Acquired tastes, and the pleasures of acquiring them

Olives

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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I don’t know why but when

I don’t know why but when i started cooking, about 4 years ago, as a student, I did’nt want to use garlic or onion, and i hated black olive…
Now, i add onion and garlic in my recipe and i’m in love with black olive taste !

Agathe | 20 December, 2008 - 14:56

Natto for me

That’s “not-o for me,” I can’t stand natto. But living in Japan has opened my culinary experience substantially - I used to be wary of nori and now I eat it, sliced small, on top of salads and veggie burgers, or sometimes just a sheet to munch on as a snack. Raw squid is delicious, and even daikon is making its way into my diet. Lots of tastes to be acquired here!

EmilyTakesTokyo | 20 December, 2008 - 16:13

My experience is very

My experience is very similar on the olives - I thought I didn’t like them because I’d only ever had the canned pitted kind. Then there was a little dish of oil-cured black olives with pepper flakes at a restaurant, and they opened up a whole new world.

I keep trying brussels sprouts - over the last few years, I’ve disliked them less each time. They’re so cute, I’d really like to like them.

I still haven’t managed to like cilantro though. The taste is way too overpowering for me - I can’t taste any other elements int he dish through it.

Pat | 20 December, 2008 - 16:46

As a belgian amateur cook, I

As a belgian amateur cook, I have THE tip with brussels sprout:
you have to cook them a first time 10 minutes in salted walter, then a second time 8 minutes in salted water, then, a last time with olive oil and some smoked lardons (how do you call that in English?)… even hubby who tought he hated sprouts found them irresistible ;o)

LaurenceB | 20 December, 2008 - 23:52

Brussel sprouts!

The closest thing that I guess most people can get to lardons would be roughly chopped bacon. (or pancetta, if they have an italian deli in their neighborhood). Your method of cooking brussel spouts sounds terrific - will have to give it a try!

maki | 21 December, 2008 - 20:55

Actually I must tell you all

Actually I must tell you all that american “country ham” be it Smithfield, Clifty, or any of many other brands can rival pancetta, proscuitto and other “famous” italian hams. Most cultures that consume pork have some form of dry, salt cured ham that when properly aged becomes near ambrosia. Italy, Spain, China and the USA are only a few. Tiny rant because it pisses me off that so many people here in the States are unaware of that fact(the many cultures similar product thing) and through food snobbery country ham here is often thought of as soul(I’ll be blunt-you can read that to be black, poor, uneducated, white trash etc…)food. I can get really good country ham at my local grocery for easily $4-6 less per pound than pancetta and substitute it with wonderful results every time. By the way “lardons” are small chunks of dry salt cured ham with some fat, pan fried until they are browned and crisp and a good amount of the fat present has been rendered. Try a pack of fatback the next time you lhave a recipe that calls for pancetta. None of the smokiness you would get substituting bacon and if you have a minute you can find a slab with a good “streak of lean” to quote my Grandmother. Aargh, I’ll step off my high horse now. And the soapbox too!

brook | 22 December, 2008 - 05:04

Re: Actually I must tell you all

I bet salt pork would also work well if rendered thoroughly.

I am with you on the country salt cured hams. I spent every summer growing up in the Appalacha regions of Kentucky and Tennessee with family, my aunt was a midwife and herbalist. I grew up having fresh straight from the cow milk, churning fresh butter (that will give you arms like shwarzenegger!) fresh eggs gathered that morning, fresh chickens (plucking this is a stone cold drag though) and meat of all kinds that had been grown naturally on a farm, slaughtered there on the farm and smoked/cured what have you right there in the back yard.

The biggest problem I've seen some people have with the salt cured country hams (which I love, the sweet cured hams are icky to me) is they are REALLY salty sometimes, but that's easily resolved by soaking the slices in water for 10 or 20 minutes to draw some of it out.

Oh man, I want to go home and buy myself a couple slat cured hams and bring them back. I can't find them here, and the sweet packaged hams at our local store all seem slimy to me.

Rhiannon | 2 May, 2009 - 01:52

When I was little, I

When I was little, I couldn’t stand mushrooms. Then one of my parents’ friends made fun of me for not liking them, and I finally tried (and enjoyed) them.

