On hating foods

Well I just finished a great belly dance recital this Sunday but since I don’t have pictures ready to share yet I’ll hold off on raving about that (aside from saying here that it was awesome!).  What I wanted to touch on was the intriguing topic of Hated Foods.  I came across a list of 10 supposedly* “Most unloved foods“.

While I found myself nodding along with a few of the choices of foods that are not appealing, at least to me, I also found it curious that the text dissecting each of these items mentioned over and over that they really were good and should just be given a chance!  After all, gourmands love them!  People far more in the know than YOU dear reader have tasted liver, brussels sprouts, lima beans, hard-boiled eggs and LOVED them so obviously if you don’t like them you just Haven’t Had Them Right. And they have so many nutrients/they’re good for you!  Or something to that effect.  Perhaps the wording in that fluffy blog piece isn’t quite so harsh as that but I think the tone did dig this up for me; this idea that if you don’t like eating something (particularly if, heaven forbid, it happens to be a socially accepted “Good Food” like a vegetable); then inevitably you will encounter groups of people in a huff for your “choice” of not liking what is, to them, obviously a delicious delicacy.

Now I’m not knocking the idea of trying foods you’re ambivalent about if someone spouts off a favorite recipe, if you feel like doing that.  Heck even if you happen to hate brussels sprouts and someone raves about how they are fabulous cooked in loads of butter and spices or something and you’re intrigued enough to try those bitter little bastards yet again; have at it.  But I don’t think ANYONE should ever feel obligated to humoring the zealous food likes of other people in order to somehow prove that you are, indeed, capable of knowing what your own personal taste buds do not find appealing.  Because you know what?  Your tastes are unique, individual, suited to you and you alone.  Sure, many of us may overlap on things we enjoy eating but there is no universally enjoyed food in the world.  Not everyone loves chocolate (my brother can’t stand it).  Pizza isn’t a god-send to every palate.  Romaine lettuce with a smattering of black olives, crumbled feta and Italian dressing isn’t a mouth-wateringly delicious venture across the globe.  Not even gourmands all agree on what makes the absolutely BEST dish.  Not everyone will like, love or even hate the same exact ranges of foods.  We are all different and that is what makes cooking (for me at least) such a fun challenge!  This is, of course, the same thing that makes feeding a family potentially the same (though less fun) challenge.

My rambling point though is that food is not a universal experience.  Personal fooding preferences, cultured through years or decades of food experiences, will never prove to be exactly the same between any two individuals.  I may have decided that I really do NOT like Brussels sprouts.  I know my own body.  I’ve tasted the little blighters.  And if you have that PERFECT RECIPE for making them fantabulous to your own palate then great for you!  Enjoy them!  I don’t care to try them again and you shouldn’t feel it as some sort of personal slight that I don’t wish to try.  I simply know my own likes and dislikes and you know, sometimes you know when to walk away from a food you don’t like.  You are allowed to do that.  Walk away.  Turn aside the offers to prepare for you the Wonderous Version of your hated foods.  Decline that thousandth offer to listen to someone extol the virtues of that hated food and just WHY you should love those Brussels sprouts or that dark chocolate. Yes, even if it is considered to be Really Nutritious and Good For You. Because it is YOUR BODY.  YOUR LIFE.  You choose.  Even on something that should be so simple and yet gets policed so heartily by those around us who Just Want the Best for Us.  But you have the right to hate certain foods.  Really, you do.

It is a privilege, to be sure, to have the luxury of doing something with the knowledge of your food likes/dislikes though and I fully acknowledge it.  It is no good to sit here saying “Yeah, go ahead and hate on those lima beans” if indeed those are the item you’re able to get in bulk in any given week during the grocery week and have to spend your meals choking down those saw-dusty little buggers just to get in some greenery.  I’ve spent many a year growing up and doing just that.  But this issue of access and ability to express your dislike for any particular foods by choosing not to buy/eat them is perhaps a topic for another post.  Feel free to poke at it in comments though where I also ask you to feel free to share those foods you personally simply can’t STAND.  Me?  I will be a happy April if I never again have to experience: Brussels sprouts, lima beans, sweet and sour chicken, foie gras.  But I LOVE getting my taste buds wrapped around that above mentioned crispy romaine salad, pizza with a thin crispy crust and extra cheese, hard boiled eggs, and dark chocolate.

