It’s inconvenient and privileged to be picky, but there are some experiences which unmistakably shape taste in food. We’re all born with a love of sweet foods, but other than that our tastes are basically formed by our environment, the habits of those around us and our experiences with food. As it's almost Halloween, I thought I'd share some of my most scarring food moments (don't read this at lunch).
I can hardly bear to think about the too-milky hot chocolate from Brownie camp with the thick layer of skin; I never ate fish cakes again after the meal that came before the news of a family tragedy; the small pile of greying, lukewarm eggs - not quite an omelette nor scrambled eggs - that was slopped in front of me (the only veggie, who couldn’t eat the shepard’s pie) on a school ski trip.
In an episode of a UK reality show where teenage girls had to fend for themselves (Brat Camp?), a hideous attempt to make pancakes with about 23 eggs too many deterred me from trying American pancakes for a decade. I still struggle with being in the same room as an egg mayonnaise sarnie after inhaling the smell of my mum making a batch of them when I had a stomach bug as a child; anything with tuna or sweetcorn repulses me after my cousin burped a tuna burp in my face, to which I responded with a small vomit in front of his feet.
...the many times a hangover has gotten the best of me and ruined perfectly good pasta...
I learned that not everything brightly coloured was appealing through being constantly disappointed by that fluorescent banana medicine and after taking a very big gulp straight from the jug of a pink smoothie, only to find that it mainly contained celery, an ingredient I learned to dislike through my dad.
There are also the experiences which were self-inflicted: when I was temporarily fooled into thinking couscous was bad, so bought cauliflower couscous and courgetti from Tesco and microwaved them together at work; the smell of the raw, microwaved cauliflower was so strong that the smell travelled 3 floors and I was later introduced to new starters as ‘molly-flower’ which was absolutely not as endearing as it sounds. Once at uni I didn’t have any burger buns so I used hash browns as a replacement - the surprisingly slimy, wet texture put me off hash browns for three long years (big thanks to McDonald’s for getting me out of that slump). There was the white risotto from the freezer last week that was both the consistency of porridge and still slightly frozen, and the many times a hangover has gotten the best of me and ruined perfectly good pasta with a tonne of salt and cheese that doesn’t-really-melt in the right places and somehow starts solidifying on the side of the bowl.
I understand these memories are just that - memories - but despite effort to attempt to eat these once-traumatic foods, I can’t quite get over my aversion to things that repulse me so much. It’s annoying. We should always try to eat everything, but some foods are just too freaky.