Tofu was a food I struggled with for a while. I ate only the pretend-meat variety in high school, but now I enjoy both silken and firm, and feel confident preparing my own dishes with the stuff. The place that converted me was a little Korean greasy spoon downtown, where I tried spicy tofu and potato stew as well as marinated and fried tofu. I think a lot of people think of tofu as a poor replacement for meat, when really they should think of it as a taste and texture in its own right — something that has its own strengths and merits inclusion in the diet as such.

Madeline | 20 December, 2008 - 21:56

I'm still not a huge fan of olives

but now you’re making me want to give them a try… or at least get a few from the bar at Whole Foods to try those pea burgers. I <3 peas, but the dude hates them. Oh well.

BTW, durian?? I tried to give it a chance (in SE Asian, while it was actually in season) and I still thought it was icky. Oh well. To each their own. I’d munch on carob chips, craisins and toasted soy nuts ALL DAY if I could. The dude thinks it’s a vile mix :P

violarulz | 20 December, 2008 - 22:34

don't come near me....

coriander….natto….cheese - NO:(

CELERY - big YUCKS!

Okay with everything else you mentioned…

Biggest love for olives and mushrooms.

denny | 20 December, 2008 - 23:00

My acquired tastes

Oddly, most of the strong flavored foods that are often acquired tastes for a lot of people (anchovies, olives, strongly hopped beer, brussels sprouts, salted licorice, etc.) I’ve loved from first taste. The things that took a few tries for me were more about texture — for instance, mushrooms, tofu, avocadoes (oddly, now the texture is my favorite part of a good, properly ripened avocado).

HunterJE | 20 December, 2008 - 23:36

Learning to like olives

I had a similar experience with olives—the pitted, packed-in-water black kind were just so unappealing as a kid and teen.

I learned to like olives when I went to Spain for the first time. My aunt had bought a 2-kilo jar of oil-cured black olives (“It was the smallest they had!”), so that’s what we ate. For lunch and dinner. Every day. For two and a half weeks.

Oddly enough, by the end of the trip, I loved the little buggers and had to introduce my parents to good olives when I got home!

Talia | 21 December, 2008 - 00:28

Re: Learning to like olives

Oh my god....i wish a had such a jar of oil cured olives..or even salt cured..just give me these olives...

cyrell | 27 January, 2010 - 20:58

My girlfriend can’t stand

My girlfriend can’t stand olives. Even the really fancy and nice ones. Even if she doesn’t know that they’re mixed into a food, she gags. Ah well, more for me.

My parents blessed me by exposing me to many foods from an early age, so there are many, many foods that people balk at that I’ll chomp down happily! My favorites include raw oysters, fish roe (especially salmon roe… mmm), dark chocolate and olives. Hooray!

Dina | 21 December, 2008 - 01:05

In my case, it was salads....

All through my childhood, I would not eat salad. Then I went away to college and discovered that there were lots of salads that consisted of LETTUCE, and TOMATOES, and other green stuff set off with a tasty dressing. The only salads my mother made contained chopped apples, chopped walnuts — so far it sounds ok, but wait — chopped raw celery, and Miracle Whip, a USian salad dressing consisting mostly of solidified vinegar.

Note that generally, children have more sensitive tastebuds than adults, and that some people are “supertasters” who even as adults are extra-sensitive to strong tastes. Whether this is relevant to the “I used to hate olives but now I like them” people, I don’t know.

But for me, the only good olive is an olive still looking picturesque on the tree. I used to live in Berkeley, that world center of foodiness, where the supermarkets have big olive bars next to the big salad bars, and you buy your favorite assortment by weight.

And there’s no use telling me “Oh, you just haven’t tried any GOOD olives.” I can’t stand any of them; they all taste like OLIVES.

Similarly, beer — anything with alcohol in it, really, since they all have the double-nasty taste of sour and alcohol — and beer is just one stage worse because in addition to sour and alcohol it’s also bitter. If only it tasted the way it smelled. That last remark also goes for coffee.

