Getting to Know Food

This week was a good week for pizza in Famous Aa’s Pizza House (aka my apartment), and as I was carefully eyeing the random spread of toppings (mushrooms, green peppers, veg pepperoni) over crust, I began to think about the bell peppers ““ so much had changed in our relationship.

As a kid, I hated bell peppers. I was not a supremely picky eater and my devotion to broccoli was a clear sign that I didn’t turn my nose up at everything green. But those stupid little peppers were tied with mayo and “American cheese product” as my least favorite things to eat. The sharp crispness was as offensive to my tongue as the smell of far-too-strong perfume is to my nose. But all that changed.

I wish I could tell you that I had an epiphany, that one day a vision of the perfection inherent in every bell pepper came down on me in a fit of roasted veggie ecstasy. I can’t. I mean, I can, but it’d be a lie. I know that trying pizza with bell peppers over and over again was a step in my journey, but the most important thing was that I just kept trying bits of bell pepper in anything and everything over years and years. Eventually I realized that when you cooked the suckers real well with some onions or something, the end result really tasty.  Now the onions aren’t even necessary ““ just roasting those colorful lantern-shaped fruit is good enough.

The thing that grates on me the most out of this taste-changing experience, apart from all the years I missed out on delicious fajitas, is the fact that my parents were right. My parents were right a lot, but explaining to me that my tastes will change was one of the first lessons I remember them giving me.  For the record, I also remember little elementary school me just giving them a look like “puh-lease,” fully loaded with all the cynicism and sass those two syllables can hold. What’s that taste? Oh yeah, humble pie.

There are broad life lessons to be drawn from the simple statement of “tastes change,” but I’ve found it extremely useful to apply that idiom to my eating habits. I’ll try things from time to time, just to see if maybe, maybe I find it palatable now. It’s how I started liking cheese after watching a particularly graphic cheese-production video in the second grade. It’s how I’ve come to embrace the kalamata olive and all it can offer us humans. It’s what drives me to try new recipes in the kitchen, new dishes at restaurants, and new, sometimes utterly inadvisable, drink concoctions. It lets me approach food as an adventure in which I enter new culinary terrain, and true to my inner scientist, take notes on the tastes I find. It’s given me a guide for pushing my boundaries, and I can say that my taste buds sing because of it.

So how about you? What foods did you have to grow to love? Is there anything you still won’t eat now?


12 replies on “Getting to Know Food”

I still hate peppers, but I am also allergic to every pepper I’ve encountered, so that probably has something to do with it. Seriously, they don’t even taste like food to me, they just taste like pain.

Brussels Sprouts, however, and asparagus? I hated both so much as a child, and now they’re some of my favorite foods.

I heard a story about my bf this cinco de mayo about his first encounter with bell peppers. His friend’s father was grilling them and he tells him”hey, uh are you sure you want to be eating those? They gotta be really spicy” Everyone lauhged at him and his admitted his mother was not the most adventurous cook.

I do my best to avoid green bell peppers. I love the other colors. There are so many foods I now like that I hated as a kid. It’s true; palates change with age. But I still don’t like shellfish, mushrooms, or pickles.

Still on my shit list: coffee, olives, mustard, marzipan, mussels, fresh tomato, and glacé cherries.
Mushrooms made it on to my Mmmm-list a while ago, along with prawns and fresh gherkins.

I really don’t think of myself as a picky eater though, and I’ll try almost anything. Oddly, I used to love French style snails as a kid but trying them again as an adult made me so nauseous it was impossible to eat.

I was a really picky kid – for a while, according to my mom, all I ate was macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and cereal. I’ll try almost anything now (besides meat), though there are still a few foods I really hate. I cannot stand cauliflower and have given up trying, and I really dislike Brussels sprouts too. Although I LOVE black and green olives and tend to really like salty foods, I don’t like kalamata olives, and I’ve always despised capers. And while there are a few exceptions to this, in general I really dislike both dried fruit and cooked fruit, especially in dessert form.

I have always been an extremely picky eater and, like you, as a child I never believed my mom when she said I would grow to like more foods. Now I will try foods that I know I used to hate just to see if I still do. While I can’t think of any foods I have recently tried and found I loved, I find many foods more palatable.

Formerly horrid, now awesome:
Mushrooms on pizza*
Soft-cooked eggs.
Dark-meat chicken or turkey, especially turkey.

*in fact, I have actually turned into my mother in that my favorite pizza is now hers: thin-crust pepperoni with mushrooms. Come to think of it, all of these are mommish. Hm. Perhaps it’s not a widening of tastes in my case, but a focusing. Uh-oh.

Still disgusting:
All forms of liver.
Most forms of ham. (Too salty. On the rare occasion you get a sweet ham, I can take it.)
Brussels sprouts, though I keep trying.
Rice pudding.
Tapioca pudding.

I used to strongly dislike almost all beans, but I love them now. However, they were not on my mother’s protected list – the one or two things my sib and I were allowed to dislike and never forced to eat – so maybe I had to develop a taste for them. I also didn’t like avocados as a kid, though I looooooove them now.

The single item on my protected list was, and remains, carrots. I hate them. I hate them cooked, I hate them raw. I actually keep trying them from time to time, to reassure myself that I really do loathe them, and I do. They’re disgusting to me. I don’t mind things that are partially flavoured by carrot – like chicken soup – but I don’t even like carrot cake. Which is sad, because the cream cheese frosting is delicious!

I’m a green pepper convert too, among other foods, but the green pepper stands out for me because of all the Chinese dishes mom made: pepper steak, sweet and sour beef, stir fried veggie mix. Ick, nast. Now I love the super sweet red bell ones.

I’ve heard it takes eight tries before you can declare whether or not you like a certain food. Sometimes it takes me twice or three times that many tries.

Then there are those weird foods that I like and don’t like: dislike liver but love pate for instance. No I don’t indulge in the pate anymore after learning how geese are force fed to fatten their overworked sick livers.

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