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Change in taste preferences over the years

Has this ever happened to you? You try to fine-tune your taste buds by revisiting that maiden dish you had a long time ago, the very dish that got you to explore more of the kind, only to realize how unsophisticated you were when you first had that dish, and that your preference has actually evolved.

You've acquired an entirely new spectrum of subtle palates (and palettes, too!). You've built up tolerance for alcohol and spices. At the same time you resist rejecting the taste of a food with tons of childhood memory.

You are like a person who could distinguish a dozen different sounds of "k" but was unable to tell an "r" from an "l" because he didn't grow up with it. But he goes on to learn, not only how to say "r" properly, but he can now do "gr" and "rrl" along with myriad other notes that ring his chow bells.

I thought about this as I read chowhound postings about pizza. Do you have a good example of your preference change? Something you once thought was the best, but now changed your mind?

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  1. Yes! I felt this way about an old college-days (in the early 70's) favorite, tomato beef chowmein in San Jose, Calif. It really got me excited about the possibilities of Asian food, but when I had some this summer, at the same Japanese-owned Chinese restaurant on Jackson St., it was a bummer! Intolerably sweet, which I had once thougt was the sweetness of Calif. tomatoes was actually good old sugar syrup. Fried noodles left a greasy, lingering mouthfeel. I now love many Asian foods, Chinese the least.

    Irony: I used to look at posters of the funny-colored little foods on their walls and wonder what they were like. Later, I learned I could have had a giant tray of sushi for 3 bucks!

    1. I get this much more with wine than with food. I don't think my food tastes have evolved that much, partly because I grew up in a household that was crazily diverse in their eating habits - but when I revisit a bottle of wine that I liked two or three years ago I am amazed how bad it tastes and wonder what my taste buds were thinking!!

      1. Depending on how old you are when you revisit that childhood favorite, the fault might be more in your sense of smell (and therefore your sense of taste) than your now-enlightened perceptions of food.

        As we age our sense of smell diminishes, taste along with it. You know how your grandmother used to say that such-and-such doesn't taste the way it did when she was a kid? Well, darn it, she's right.

        On the other hand, so many of the current versions of those childhood favorites are made from really nasty adulterated and synthetic junk that, even if our taste buds stayed the same, the food certainly didn't. No wonder it tastes foul.

        1. I hated licorice candy growing up, still do. I can't stand Tarragon because of the fresh licorice taste. But I'm warming up to cooked fennel and broths made with star anise. I used to hate sweet italian sausage because of the fennel seeds. I'm ok with that now.

          1. When I was small I liked sweets much more than savory snacks. For instance I would pick chocolate over chips at any time. Now, I prefer savory food much more than sweets, and have toned down my level of "sweetness".

            Soda and sweet drinks were my designated fluid intakes when I was small. Now I prefer good water (and sorry if this sounds pretentious, but I really think some bottled water like Fiji tastes better). Sparkling spring water is also an alternative.

            I used to find simple food to be bland. Now I found myself to appreciate the subtle flavors of a lot of the simple food. For instance, good quality tofu, pizza with the simplest sauce and toppings, spagetti with just drizzle of good olive oil rather than heavy super cheesy sauce.

            Overall I found myself to appreciate the original flavor of the food rather than all these add-ons that I used to like when I was small.

            1. I don't if it's my tastes have changed, or I just keep trying foods that I don't like and my tastebuds eventually give up. When I was a kid I hated mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, mayo, green olives, cabbage, stinky/bleu cheeses, but I kept trying them and grew to like them. Now I enjoy most of the foods above (still can't do some kinds of mushrooms or raw onions). I guess I should thank my "take a no thank you helping" mother.

              1. I don't know if it's a matter of my taste preferences changing so much as it is that I burned myself out, but I ate a lot of peanut butter when I was about 9. I would come home from school ravenous, go into my mother's pantry with a large spoon, and come out with a whopping scoop of peanut butter. I kept this up for a couple of months, I think, and then stopped one day. Since then I will eat peanut butter if it's served to me, but never make pb&j sammiches, and actually have no peanut butter in my house.

                1. I don't think I dislike anything I used to like, but I like a lot of stuff I didn't used to care for. I did not like peanut butter much as a kid, nor hard-boiled eggs, nor sauerkraut (though that had something to do with the fact that my mom just dumped the can into a pan and heated it up). I still don't really like sweet custard, though either chocolate or coconut flavoring will turn me right around on that!