I suppose it’s just as frustrating for my friends to keep saying “But this is GOOD {beer, coffee, pickles, olives, whatever}!” as it is for me to keep saying, “Yes, but it’s still {beer, coffee, pickles, olives, whatever}.”

djheydt | 21 December, 2008 - 01:24

Supertasters

I think you must be a genuine “supertaster.” Google “supertasters” and select the items from the BBC for more information. An American professor at Yale made many discoveries concerning the three kinds of sensitivities to food: non-tasters (25% of us), tasters (50%), and supertasters (25%). Her tests are common now and involve counting the number of taste buds in a small area of your tongue. It’s genetic.

So 75% of the population has no idea of how strongly the supertasters perceive certain flavors and tastes. To us, celery is mostly bland with a nice crunch. Your mom’s version of Waldorf salad is typical (plus the addition of a bit of sugar and lemon juice to thin the dressing, or using mayo), but the celery must have overwhelmed the taste for you. Your dislike of alcoholic beverages is another clue. Are you also thin? Another clue, since you probably also don’t eat foods that put weight on the rest of us. (I’m a “taster.)

Of course there are some degrees of taste sensitivity within each group, and the comments from others here indicate you are not alone. Learn what a supertaster is and adapt your food selections without feeling that the rest of us are trying to trick you. We really don’t taste what you do! Next time, let your friends know you have a special ability involving taste and will never grow to like certain things. Some people have “perfect pitch” and others are not bothered by singing off-key.

SBS | 24 December, 2008 - 19:15

Re: Supertasters

hm, i've never heard of "supertasters," but i guess i must be one of them.

i can taste the difference in types of bottled water, or tell the difference between soda that was in a can, a plastic bottle, or from a fountain (useless things like that).

for me, my acquired tastes were seaweed, beer, and black coffee. i acquired all of them because i decided i SHOULD like them, so i kept trying different kinds until i did! i still don't like most lagers because they don't have enough flavor, but there are a few that i enjoy. i don't know whether i'll ever like to eat plain konbu (i don't mind it when it's heavily seasoned), since for one thing it smells a bit too much like wet dog to me, and tastes far too fishy, but it's magical for making dashi. i do enjoy nori, wakame, and hijiki in all sorts of ways. and black coffee was my most recent acquired taste. <3

i don't think i'll ever be able to eat fresh cilantro. apparently some percentage of the population can taste the metallic compounds (phenylthiocarbamide—PTC) in cilantro, and i am one of them. to me it doesn't even taste like a food... something between dishwashing liquid and black tar. on the other hand, dried coriander is delicious to me.

cumin is another spice (related to cilantro) that must be chemically altered for me to tolerate it. if it's cooked properly—such as in a curry, when the dried spices are cooked in oil before adding the vegetables—it tastes delicious to me, but if the spice isn't cooked long enough, or not at all... i have the same reaction as with the smell of cilantro. it actually makes me feel nauseated! still, i can handle it a little better than cilantro.

funny enough, i liked natto right away. especially with spicy mustard and soy sauce. YUM.

army_kitten | 21 January, 2009 - 22:51

Re: Supertasters

I'm glad this thread about "supertasters" is here because all my life I've been given crap about being "picky" and having a "champagne taste and beer pocket book" (because I prefer fresh to canned stuff, and if fresh isn't possible then bottled in glass, not plastic. Canned anything is metallic unless the can is lined, and then it has a faintly plastic taste.) but I too can taste the differences in water, and there are many things preserved with chemicals that just taste like chemicals to me, blah. Nutrasweet is the most disgusting thing in the world to me, I've never licked a chem lab table, but I imagine that is very much what it would taste like. YUCK.

Does anyone else find you also have a really sensitive sense of smell?

Rhiannon | 2 May, 2009 - 01:59

Re: Supertasters

I know what you mean with the beer,or the taste of the water. Or even some cheap tooth brushes taste plastic and chemical.

Nutrasweet and all the other chemical sweeteners are horrible and sometimes i am absolutely disgusted by the big, colourless, tasteless tomatoes you can buy out of season....and they taste either like infested with fungus or fishy.

I do not know why it tastes so weird, but to me it is a warning from mother nature not to eat such stuff.

Maybe it even saved me a time or two. In a restaurant i wanted a tomatoe salad and it tasted fishy..and they work also with raw fish and maybe i would have gotten food poisoning because the kitchen was not cleaned properly, who knows...

