I consider myself a very fortunate person when it comes to food.
My body processes good food very well. I don’t gain weight quickly, I don’t have any allergies and I enjoy most foods. I also had a happy childhood with food—no memories of choking down something I didn’t like at the dinner table with numerous glasses of milk. But I know there are common foods many people just won’t eat.
For some, foods they don’t like are ones that have unappealing textures. I can understand this – the one I have a hard time swallowing are lychee nuts. I think they would make a great ingredient in a witch’s potion (you know, “eye of newt” and all that?) Oysters are also a popular food included in the disliked texture category.
For others, there are foods that taste like something they don’t like. One of the most common hated foods are beets. Many people say they taste like dirt. Because beets grow in the dirt, this doesn’t seem too farfetched, but I don’t think it’s what people mean when they mention terroir (“the taste of a place” in a food or drink).
People with a certain gene say cilantro tastes like soap. That’s one food where the line is drawn very clearly on liking it or not.
There are other foods people don’t like the taste or feel of, like mushrooms. They have a taste that is often described as “umami”, a Japanese concept that represents the savoury nature of some foods (cured meats have this same quality). “Funky” is another adjective you could use, and I get it – some people just aren’t into funky things.
If one category of food was to be chosen for most hated, it would most certainly be vegetables. How many of these make you go “yuck”?
• Brussel sprouts (but have you tried them sautéed with bacon, or deep fried?)
• Eggplant (really, not even with cheese on top?!)
• Tomatoes (how can you like ketchup and not like tomatoes?)
• Turnips and parsnips (I get it, they are bitter. I’ll give you that one. I still like them, though.)
• Radishes (the junior version of a turnip, served raw. But with French butter, sliced thin on a baguette, you might rethink your opinion)
There are fruits that have a love-hate kind of following too, such as cantaloupe and durian. My younger brother said cantaloupe smelled like the zoo. But my dad loved it for dessert with vanilla ice cream. Go figure.
One hated food I think most people agree on is liver. I wouldn’t eat it often, as I find it very rich, but my mom cooked it very nicely with fried onions. It’s not something I would eat well-done. My dad said it was like shoe leather when his mom cooked it that way.
Then there are the foods we debate over, like pineapple on pizza or bologna or Spam sandwiches, which to some are wonderful nostalgia and to others, disgusting food.
For the record, I do prefer my pineapple away from my pizza, my favourite bologna sandwiches are fried, and spam is pretty darn tasty as part of a camping breakfast.
Even in the candy department we seem to have firm ideas about what is popular. How many of you are in the minority, liking candy corn, black liquorice and circus peanuts? (These are similar to those marshmallow bananas you see sometimes). Except for black licorice, those were childhood flavours for me. But I wouldn’t consider them punishment if someone offered me one.
I suppose I fall back on my general philosophy with all food and drink when I think of how these foods make me feel. For me, the experience is a large part of what makes any food enjoyable.
When I take the time to taste the many flavours in any dish, it’s much easier to appreciate them all. When I eat things I grow in the garden, all that hard work seems to taste especially delectable. And when I share a meal with friends or family, the taste of love always prevails.
I’ll close by saying your tastebuds never stop growing. We are constantly regenerating them, so you always have the chance of liking something new.
So don’t give up on those beets just yet.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.