Thursday, June 11, 2009

"I Don't Like That!"

If I had a dime for every time I have heard someone utter the title phrase I could retire to Beverly Hills. (Not that I'd want to, but I could.) However, I have found that most adults have within them the power to eat anything, and to even enjoy eating anything, and even eventually to really like anything.

"I don't like that" starts in our youth. As immature children we see deciding what we will and won't eat as power. It boils down to what we can control and what we cannot. The old saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" applies here. Kids realize that short of being force-fed, which would be considered abuse, they cannot be forced to eat something if they decide they don't want to.

In a world where you feel a lack of control, as most children do, what you will and won't eat becomes the one thing you can control. This is actually the root cause of most eating disorders: in a chaotic and uncontrollable world what we eat is the one thing we can control.

Though likes and dislikes begin as a power struggle, those that persist into adulthood become a mental block. We basically convince ourselves that we do not like something, so we assume that we do not like it. The result is that we miss out on enjoying foods simply because we think we do not like them.

Many tastes are acquired. I remember the first time I had honey, I thought "ewww". But it wasn't that it was a bad taste, it was that it was a different taste. Over time I have come to love honey. To crave it actually. Many people miss out on wonderful foods because their initial reaction was to not like something.

Aversions to different tastes are another matter entirely. Sometimes people develop aversions to tastes because of traumatic events. I went an entire year not being able to eat popcorn because popcorn was the last thing I eaten prior to coming down with stomach virus. Just the smell of popcorn triggered the ill feeling I experience with that virus. I eventually got over it, but it taught me that aversions to tastes and smells are very real.

Another example is rare beef. To me nothing tastes better than a rare steak. As I age I prefer my steak rarer and rarer. My parents will not touch beef unless it is cooked into shoe leather. They have an aversion to "pink" in their beef. The reason for this is that they were taught from a young age that if beef wasn't cooked through brown then it was dangerous.

We now know that allowing the center to reach 145 degrees (Fahrenheit) renders the meat safe, regardless of color. In fact, the bacteria is usually on the outside of the meat so a temperature as low as 130 degrees (Fahrenheit) will have meant that the outside of the meat has become hot enough to kill off harmful bacteria. Shoe leather is no longer necessary, but it has been embedded in my parents to the point where they have an aversion to pink meat. (I have seen my father become almost sick and stop eating a hamburger because the meat was pink.)

Aversions too can be conquered over time. Continuing to test if the aversion has past is one way. That is how I got over my aversion to popcorn. Another way is to become educated about food, as opposed to holding fast to what you've always believed. If my parents would understand that pink meat doesn't mean it is raw, they'd enjoy meat much better than the well done, tough as leather meat they insist on now. So like taste acquisition, getting over aversions is something that can be done.

Acquiring tastes can actually be quite enjoyable. A flavor I had difficulty with at first was horseradish. The first time I had something with a decent amount of horseradish in it (I was a child then) I refused to eat another bite. Now horseradish is one of my favorite flavors. I can't imagine eating a sandwich without some form of horseradish dressing it.

Maturity also plays a role in getting over the "I don't like that" syndrome. As mentioned above, control plays a big part in not liking something. We hold on to that control we needed as a child. I have known adults that:

- Will not try anything new.
- Refuse to eat anything they claim to not like.
- Will not eat anything with an ingredient "they don't like", whether they can taste it or not.

My aunt once told me a story about a notoriously picky eater. This person is well into their 50s. She had this person to dinner, and made an Italian dish. Someone at the table complimented the dish and asked what was in it. When she got to spinach on the ingredient list, the picky person, who had been eating heartily right along with everyone else, put their fork down and refused to eat another bite.

You can't tell me that just knowing that there was spinach in the dish made it suddenly taste bad. This person doesn't have a problem with taste, they have a problem with maturity.

So grow up. Be adventurous. Eat things that you think you don't or won't like. Develop those taste buds. Move toward healthy foods you normally wouldn't touch. It will make it not only more enjoyable to eat, but it will make it easier to eat things you should eat. Here is a Bible passage in closing:

1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

2 comments:

  1. I wonder if color has anything to do with it. And consistency. As a kid, I always hated peas and brussel sprouts. They're still not my favorites today but I do eat them, occasionally.

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  2. I was lukewarm on peas for a longtime until I discovered frozen peas. It was like night and day! Canned peas are so mushy and overcooked. Frozen peas, once steamed have a pop to them.

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