I also can taste butter fat in bean chili..sounds strange but that is how it is, if there is butter fat in it, i can taste it.

cyrell | 27 January, 2010 - 19:20

I'm weird about red

I always loved both kinds of olives, mushrooms, asparagus, and enjoyed dried seaweed when used in California rolls, then in furiake. And I ate almost everything offered to me, but didn’t like steamed summer squash, or strong greens like turnip or mustard. Summer squash is ok other ways, just not steamed. I totally LOVE spinach though; my family always were served spinach before me, because once I ate all the spinach by mistake LOL, but chard is kind of boring, and has to be in soups or stir-fries.

I shudder at the thought of organ meats though, but I tried liver (by mistake), and it was kind of nasty.

But like with plastic, and ‘some’ canned foods tasting of metal, I can taste red dye, and it is VILE! Speaking of tasting metal, I hated pumpkin pie and candied yams as a child, yuk, yuk, yuk! But I tried fresh pumpkin as an adult, and it was delightful. Maybe I’ll make candied yams from scratch one day to see if the reason I didn’t like them while growing up was because of some weird 70s rule that all housewives must used canned pumpkin and yams.

I want to try natto, for it’s k2 content, but am a bit nervous about it, since I’ve heard many westerners didn’t like it. Maybe with a strong sauce and plenty of veggies to cover the taste.

I don’t like it when someone doesn’t like something, and someone else bugs them to try “their oh-so-very-special” version. I think that’s SO rude! Now if I haven’t tried something before, then encouraging me to be adventurous is fine, but if I have tried something, and didn’t like it, I don’t appreciate someone politely BULLYING me to suffer that taste again.

Shreela | 21 December, 2008 - 05:11

for me it was sushi

the very first time I tried it I was overwhelmed and ill prepared for it. then I tried it another time and ‘til this day I still daydream about tuna and salmon sushi and sashimi.
I’m a vegetarian, so I no longer eat it, but I can still dream…

anon. | 21 December, 2008 - 06:24

Pizza

For years, I hated pizza and could never understand why anyone would go out of his or her way to eat the stuff. I finally enjoyed pizza when I went to New York for college. Even in the northern part of the state, I had some great experiences in eating pizza.

I grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri in the Midwestern part of the U.S. Our native pizza is an acquired taste, but I never managed to grow to like the stuff. I thought all pizza was like that.

Cam | 21 December, 2008 - 06:56

Tripes

I love Olives!!!I´m spanish and olives are kind of a sidedish for us :)anytime you have tapas,or just a beer you get served a tiny plate with olives.Now I live in London,and married to a japanese :) and miss terribly that habit.Also good quality olives are hard to find and very expensive in UK compared to Spain.Spanish tend to add olives to many dishes such as rice or russian salad(ensaladilla)

I used to hate tripes,cooked the spanish way:Callos.But after several year in London,and having dimsum every sunday with my family,I gave a try chinese style tripes…and love them!!
Not to mention chicken feet which I immediatly liked,yet my sister seems horrified every time she visits and watches me eat them haha…

I love your site!!!I also lived in Switzerland for several years(Lugano) I went to boarding school there :)

Joy | 21 December, 2008 - 08:24

http://sgpeasant.wordpress.com/

I try to make myself get used to black olive tapenade.I like the idea of eating it though. Maybe I haven’t found the right brand but I find it very salty and too strong.

Recently, I had a disastrous encounter with canned herrings.It was totally foul when I opened up the can.I hate wasting food but I had to throw away the whole can.

My mother loves offal but I will never get used to eating it like a good Asian.