                  My dislike of peanut butter was also due, I think, to our having it only as a plain sandwich, with butter, on floppy white bread. When someone introduced me to putting in some sliced banana it was a revelation...and then one day I tried making a grilled peanut butter and cheese. End of hatred.

                  1. I have come to dislike Brussels Sprouts in the past few years. Does not matter how they are prepared, though I find them just about edible made with the Bouchon cookbook's mustard sauce. I have never liked and have made many attempts to like salmon and just cannot put the stuff in my mouth, smoked is okay but no matter what a cook does to a steak or fillet I just cannot stand the stuff

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Candy

                      Funny, I went from Brussels Sprouts hater to lover after learning how to prepare them properly, roasted but NOT overcooked. Nothing worse than an over cooked sprout.

                      And I'm with you on cooked salmon. I'm the least-picky eater alive but I just never find myself really enjoying cooked salmon. I adore raw salmon in sushi, though, probably one of my favorite foods. And gravlax and smoked salmon, too, love them. Just not traditionally cooked. I'll eat it, but it just doesn't do me right on the palate.

                    2. Tomatoes (tried to pretend I was allergic as a kid, mom never fell for that), onions, brussel sprouts, okra (with stewed tomatoes, yum!!)...used to hate all of them, now love all of them (except raw onions unless their itsy bitsy or in salsa/guac).

                      1. Of course, I sure our tastes have all evolved! I would hope that's an intrinsic part of being a Chowhound.

                        In my case, I have not at increased my tolerance of spices at all, but rather appreciate more subtle dishes.

                        And, like Kobetobiko, in the last couple of years, I'm suddenly drawn less to intensely sweet things, less chocolate - and it spooks me a bit, as I wondered if something is wrong with my tastebuds. I'm much more likely to favor fruit tarts instead of fudge cakes.

                        1. I guess I don't have any specific examples to cite, but I know my palate has become much more refined in the last couple of years...just because we've moved up in our profession/the world and we can actually afford decent ingredients/good restaurants more easily.

                          I still dislike most pickles, though.

                          1. Sometimes I'm disappointed when I can taste something that someone else can't. Or that I feel like I have a more discerning palate when so many of my friends are content to eat at chain restaurants and eat pre-fab foods.

                            I remember when I first started tasting other foods, I went to the Olive Garden (I know, I know) and thought it was great italian. I went a few years back, and it tasted really plain and kind of bleh. Oh well. Sometimes it's more of a pain to be so fussy over how good I want my food to taste.

                            1. I used to hate mints. Couldn't stand them. It just tasted so bad! I turned 21 recently and found a love for Mojitos. Yesterday, I went to Cold Stone to make my own ice cream and found myself craving and choosing Mint Ice cream with chocolate... Mint and chocolate... my new love. Is that weird??

                              1. you mention building up a tolerance for alcohol and spices. Actually, my tolerance for both has decreased considerably over the years (or maybe I'm just a lot older than you are :-)

                                I used to be able to down a lot of beer in college. Now one or two is my absolute limit. And if I have more than one martini I'm in trouble.

                                And my spice tolerance has really changed....my boyfriend in college accused me of having burnt out my taste buds to the point where I had to eat everything excessively spicy just to taste it. Well, I still like spicy foods, but my tolerance is way lower. Every once in awhile I find myself almost gagging on something that contains a lot of capsicum....that never would have happened thirty (or even twenty!) years ago.

                                1. I recently had the pleasure of visiting a restaurant I hadn't been to since the age of 8. As a child, I always looked forward to trips there for what I thought was excellent and exotic Chinese food. 16 years on, I could barely finish my lunch. Everything tasted as if it had come out of a tin or powder packet.

                                  In college I discovered orange chicken and sesame chicken at two restaurants down the street from my dorm and ate it nearly every day. Upon going back, I couldn't believe how sweet and gloppy the sauces were. I don't know if in that situation my palate has changed, or if penury drove me to desperate measures.

                                  1. When I was thirty, I suddenly found that I loved Pico de Gallo for the cilantro in it; five years earlier, I hated the taste of cilantro. The cilantro additction has recently been intensified by discovery of a dijon mustard-cilantro sauce, part of my increasing preference for things strongly savory.
                                    And that seems to be ballancing out my decreased enthusiasm for things very sweet and for things milk chocolate. Although dark chocolate is very, very tolerable.
                                    I fear it's my age.
                                    If I follow my grandparents, I may be drowning things in vinegar in a few years.