*The testing methods for coming up with these 10 are not listed anywhere.


32 thoughts on “On hating foods

  1. I so agree with your thesis that food isn’t a universal experience. Food snobbery is annoying. I like many foods, but I’m also “picky” — in how I like them.
    There’s the rule that can be used with children, “don’t yuck someone else’s yum” — but the rule “don’t yum someone else’s yuck” could also apply.
    I have noticed that my tastes have changed and things I didn’t used to like I do like now (in particular some vegetables) and some things I used to love don’t hit my taste buds the same way, so I do think it’s good to check in sometimes about foods that are on the “border” of yuck and yum to see if tastes have changed over time. But that’s totally an individual decision.

    As always, April, you rock!

    • @AcceptanceWoman: I love that “don’t yum someone else’s yuck” idea. What a simple way to say: Hey, we all have different tastes! And just like I tend to find myself trying a twinkie every 10 years or so to reaffirm that they do indeed continue ringing my “Oh freakin’ ICK” bell (man, I guess I’m almost due for another test…); I do keep those border-foods on the cautious watch list because you’re right about tastes changing over time!

  2. I HATE Brussels sprouts. But recently, I have been thinking that perhaps it is unfair of me to the vegetable. After all, my entire childhood, I only ever had them prepared the way my mom prepared ALL veggies – boiled to within an inch of their lives until they are practically nothing but mush.

    Now that I have discovered the joy that is veggies al-dente… I am considering trying out Brussels Sprouts in a roasted application. Just to see if it’s the fault of the veggie, or my only associated preparation.

    Nothing will ever get me to like Celery, though… that’s just nasty.

    • @noceleryplease I find that having eaten certain things in unsavory ways as a child does impact my liking of them as an adult. However, it is possible to break out of some old taste habits. I can’t stand canned asparagus now (ate it all the time as a kid) but love the fresh kind. So yeah, I hear ya on the thought that only poor experiences might have flavored your view of brussels sprouts. But even if you roast them and find out they are on that list with celery, it still remains “okay” to hate them! 😉

    • A friend recently served me sliced Brussels sprouts sauteed with bacon. I thought it was very tasty and made a decent re-creation at home.

      – Chop some bacon, fry it up
      – Slice up some Brussels sprouts
      – Fry sprouts in bacon drippings until bright green and hot
      – Salt and pepper to taste

      You can pick your own bacon-to-sprout ratio. I went with “enough to get a good layer of drippings in the pan, but not the entire 12-oz package.”

      • If anyone feels up to trying TeleriB’s recipe; have at. 🙂 I’m good in my “Yeah, nothing short of throwing the brussels sprouts out and just keeping the bacon would improve the taste of those damned things” feelings right now.

  3. Myself, I’m a big fan of hard-boiled eggs. Hell, eggs any way I’ve had them are pretty good, but I know my sister can’t stand the smell, texture or taste of them. Eggs are a baking ingredient. Thanks for the idea of ‘don’t yum someone elses yuck!’ I’m bad for that.

  4. Tell you what, hon, I’ll eat all your Brussels sprouts and you can have all of my asparagus!

    This is precisely why, when I’m feeding someone for the first time, the thing I ask them is ‘what don’t you eat.’ Invariably I get a list of apologies and excuses… except for those times when people just won’t tell me what they don’t want to see on their plates. But really, I don’t need to know why you don’t want to eat Brussels sprouts. I don’t care whether it’s general dislike, religious or philosophical belief, deathly allergy, or childhood trauma having to do with grandparental mistreatment of veggies. I don’t care it you have the same list of hated foods I do or if you detest 90% of everything I love to eat. I just want to know what’s off the menu.