Singapore Peasant | 21 December, 2008 - 10:04

For me that was mushrooms

For me that was mushrooms. I hated them as a kid, especially their - to me then - slimy texture. I’m German and going on a mushroom foray in the forest is kind of a culinary national sport in fall season. As a kid I used to go along with the adults and I enjoyed trying to find the mushrooms (they’re sneakily hiding between the leaves usually), but I never paid attention to which mushrooms were edible and which ones were poisonous because I didn’t like them. I came to regret that a few years back, when my mom prepared some fresh wild mushrooms she’d just picked with a friend. I thought I ought to try some and see if my taste for them had maybe changed and well… I suddenly enjoyed them so much I had trouble to leave some for my mom!
Now I love to eat wild mushrooms - boletus, chanterelle, larch bolete and in fall I go and find them myself (at least the ones I can identify as edible).
After aquiring a taste for wild mushrooms I tried others, but I found still don’t like store-bought champignons. They are watery and have no taste to me. Trying some Asian mushrooms like shiitake I was also disappointed. Their texture is different, very chewy and the taste was almost nasty to me, very strong. Though that might be because they are dried and stored for a long time, before I can buy them here. I’d like to try them fresh one day if I ever get the chance.
So while I’ve been converted to eating mushrooms I’m still pretty picky about them! :-)

Stefanie | 21 December, 2008 - 17:34

Mushrooms

For me that was mushrooms. I hated them as a kid, especially their - to me then - slimy texture. I’m German and going on a mushroom foray in the forest is kind of a culinary national sport in fall season. As a kid I used to go along with the adults and I enjoyed trying to find the mushrooms (they’re sneakily hiding between the leaves usually), but I never paid attention to which mushrooms were edible and which ones were poisonous because I didn’t like them. I came to regret that a few years back, when my mom prepared some fresh wild mushrooms she’d just picked with a friend. I thought I ought to try some and see if my taste for them had maybe changed and well… I suddenly enjoyed them so much I had trouble to leave some for my mom!
Now I love to eat wild mushrooms - boletus, chanterelle, larch bolete and in fall I go and find them myself (at least the ones I can identify as edible).
After aquiring a taste for wild mushrooms I tried others, but I found still don’t like store-bought champignons. They are watery and have no taste to me. Trying some Asian mushrooms like shiitake I was also disappointed. Their texture is different, very chewy and the taste was almost nasty to me, very strong. Though that might be because they are dried and stored for a long time, before I can buy them here. I’d like to try them fresh one day if I ever get the chance.
So while I’ve been converted to eating mushrooms I’m still pretty picky about them! :-)

Stefanie | 21 December, 2008 - 17:45

Mushrooms

For me that was mushrooms. I hated them as a kid, especially their - to me then - slimy texture. I’m German and going on a mushroom foray in the forest is kind of a culinary national sport in fall season. As a kid I used to go along with the adults and I enjoyed trying to find the mushrooms (they’re sneakily hiding between the leaves usually), but I never paid attention to which mushrooms were edible and which ones were poisonous because I didn’t like them. I came to regret that a few years back, when my mom prepared some fresh wild mushrooms she’d just picked with a friend. I thought I ought to try some and see if my taste for them had maybe changed and well… I suddenly enjoyed them so much I had trouble to leave some for my mom!
Now I love to eat wild mushrooms - boletus, chanterelle, larch bolete and in fall I go and find them myself (at least the ones I can identify as edible).
After aquiring a taste for wild mushrooms I tried others, but I found still don’t like store-bought champignons. They are watery and have no taste to me. Trying some Asian mushrooms like shiitake I was also disappointed. Their texture is different, very chewy and the taste was almost nasty to me, very strong. Though that might be because they are dried and stored for a long time, before I can buy them here. I’d like to try them fresh one day if I ever get the chance.
So while I’ve been converted to eating mushrooms I’m still pretty picky about them! :-)

Stefanie | 21 December, 2008 - 17:47

Mushrooms

For me that was mushrooms. I hated them as a kid, especially their - to me then - slimy texture. I’m German and going on a mushroom foray in the forest is kind of a culinary national sport in fall season. As a kid I used to go along with the adults and I enjoyed trying to find the mushrooms (they’re sneakily hiding between the leaves usually), but I never paid attention to which mushrooms were edible and which ones were poisonous because I didn’t like them. I came to regret that a few years back, when my mom prepared some fresh wild mushrooms she’d just picked with a friend. I thought I ought to try some and see if my taste for them had maybe changed and well… I suddenly enjoyed them so much I had trouble to leave some for my mom!
Now I love to eat wild mushrooms - boletus, chanterelle, larch bolete and in fall I go and find them myself (at least the ones I can identify as edible).
After aquiring a taste for wild mushrooms I tried others, but I found still don’t like store-bought champignons. They are watery and have no taste to me. Trying some Asian mushrooms like shiitake I was also disappointed. Their texture is different, very chewy and the taste was almost nasty to me, very strong. Though that might be because they are dried and stored for a long time, before I can buy them here. I’d like to try them fresh one day if I ever get the chance.
So while I’ve been converted to eating mushrooms I’m still pretty picky about them! :-)

