note: Basil can be mixed half and half with parsley for a cheaper version full of flavour. 
  • 125-175 ml Olive Oil
  • 100 g Parmesan Cheese
  • 250 ml Cashews unsalted (you could substitute walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or almonds if you like – all cheaper than pine nuts)
  • Pinch of Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 400 g of Puff Pastry (1 package)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Process into a fine paste all the pesto ingredients and divide in 2 portions.

Cut your piece of brie in half horizontally and stuff it with one half of your pesto inside and the other half on the top to end up with a brie/pesto/brie/pesto sandwich. 

Roll out the puff pastry, not too thin, and place the stuffed brie in the middle. Fold the pastry over the top like a gift, closing it up while brushing the package very well with the beaten egg to seal all the brie inside. Flip it over on a baking sheet and baked at 375F until golden brown outside. 

(This will take approximately 20-30 minutes, watch it so it doesn’t brown too fast. If it browns before 15 minutes, cover the top with foil and keep cooking at least 5 more minutes.) 

Remove to a serving platter or wooden board, and let cool for just a few minutes. Cut wedges with a sharp knife and serve like a pie.

TIP: If you cut into it and find it needs more melting inside you can microwave it for 2 minutes.

Best served with fruit Chutney, Raspberry Coulis and/or Balsamic Vinegar Onion Confit (or your favourite savoury condiment from the fridge, at room temperature for best flavours.)

Lastly, how about something as simple as a new spice? Start slow and work with small changes first – instead of using oregano, how about trying thyme, or a blend of the two? If you make chili, try using a bit of smoked paprika along with your chile powder.

In a simple vinaigrette (oil and vinegar) or on sautéed vegetables, try adding a Middle Eastern spice mix called zaatar (made with thyme, sumac and sesame seeds – you can Google a recipe if you can’t find it).

Want the kids to take part in a new taste experiment? How about adding flavours to yogurt or oatmeal in the morning? (It could be on the weekends if school days are too hectic, not to worry.)

Instead of buying a processed flavour, get the plain one and add your own ingredients (set a limit at 3 or 4 so the flavours don’t get too confusing). Here’s my top 10 list of ideas:

  • Fruit (chopped bananas, grated apple, mango, pineapple, kiwi, berries…)
  • Shredded Coconut
  • Chopped nuts
  • Raisins (or other dried fruits)
  • Cinnamon (or nutmeg, or ground ginger, or cardamom)
  • Maple syrup (or liquid honey)
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds (especially good if you toast them first)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Granola (if you want to stick to homemade, try toasting oatmeal in a pan with a bit of butter or oil and a sprinkling of brown sugar or honey)
  • Now, get out there and exercise those tastebuds. Let’s get our palates in shape for an exciting year of flavour.

Bon appetit.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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