    Sharing good food in good company is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a far greater pleasure when everyone can enjoy everything on the table.

    Oh, and this precise attitude is why Mr. Twistie – who used to react to the mere mention of pretty much any food he didn’t eat nearly every day with an insistence that he hated it whether he’d ever tried it or not – has become far more willing to try a lot of foods. He’s even been pleasantly surprised at how many he’s enjoyed, when allowed to come to them in his own time.

    • On the topic of frying things with Bacon, my husband just recently told me I need to always fry mushrooms with bacon now because then “they taste of bacon!” Yeah, it was an amusing comment even then 🙂 Not sure about hard metals in bacon but hey if folks are willing to try brussels then I’m sure anything is worth a shot! 😉

      Twistie I love the idea of letting folks come to food on their own time. Nothing makes me put up the mental defenses faster than being pushed towards something.

  5. Nocelery, I enjoy brussel sprouts roasted, though my husband does not. One very important thing to know if you are going to make them, make sure you cut out all of the stem, that’s where the nasty bitterness lives.

    Thanks for idea of not yumming someone else’s yuck, I’m going to pass that around.

  6. The “keep trying foods you don’t think you like” pressure is classist. I’m guilty of that type of attitude myself.

    I was raised to believe that only those who have little social contact with people from other cultures have the luxury of being picky eaters. My parents were university people. Their friends and colleagues were from all over the world. In my family, it was emphasized that being a picky eater is rude (especially if you’re a guest) and that being familiar with and enjoying pretty much any type of food that’s mainstream in any large culture is a sign of sophistication. Conversely, being a picky eater was viewed as reflecting a lack of adventurousness, cultural awareness, and maturity.

    I learned early to eat small servings of foods I didn’t like without complaint while I was at other people’s houses. I was picky about meat as a kid but liked pretty much everything else, but once I was past the age of seven or eight, I’d learned that it was wrong to show any pickiness it in public (beyond choosing foods I liked in restaurants). As an adult, I’ve made an effort to get past my remaining food phobias. The only thing on that list that I don’t like is liver, but if I was a guest at someone’s house and it was the main course, I’d happily give it another try – and I’d appear to like it whether or not I actually did.

    I can put this bias I was raised with into perspective, but I can’t say that I 100% disagree with it. Today, I see a lot of picky eaters who are influenced more by puritanism than by a lack of sophistication. The result is the same; you have to ask all of your guests what their dietary restrictions are before inviting them over, and then attempt to accommodate all of them.

    Medical reasons are indisputable and I respect vegetarians and people who keep kosher, but I still make a point of not making any special demands, myself.

  7. hey,

    i agree with absolutely everything you posted here. but i did want to add something i never knew till a few years ago that has really opened things up for me personally and made food more fun.

    i stumbled across an article (which i can’t find now) that suggested that unless a particular food has made you physically ill, you could overcome your distaste for it by eating it ten times within a relatively short period (say a year). that your brain can be trained, and suddenly your taste buds are happy.

    this has seemed to work for me exceptionally well. i used to hate water chestnuts, bell pepper, eggplant, beets, duck pate and most stinky cheeses. now i actively like all but water chestnuts, which i can tolerate, and there are still a few stinky cheeses i don’t know how people ever put in their mouths the first time 🙂

    anyway, of course, people get to hate what they hate. and there’s no reason i can expect someone else to try a food ten times if the possibility of liking it isn’t worth it to them. i’m just saying, if you want to open up your menu choices, it might be an option 🙂

  8. I hatehateHATE horseradish. HAAAAAAAATE. Not too fond of radishes, period, but horseradish is absolutely disgusting. I also don’t like shellfish or arugula.

    I used to hate fish, a prejudice I inherited from my mother, but I wanted to like it, so I gradually let myself try it until I liked it. It got easier every time. Now I LOVE sushi.

    Cheers for “not yumming other peoples yuck” and “not yucking other people’s yum.”