Stefanie | 21 December, 2008 - 17:52

I don’t mind olives when

I don’t mind olives when they’re in something else in small amounts but I’ve never gotten into eating them on their own, or, really, anything else that might appear on a relish tray. This is especially true of pickles: I love sweet pickle relish, dill pickle chips, and dill pickles in sandwiches or on a burger, but I’ve tried many, many times and I cannot make myself enjoy eating a dill pickle on its own.

Other foods I can’t like include celery (people claim it doesn’t taste like anything but they LIE) and coriander (fresh or dried. Of course, I’ve heard that something like 20% of the population find coriander has a nasty, almost soapy taste, and Julia Child was one, so I’m in pretty good company, I think!) My father makes a seasoning that involves pureeing a great deal of fresh coriander in the food processor and I always had to practically leave the house when he did it.

I’ve always loved cheeses, the stronger the better - my grandfather started me eating good, French cheeses when I was little and by the time I was in my teens I was happily scoffing Muenster and Limburger. Never liked processed cheese slices, though, unless they were melted on a burger or in a grilled cheese. I don’t like blue cheese, either, but that’s more because mold gives me the heeby-jeebies.

One food that took some tries for me to like was smoked salmon. I remember when I was little there was a piece on Sesame Street (possibly Canadian Sesame Street) about making smoked salmon and it looked so good that I became obsessed with it and started pestering my parents for it. I remember on my tenth birthday my mum took me out for lunch and I ordered a bagel with smoked salmon and then being so disappointed when I actually tried it! (I think part of the problem was the capers, which I still haven’t learned to like.) But I kept trying and now I love the stuff.

Shanti | 22 December, 2008 - 00:52

Great post

I wasn’t a big fan of olives growing up either, but now I brine my own. You should give it a try sometime. They take about 6 months to fully mature, but they’re a lot easier to make than umeboshi and much better than the commercially cured ones (which use lye in the curing process).

I wasn’t a very picky eater growing up by didn’t have a huge love of shrimp (except maybe amaebi), dim sum got me over that hangup. I also hated black licorice and although I try it every now and then to see if my tastes have changed, I still hate it.

Marc @ NoRecipes | 22 December, 2008 - 08:15

Having a broad palette is a wonderful thing

Mushrooms and onions are near-daily staples that I once couldn’t stand; olives I first began to appreciate on a trip to Spain two years ago; cheese, especially bleu and brie, which I really hated unless melted, finally showed me its true glory working at a Belgian restaurant; I’ve become a hot-sauce connoisseur since I started dating a Mexican three years ago. Some things I’m still working on, like red wine (shock, horror, yes, I know - however, I love beer like other people love wine, especially Belgian beer).

In my experience, the more times you try something in appealing gastronomical situations, i.e. a meal you like with an ingredient you don’t, the more likely you are to eventually love the food as passionately as you once hated it.

Daleka | 22 December, 2008 - 12:23

Second on the

black licorice. Can’t stand it no matter how many times I’ve tried it. Still can’t stand anise when used in strong quantities, although it can be very nice when used delicately. However, I strangely do love fennel, although I don’t eat it much. Another spice that’s difficult to wrap your tongue around initially is tamarind. It’s amazing in a candy with chili powder, salt, and sugar, but it’s can get a pretty bad reaction sometimes.

Daleka | 22 December, 2008 - 12:30

ooo yes! I can’t even come

ooo yes! I can’t even come near the stuff. Anything that smells like black licorice makes me gag. My mom loves black licorice liqueur…the smell is soo strong :P

jessi | 23 December, 2008 - 08:25

Nankotsu - cartilage

I have also been quite proud of myself for as I very rarely find a good food that I don’t like, this includes loving Vegemite the first time I ever tried it when I was in Australia. However this changed when I attended university in Japan for a few semesters.

