Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Evolution of Taste-buds

Tonight, over dinner – Haki with satay noodle soup, and I with a Turkish kebab – we were led to discuss the evolving nature of taste-buds.

Yucky to Yummy – It just tastes better now!

Many of the changes in taste I have experienced seem to be structural adaptations; physical changes in my response to particular flavours. For example, until I was about 12 years old I found anything tasting even vaguely like vinegar was offensive to my mouth. This included dressings, potato chips, gherkins and pickles. Now I can’t get enough vinegary goodness, in fact, it’s the only flavour of standard potato chip I’ll eat, and balsamic vinaigrette is my dressing of choice.

Haki once hated white rice. Even the smell triggered a gag-reflex. Now, he can’t get enough of it.

Yucky to Yummy – I realise it’s better now!

Then, there are the changes I’ve experienced due to some maturity (“some” I say), which are more behavioural or psychological. These changes dictate my return to the foods I once would trade away from my lunchbox for the then “greener grass” of my friends – the hottest contraband being bright-coloured, sugary roll-ups and pottles of “dairy food”, which to me represented instant-pudding-like goodness.

Foods I felt I was deprived as a youth:

  • White bread
  • 2-minute-noodles (called “Ramen” elsewhere)
  • Raro (Koolaid in the States)
  • Flavoured milk
  • Carton milk, generally
  • Nutella sandwiches and
  • Aforementioned Roll-ups and Calci-yum-type dairy food.

I remember I felt embarrassed and cheated when I instead was fed:

  • Wholegrain breads
  • Fruit juice
  • Powdered skim milk (sometimes some whole milk powder was mixed in)
  • Peanut butter and jelly OR tuna fish and mayo OR lettuce and cheese sandwiches
  • Fruit leather
  • Low-sugar yoghurt

I remember one of my friend’s parents marvelling at my interest in only having butter on my toast in the morning (I still prefer it). It was because the taste of white bread was a sensation in and of itself. I also remember the first time I had instant noodles, and describing them to my mom, as though they were a delicacy beyond her comprehension. I cannot drink strawberry Nesquik to this day without a sense of déjà vu over an after-school “tea party” of the same fare in a friend’s bedroom, age 9 or 10.

Despite my mother’s insistence white bread will "clog your arteries and give you a heart attack”, I still think white bread is best for French toast. In every other way, I’m whole grains all the way now. I’m ashamed when I resort to eating 2-minute noodles, I think even fruit juice has too much sugar, and I wish I could have the products of my mother’s many-tiered dehydrator once more! I still can’t convince myself Nutella is good for my health, or for filling sandwiches, but have no problem convincing myself it can occasionally be purchased and eaten straight from the jar at will. I still find dairy food tempting, but know acidophilus is a must-have, and I believe in storing powdered milk (it’s especially excellent for making hot drinks). Unbelievable – I once harboured disdain for the heartiness of the Vogel and Burgen breads on offer in my childhood, that now I long to afford!

My mother never served eggplant or Brussels’ sprouts because she herself loathed them. Since moving out I have discovered both are palatable. Haki was never fed avocado or Parmesan cheese due to his mother’s distaste for each – he now loves both, in generous servings.

Haki and I agreed, over our very different dinners, our taste-buds change over the years – for whatever reason – and that we hope our someday-children will allow us to expose and re-expose them to a variety of foods on this premise. Haki has decided we can justify his abstinence from Brussels’ sprouts by pledging, “When you’re an adult, and your taste-buds quit changing their minds, then you too can say ‘no’”. And when I leave the beetroot bowl untouched, I may claim the same defence (not only do I not enjoy them…they’re a very rude food; seeping over as they do!).

(Yes, I'm open to the fact that my taste buds may, in fact, still have the prerogative to be topsy turvy – so I should apply the same rules of exposure and re-exposure to myself. But beetroot? How many times do I have to try it to exhibit the definition of insanity?)

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