  9. The other thing to consider is that there are genetic reasons you may not like certain foods. My dislike for asparagus, brussel sprouts, and cilantro is almost certainly linked to being a “supertaster,” which means I can taste certain chemicals in those foods that many people can’t.

    Some things may be worth getting used to, but I still see no reason to force vegetables on myself when I don’t like them, since there are plenty of other veggies I do like.

    (Oh, and on the note of classist dislikes – I hate truffle oil. Can’t deal with the taste.)

  10. I don’t have tons of things I absolutely can’t stand (there I go priding myself on being a non-picky eater–it’s definitely seen as a major value).

    Olives are at the top of my hate list. I also cannot stand split pea soup.

    There is something to trying things a variety of ways. I can’t stand radishes raw, but I love them roasted. I like spinach raw in salad or very lightly sauteed, but not cooked to mush.

    The flip side of that is that it’s *my call* whether to try radishes or spinach a different way or decide I’ve given them a fair shot.

    I really like the “don’t yum other people’s yuck” idea. I’m guilty of picking on friends who have long hate lists, and I really ought to knock that off.

  11. Meems, I read an article in the New York Times online about how for a small percentage of people, cilantro tastes like soap. I definitely fall into that category and I always failed to understand how so many people could either rave or at least tolerate cilantro. I was actually very happy to see that their was a scientific reason and now I can move past trying to make it work in my menu.

  12. You know, I have to say that I think “don’t yuk other people’s yum” has more value than “don’t yum other people’s yuk.”

    Here’s why:
    1. Generally, I think that expressing positive feelings and opinions should be given pretty free reign, while expressing negativity should be more carefully thought out.
    2. Eating a wide variety of foods is healthy, while eating just a few foods is likely to make you miss out on some nutrients and possibly get too much of others. In fact, this is one of the only nutrition rules that Michelle, The Fat Nutritionist, will endorse without reservation. There is some inherent value in liking a lot of different types of food.

    That said, it’s important to remember that the relative deliciousness of different foods in highly individual and not an absolute.

  13. Oh, and again, manners. Saying “yuk” insults the cook. Saying “yum” is a way to thank the cook, and that’s generally what you want to do. There’s more to commenting on food than possibly offending people by not sharing their opinions. There’s also the issue of politeness, which should be a consideration anytime you’re interacting with someone who cooked for you, family or host.

  14. @Kate: See, I don’t need a scientific reason to dislike a food. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it and I figure there are plenty of other things I do like, so I let it go and stop worrying about it. If cilantro tastes like soap to you, I think that’s more than enough reason to stop eating it.

    Me? I can’t abide mushrooms. The flavors, the textures, the scents… just not appealing to me. I’ve tried lots of different types prepared in different ways, and mushrooms just aren’t for me. Whether or not science ever comes up with an explanation is of no concern to me.

    @deeleigh: I think what the ‘don’t yum someone else’s yuk’ means in this case is more about trying to force one’s own preferences on someone who has already made clear their culinary no-fly zones than deliberately insulting cooks.

  15. @Twistie – I adore mushrooms in every shape, form and flavor they come in.

    Lucky for me, the hubby does not like them – so anything he has with mushrooms in it, he picks them out an puts them on my plate – more mushrooms for me!!!!

    That’s pretty much how I feel about people who don’t like foods… oh, you don’t like chocolate? That’s very sad, let me help you with that chocolate bar then 😉

  16. I sometimes get frustrated with my boyfriend’s various dislikes, because I want to cook food he will eat, but he hates some of my favorite things like broccoli, mushrooms, and shrimp. He won’t even kiss me when I’ve had those. On the other hand, although I think I’m willing to eat a wider variety of food than he is, I’m much more picky about how it’s prepared and how processed it is. I try not to make him feel bad about his preferences, and he thinks I’m the picky one because I insist on things like good chocolate and ice cream. I think that’s a facet of my fat acceptance that I don’t just eat whatever sweets I can get my hands on anymore, not to mention making more money than I used to and being able to afford better stuff.