Most of the foods of Japan I grew up with due to the macrobiotic diet my father lived by when I was a child. When I got to Japan many flavors were quite familiar to me, that is until a friend ordered nankotsu while we were at an izakaya. I just about gagged on the stuff and my friend was quite happy as he had finally succeeded in his quest to find a food that I didn’t like. I was quite disappointed in myself for not being able to eat it.

I am still not a big fan of the stuff, but I have at least gotten to the point where I can eat it. However only if it is served alongside a very large tankard of beer and I have already consumed one such tankard.

For those of you who are not familiar with the nankotsu that I am talking about I will explain. I guess it isn’t really a Japanese food as they eat it all over the place, but it is quite common in Japan. First of all nankotsu is cartilage and I always saw it served as chicken cartilage breaded and deep fried, although there may be other ways of preparing it that I am unfamiliar with.

Eric Hill | 22 December, 2008 - 17:08

I have to confess that I’m

I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of nankotsu either. It’s ok when it’s served on its own, grilled or something, but when it’s chopped up fine and put into other things I always think ‘eww, gristle!’ Do not like that ‘crunchy’ texture in my nice smooth tori no tsukune and such.

maki | 22 December, 2008 - 19:16

For me, it was kimchi.

Kimchi, definetly that. But seeing how my back-then-boyfriend was Korean, I had opportunity to eat it often. Now I reallly love it! In my defence for initial dislike, I’d also like to add that his mother tends to make it super-hot and my favorite kind turned out to be kakdugi, too.

Rina | 22 December, 2008 - 18:07

Unacquired taste?

I actually had the opposite of learning to like something…

Once I tried to help my husband (then boyfriend) “acquire” a taste for chicken organs (hearts, gizzards, livers). We bought a big pack and I cooked away. For some reason they were AWFUL. Not only did he not like them but they were so bad that now I have a heard time eating them! And they used to be a favorite treat when we went out for chicken. :-(

We tried to acquire a taste for natto but couldn’t get past day 1! Same deal with wine and beer - I just can’t do it. It all makes me feel like I need to make that noise a cat makes when it’s coughing up a hairball. I dunno…

Aside from those few things, though, I don’t have to work to acquire many tastes. I love all kinds of foods and try to expose our son to as many new and “strange” things as possible! People are always commenting on the foods he eats and asking what the “strangest” things he likes are. I makes me really proud :D

erisgrrrl | 22 December, 2008 - 19:38

Wine and beer

With the gizzards, maybe it was the big pack that was the problem? I find that innards are great in very small doses, but anymore and you start to taste the …let’s say, barnyard aspects of them. When you eat them as part of a whole chicken, they are cooked in the chicken fat and crispy around the edges and stuff, and make a nice contrast to the regular meat…which is why they taste good, imho.

With wine and beer, I disliked both for the longest time. And I am still not one to always want one or the other with a meal (my favorite with-meal beverage really is a glass of cold water). But I have grown to appreciate both over the years. With beer, the epiphany came when I spent a wonderful afternoon at the St. Augustiner monastery in Salzburg, Austria, which has the most awesome beer made by the monks. It’s served from the barrels in stoneware mugs by grumpy novices (I think they are novices anyway). Delicious! And with wine, I really started to appreciate it more when I married a Swiss guy with a proper cellar…it really helps ^_^

maki | 23 December, 2008 - 09:45

Similar to the last few!

I love olives too!! Even the not-so-good canned ones, which are blech for eating but give some good salt to a quick-baked pizza. But I love the little french ones as well, to me they taste almost lemony, and delicious!

I like most foods.. but for me it was brussel sprouts. I grew up on the over-cooked steamed/boiled ones that tasted like wet paper with an awful texture… they were terrible! Not even a thick layer of cheese sauce could save them. But then I discovered thinly slicing them for salads or a quick saute.. now I like them caramelized under the broiler with good pancetta, or sauteed with ginger and walnuts. Yum!

I still can’t stand black licorice candy.. I’m not sure why that is, I like fennel just fine..

