Learn To Eat The Stuff You Hate


…Or, really, overcoming the coriander aversion.

As we all know, there are two basic kinds of food aversions: the associative – say, something you ate before a night of epic sickness, or the idea of which repels you – and the physical. The latter includes foods like sauerkraut and, yes, cilantro – which may be genetic and which Julia Child didn’t like either, so there. Writing about food aversions in the Guardian, Jessica Ruston Monday writes,

Neuroscientist Jay Gottfried, interviewed recently by the esteemed Harold McGee, put forward his theory that the specific disgust coriander can inspire is linked to its smell, which many people find soapy. He believes that our brains fit food smells into patterns of already known foodstuffs, and if something is perceived as belonging to a different group – cleaning products, in this case – the brain will reject it as being something we should not eat. Evolutionary biology at work on a basic level.

Of course, Julia Child lived in an era where you could avoid cilantro. Today? Not so much – at least, not without difficulty and a lot of limitations. And while you may never love it, you can get to the point where, ar least, you don’t spit your aversion out. It’s true! And here is how:

Eat it, a lot. You may well not want to get over an aversion to, say, Brussels sprouts. Maybe you’re just fine saying no to the chopped liver at Hannukah. But maybe you’re one of those whose aversion to cilantro makes half the cuisines in the world impassible or who feels that your aversion to shellfish is limiting your gastronomical scope. So, you have to keep exposing yourself to it. Gottfried calls this “repeating your exposure to the disliked taste and so changing the group in which your brain places the flavour.”

Pair it with stuff you like. The old spoonful of sugar – or bread, or water, or ketchup – trick will be no secret to most people. But curiously, it can help you get used to the hated flavor gradually – and mentally, which is half the battle. And, according to Monday’s sources, “pairing a flavor with an energy rich food, full of fat or sugar, means your body is more likely to respond well to it.” We won’t argue with that. In fact, it’s known as the “Bacon Law.”

When in doubt, hold your nose. So much of our reactions to food is governed by smell, that sometimes eliminating that sense renders something palatable. Monday finds this to be remarkably true in overcoming her horseradish aversion: “it’s a revelation – the weird combination of sweetness and heat is still there, and I don’t like the texture (although this could well be due to the somewhat downmarket brand of horseradish I bought) but the lack of rooty, attic-dusty smell makes it far more palatable.” True, you don’t want to go around making like a synchronized swimmer at dinner with prospective in-laws, but for training purposes, it’s all good.

Eat the best version. I couldn’t get into cilantro until I started eating proper Mexican food in California. Similarly, the author finds she magically likes horseradish when it’s artfully prepared and used by a skilled chef to complement other flavors. Sometimes the best place to try something you don’t normally like is at the best restaurant you can. It may seem like a waste, but think of it this way: if you don’t like the best version out there, you really don’t like something and you gave it the old college try. And best-case scenario, you’ll be a convert – or at least be able to say you only eat offal when prepared by Michelin-starred chefs.

Changing Flavour Behaviour
Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault [NY Times]

[Image via Shutterstock]

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