                                    1. Like most kids, I loved anything with a sweet flavour. By the time I was in my early or mid 20s, I had almost completely lost my taste for desserts. Now my final course is usually a cheese course, only rarely a dessert, and if so, never anything too sweet. I always thought that the timing of the change in my preferences had something to do with the change in biochemistry post-puberty, but that's just a guess.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                        When we were first married, my wife and I thought we were making Chinese food because we had added a bit of (domestic) soy sauce and sherry. We thought anything that had a bit of curry powder was Indian. How naive we were!

                                      2. Don't know. Think my tastes have remained about the same. I was lucky, however, in that I grew up with really, really good and avried food. No packaged or prepared foods, no junk or fast foods.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Sam, you make a good point, especially for all those on the board who are raising children. Really, really good and varied food IS the key. You can like those all your life. My childhood didn't grant the variation, but my young adulthood did, and we continue on in that fashion. So do our children, in their adolescence and young adulthood. I have not witnessed their tastes changing. And their tastes are myriad.

                                          Me? I have noticed I can't tolerate really sweet thing in the past five years. Yay for me, perhaps?

                                          (I do admit, however, to liking sweets much less in the last 5 years. Good for me? )

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Same here. I liked chicken feet in gravy (red) and gizzards and pig skin in gravy (red) and pickled pig ears (can't find them anymore, they're saving them for dog treats) and such way back when, and I still like them, only now I like grits and polenta and foie gras and such and stuff in addition.

                                            But dessert is still my favorite course, ice cream is still one of my major food groups.

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              It is definitely a big part of the equasion. Hubby has always disliked (raw) tomatoes, though he enjoyed tomato sauce and other dishes with cooked tomatoes. Finally I realized that he had never tasted a truly ripe, non-engineered tomato! Now, mind you, good tomatoes can be had in season where he grew up (Central PA, and I know this because I have had some very good ones there myself)...but they weren't served in his household...

                                              So, I encouraged him to start trying some good ones from farmer's markets and top sources. He isn't necessarily a huge fan and total convert, but he definitely will eat them, which he wouldn't have done five years ago. Indeed, recently he actually ordered a tomato salad in a restaurant!

                                            2. My parents went on a low-sodium diet a while ago. They even bought low sodium cheese and bread (bleah!). After a while, they became more attuned to flavors because salt was no longer an overriding flavor.

                                              1. I used to hate all of the following: olives, capers, cilantro, blue cheese, spicy food. Have grown to like them all, at least in the appropriate dishes. Having a Thai room mate really introduced me to hot food, and now I can't really eat any kind of Asian (or Indian) dish without wanting it to make me sweat ;-). Blue cheese I am still kinda working on, and the cilantro is also a very recent accomplishment, mostly due to the fact that it is so prevalent in Thai cuisine, one of my faves. I still absolutely HATE carraway seeds. I find they ruin perfectly good bread, or sauerkraut for me. Given my history, though, who knows if that won't change either....

                                                1. I've definitely changed a lot of my tastes. I used to despise eggs and now I love them. Chopped liver was my enemy and now I crave it. I'm slowly developing a liking for pickles but used to despise them too. They say people don't change but their cravings do!

                                                  1. Oh, I can relate completely to this concept! According to my Grandmother who raised me, as a young child "I would eat EVERYTHING put in front of me, and was the least picky child she knew" In her words, of course. As I got older, I started getting pickier on foods, and stopped eating things like pickled beets, bannanas and brussel sprouts.

                                                    Upon meeting my husband and his family, I became a bit more adventerous and tried asparagus- which is now my favorite veggie. I also has stopped eating fish, due to a 24-hr flu that had me wretching over in pain, after eating VanDeKamps fish sticks. One day, I just got the idea to TRY fried fish once again, wanting to move past this mental block. I must have gotten some GOOD fish this time, as I haven't stopped eating most whitefish. (Still personally not fond of salmon)

                                                    As I'm getting older, I'm wanting to connect with my Swedish roots and eat things I once would have thought "odd". Pickled herring? Sure, i'll give it a go.

                                                    I was floored upon the disovery of how delicious well-prepared sweetbreads can be! A new favorite of mine!