My most recent conversion was to stronger fish like mackerel when we get sashimi — I used to hate the texture and the taste.. and we go to decent places, so I didn’t think it was the quality of the fish itself. Anyway, last go, I made myself try a piece.. and was surprised at how much better I found it to be! It was a good example of how I need to push my limits a bit to make sure I’m not missing out on anything really good. :)

Great post, thanks as always for the thoughts!

Mo | 22 December, 2008 - 21:51

Goat Cheese

Weird that there are people who don’t like olives…or mushrooms…or pizza! (My favorite pizza toppings, btw!) Being born in the USA, it’s ironic that I have a more extensive palate than my mom for example, who was born in Indonesia. I love natto, okra, DURIAN, fermented cassava, tripe, cartilage, fish heads, shrimp shells, etc etc.
I just still can’t stand goat cheese. I’ve tried to like it. I eat it everytime someone cooks it, but it’s something I still don’t prefer.

Love your sites. You are a sister of my soul with your passion for food! Keep up the great work!

Mary | 23 December, 2008 - 20:20

So crazy! As soon as I read

So crazy! As soon as I read “acquired tastes” olives popped in to my head immediately so it’s quite a coincidence that’s what you were talking about!
I used to HATE olives, absolutely couldn’t stand them but I knew if I kept trying and trying them I would eventually love them. And now I do!
I think it must have to do with my tastebuds changing over time, I used to hate any cheese that wasn’t cheddar. Now I love all types, especially gorgonzola. Anything stinky and blue, I love it.
Strangely enough I loved dark chocolate and natto from the first bite!

Rachel | 23 December, 2008 - 21:46

Eggplant

For years, eggplant was that horrible, slimy, oily mess that happens when you saute it in too much oil. I never could understand the appeal. Then one day when I was on a diet I found a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan that baked the lightly crumbed eggplant on an oiled pan in the oven. I figured that anything drowned in enough good tomato sauce would be edible, so I made it. I bravely sampled one of the slices of eggplant when it came out of the oven and it was GOOD. I don’t think any of it saw the sauce, I just noshed on the slices fresh from the oven. Now it’s one of my very favorite veggies!

Kathy in S.B.

Kathy in S.B. | 24 December, 2008 - 18:43

Eggplant

For years, eggplant was that horrible, slimy, oily mess that happens when you saute it in too much oil. I never could understand the appeal. Then one day when I was on a diet I found a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan that baked the lightly crumbed eggplant on an oiled pan in the oven. I figured that anything drowned in enough good tomato sauce would be edible, so I made it. I bravely sampled one of the slices of eggplant when it came out of the oven and it was GOOD. I don’t think any of it saw the sauce, I just noshed on the slices fresh from the oven. Now it’s one of my very favorite veggies!

Kathy in S.B.

Kathy in S.B. | 24 December, 2008 - 18:46

I will, so long as I live,

I will, so long as I live, never understand ‘getting used to’ or ‘acquiring a taste’ for a food you don’t like.

Beer is tops on my list. But on the subject of olives…

Pattie | 31 December, 2008 - 21:52

smoked salmon

I always loved olives—my grandmother always had a little dish of them just for me—I ate them with Cheetos! Weird, huh?

My acquired taste was smoked salmon. I didn’t eat it growing up, and when I tried it as an adult it just tasted fishy to me. But I kept trying it because somehow I had it in my head that cultured people liked this stuff. Well, cultured or not, now I crave it.

kaytie | 3 January, 2009 - 09:35

Bleu Cheese

HATED bleu cheese the first time. The second time I had it it was a small quantity on a salad I ordered. Third time it was also on a salad (didn't realize it would come with it) and I really enjoyed it! I looove it now!

Other acquired tastes for me were:
Dry red wine
Black licorice
Black coffee
Brussel Sprouts

I really wished I liked olives, mushrooms and sushi, but I am just not there yet!

anon. | 23 February, 2011 - 04:38

Re: Acquired tastes, and the pleasures of acquiring them

For me it's pesto, except I haven't acquired the taste yet. I keep thinking that I should like it, but haven't managed it yet.

But by and large I haven't really found a wide range of foods I don't like. Olives, cabbage, brussel sprouts, curry, all came naturally to me, though I'll definitely be swiping that recipe listed earlier. It sounds delicious :-)

James | 27 February, 2013 - 23:58

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