Acquired tastes, and the pleasures of acquiring them


When I posted my recipe for poppy seed encrusted green pea mini-burgers over on Just Bento this week, I was a bit surprised that a few people had a problem with the inclusion of a small amount of chopped olives or olive paste. My first thought was, "How can anyone object to olives?" But then I remembered that I, too, used to have a problem with olives.

The only olives I used to know were the green ones stuffed with pimento, that came in mediocre salads or as a cocktail garnish, and the large, soulless pitted black ones that came in cans. Do they still make those? I could tolerate them in small doses, but I really couldn't see that point.

That all changed when I one day I was served a small dish of olives, not unlike the ones in the photo above, at an Italian restaurant in New York. These olives were full of fruit and brine with a touch of herbs and garlic. They were delicious. Since then, I've become more acquainted with the world of olives (my favorites are the small black ones that come from Nyons in France) and am mildly addicted to them.

A jar of truffles

There are other foods like that; ones that you might wonder why there's a big fuss made over them, until you experience and really appreciate for yourself. Truffles for example. I didn't really see the point of them either, as I only experienced them in patés and such. Even truffle oil didn't really impress me much. Then a few years ago I had a chance to have an extraordinary dish that had big chunks of a whole truffle in it. And 2 years ago I spent a few days almost immersed in the world of truffles. Now, I crave that unmistakable flavor and texture.

There are many foods like that, and it seems to me that the more 'difficult' a food is, the more addictive it can become. Fresh coriander for instance, which many people can never get to like, but others find irresistable. Really dark chocolate, so much less friendly than milk chocolate. Durian. Natto. Samphire. And then, there are foods like olives for which you have to experience the 'real thing' to get the point. Cheeses come to mind here - there's so much plastic goo masquerading as cheese around, it can come as a shock when you take a small slice of properly aged Gruyere, or a sliver of Parmegiano Reggiano, and so on. (Or let me sing the praise of an extraordinary Vacherin Fribourgois, or Brie with a layer of truffled cream, that I've had recently...)

You know, sometimes I get bored by the subject of food, and bored at myself for thinking about it. Then I eat something that seems to relight the sparks within me and I think, wow, food is good, and so is life.

Anyway, are there any foods that you weren't sure about at first, and now you love? What was the tipping point for you?

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