    I also was raised to believe that it’s a positive attribute to like a wide variety of foods and to be willing to try a wide variety of foods. I think part of this comes from the fact that if you like most things, you can have a reasonable expectation of liking the new thing as well. This is probably a function of class — not everyone can be getting food at various ethnic restaurants or experimenting with different kinds of cooking that require unfamiliar ingredients etc.

    It sounds like there is a huge variation in what people like, and that’s just normal. Still, although everyone has the right to expand their likes or not as they so choose, it does seem a bit closed-minded not to at least try something once or a few times.

  17. Ok, as a good southern girl I am so sad that Okra and Grits made the list of most hated foods! Okra is absolutely one of my FAV foods in the world and my brother and I used to literally fight over who got to eat the last of it growing up. It also happens to be one of those veggies that fall into the “superfood” categories for all of the nutrition you get (extremely high in calcium). So, all you mom’s out there trying to find a way to get your kids to eat their veggies?… Fry up some okra!

    Cut the okra in half inch rounds
    Sprinkle with flour, salt, and cajun seasoning if you like spice (the stickyness works to bind the flour to the okra with no egg or anything needed)
    Fry in a frying pan with about a 1/4″ to 1/2″ of oil until brown and crispy. You want to sautee more than drown it in oil.

  18. for me i hate raw tomatoes – if they are cooked at all or cut up and put into stuff like salsa/pico de gaillo or a veggies salad im good. Sliced whole or just on top of a lettuce salad ick.

    I also hate all types of fish…i cant get past that fishy smell. I happen to LOVE the fishy flakiness texture…but the fishy smell makes me gag. i DO live in the midwest…so i am not near any big open water…i wonder if that has anything to do with it?

    i wont eat most mushrooms (but i love hot and sour soup) its mostly a texture thing…but most mushrooms taste like dirt…if “earthy” = taste like dirt then i dont know why people like them….and that is what mushrooms taste like to me.

    Cilantro tastes like soap and pencil lead to me.

    Not a big olive fan, but i think i may gove them another shot…im starting to like pickles and other brine-y things…and i use olive oil all the time so maybe its time for another shot.

    Things i HAVE discovered i like? zuchini. bell peppers. raw onions (always loved them cooked) Fish sauce in chinese food (when making stir fry from scratch THAT is whats missing when yoiu use soy sauce and teryaki) Dried fruit in everything from yogurt to salads. Cucumber (its so cooling :D).

    this summer the new veggie of the year will be eggplant…any cooking dieas for them fellow fa’ers?

  19. erin- I’m confused by “i DO live in the midwest…so i am not near any big open water…”

    I’m from the midwest, too, and most of the midwest states border on the great lakes. That’s some very big open water. Just sayin’.

    I grew up eating all kinds of local fresh and preserved fish, myself. It’s a big part of the local diet both in Michigan, where I grew up, and in Minnesota, where my mom’s from.

    Are you from one of the plains states at the far west of the midwest?

  20. Um… FWIW, I didn’t miss the point of the blog entry, honest! I used the ‘reply’ link under noceleryplease’s response and I thought it would indent. I only offered the recipe because noceleryplease was specifically considering giving the sprouts a try. Looking at it… yeah, it does look like, “No for reals, try [food you don’t like] THIS WAY and you’ll like it!” Sorry about that.

    • It’s fine TeleriB since i figured that was what had happened (I just took off the indenting feature because I felt it was getting obnoxious); but thanks for clarifying ^.^

  21. I found myself rethinking “don’t yum someone else’s yuck” — refining what I meant to say. Here’s how it works with my 5 year old.
    She doesn’t want to try something.
    She knows better than to say it’s “yucky.” (Because it’s our yum and it’s rude to the cook.)
    She says “no thank you.”
    We say, “mmmmmm” while we are eating it.
    Are we “yumming” her “yuck?”

    When I don’t like a food, I’ve trained myself to say “I don’t care for that.” Rather than “I hate french toast!” (I know, that’s a weird food to hate.) It’s modeling for the 5 year old, who will take a small taste of most anything much of the time.

