There is something very sad about a “fussy” eater. I’m not talking about allergies, ailments or even phobias which blight meal times for some people nor the firmly held beliefs of vegetarians or any other -arians. This blog is about the changing nature of food taste and the excitement that comes with it.
I’ve seen the hapless soul who is confronted with a menu in an Italian restaurant and looks for the item without tomato or cheese. Even worse is the choice of chicken and chips in the curry house or the full English breakfast every day on a foreign holiday (though I may be tempted by the Fresh Basil breakfast pictured here it usually isn’t like that). Sadly this often seems to arise from parenting where children are allowed to get away with using excuses about what they don’t like to get more of the things they do like.
When I was a child I ate what my parents ate. It wasn’t overly exciting but it was nutritious food. I just happened to have in my head that I didn’t like meat. Rather than be allowed to get away with this I had to find ways of burying it in the mashed potato in small pieces so that I ate it without knowing. The only thing that I remember loathing the flavour of (and having a physical response to) was pineapple. I still have a dislike of the fruit itself but I don’t mind it in cooking – sweet and sour, smoothies etc. There are lots of things that I have tried an just aren’t my preference. For example I’d say I definitely don’t have a sweet tooth, I’m not a fan of clotted cream on scones, and I prefer to not have milk in my hot drinks. I’ve cut out a lot of dairy purely through flavour rather than any intolerance.
My point is that taste can be educated, changed and developed. The first time I had beer I was amazed that people drank the stuff – was this really what all the fuss was about? Maybe if I hadn’t persisted it wouldn’t have been entirely a bad thing. The same was true of coffee. I found it a bitter and joyless drink until I had a milky coffee with scalded milk which was a whole different experience. I’ve evolved my preference to strong black coffee now somehow. My first experience of pesto was also less than inspiring. In this case using a poor jar of pasta sauce nearly put me off the flavour combination for life. And so there is an initial hurdle that needs to be overcome with most things. One bad experience does not mean that food can be written off.
With the right attitude there are still things to discover and appreciate. For me recent years have brought me gin and tonic, burritos, Moroccan food, figs, an appreciation of wine and a slight increase in the heat of my curries. I don’t think I can come to love pineapple but the gagging has stopped which is progress.