    Mostly, I hate snobbery. I’m a snob in my own way — if someone is a snob I’m snobby about that. So, my form of snobbery is to say if you are going to be a snob, I will at least call you on it, if I know you well enough make fun of you for it, and if I don’t know you and find you have a tendency toward snobbery in more than a couple of areas (as many of us do) then I may want to get a little distance.

    I like to try new things, and I also have some “food rules” that I more or less follow. These have to do mostly with culture (keeping sorta kinda kosher, although I really, really miss eating scallops) or not wanting to experience pain (lactose intolerance when I don’t have lactaid tablets with me, for example, or food that looks iffy from a food safety perspective). These two sets of rules make me sufficiently picky. But I don’t judge other people who drink milkshakes (the thought alone of drinking one makes my stomach hurt and my particular blood sugar) or eat shellfish (yum).

    • @AcceptanceWoman: I think for me the concept of “yumming someone else’s yuck” is not so much enjoying a food you love in front of someone else who hates it so much as it is trying to push your love of that item onto the person. ie: it isn’t going “mmmm” when you know someone who doesn’t like lima beans is eating with you; it is proselytizing and asking, “But have you tried them like THIS!? You don’t know what you’re missing…yadda yadda” that crosses over the line. I’m all for being polite to a cook and there is a vast difference between “ICK! Are you serious? I’m not eating that crap!” and “No thanks but I’d love more of this other thing”. Basically for me it all comes down to respecting people’s decisions as their own and not pushing or questioning someone’s choice not to eat something. Maybe it is allergies, maybe it just looks gross; regardless, I don’t see it as a personal failing of a cook if they don’t manage to get someone to try or even to love a food.

  22. Oh, and Twistie — I totally do that same thing. When I am preparing food for people — whether in my home or ordering food for a conference — I ask “what don’t you eat?”
    Surprisingly to me, the answer is most often, “nothing” but I’m always glad I asked.
    Food is, in many ways, an expression of love, and I don’t believe love should hurt. Or be unpleasant. Or yucky. But exciting is okay.

  23. My attitude towards picky eaters is something that I desperately need to work on. I am a lover of all foods, and there are very very few things that I will not eat. EVERYONE SHOULD BE LIKE ME, DAMMIT. EVERYONE. (Note: This is irrational. I still think it anyway, and then remind myself that it is irrational immediately afterwards.)

    I cook. I cook a lot. My circle of friends believes strongly in The Power Of The Potluck, so I’m often cooking for lots of people! It’s great. And I make an effort to be a considerate cook. I work around allergies, I dial back seasoning levels, I substitute preferred ingredients. Hell, I didn’t cook with mushrooms for 6 months because my boyfriend at the time had an insistant dislike of the things. It’s rare that I get upset or resentful… but I do. And when I do, hooboy. It’s not nice of me. I get ranty.

    I went completely unhinged recently, when I had offered to make sandwiches and snacks for a road trip. I surveyed my car mates, gleefully told them I would make fancy food for them, and got an enthusiastic response… except for the driver. He wanted a sub with meat and butter, and that’s it. A perfectly reasonable request! But it felt like an insult, almost. I offer you the world and THAT’S what you want? Really?! (There’s preference and then there’s preference, perhaps. If you dislike vegetable X, sauce Y, meat Z, and can’t handle spicy food, fine. If your entire diet consists of 6 items, 2 of which are condiments, my head explodes in a surge of irrational nuclear fire.)

    I think I get where my sore tush on the subject originates from. Picky eaters limit me! It’s like they’re stealing all the orange and black crayons from the box, and now I can’t finish my Halloween coloring book! I can easily adhere to not yumming someone’s yuck when we don’t have to break bread together or if I’m not trying to cater to them. Food preferences are what they are, and I am working hard to not let them get to me. If I keep reminding myself, over and over, I’m sure it’ll stick. I’m pretty sure.

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