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Are personal tastes learned or inherent?

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  1. I believe both. My grandfather did not like tomatoes. My mom does not like tomatoes. I do not like them. I have never mentioned this to my children as I do not want to cause them to dislike anything simply because I do. Upon both of their first tastes of tomato (which they expected to like because it was so pretty), they spat it out like vile poison. However, there are quite a few foods that they like that I don't and vice versa.

    1. I dislike very few hardly any foods. My son growing up until teenage ate everything. Then friends got in the way. He started eating what they liked. They thought he was wierd for liking things that they didn't. Then late high school and college he started to go back to liking things again, Now, he pretty much will eat most or at least try it. He still has a few issues.

      I think kids learn from adults. Some things may be inherent but I have a hard time believing that. I think they learn by example, family, friends, and peers. If a parent doesn't cook with tomatoes or any specific item how can they experience them, learn to like or just even taste them.

      My friend didn't like fish so she never cooked it. Her kids all five, wouldn't eat it growing up because Mom didn't never cooked it. And they don't like it even though I don't think they ever tried REAL fish. They are 20, 18, 16, and 12. Sad.

      46 Replies
      1. re: kchurchill5

        I can't agree. I wasn't raised by my non-tomato liking mom and didn't know she didn't like them until I was an adult. I was raised on a farm and served tomatoes probably every day during the summers. I have tried them several times throughout my life. I do not like them. There are, however, several foods that I "disliked" as a child that are now favorites. Also, I am adamant about not passing my dislikes onto my children. I do feel that they handicap my food experience and I don't want that for them. I'm ok with letting them know my dislikes if they're not good for us (like banana candy or onion rings). But my husband and I like different things and buy different things. There are often tomatoes in my house. My children have tried them every summer, fresh off the vine even. What could possibly seem more enticing than a lovely red cherry tomato picked and eaten out of hand? Same reaction every time. However, there are not often fresh crab legs (I live in the midwest) or hot dogs or the afore mentioned onion rings in my house and my children adore those. And my eldest son won't eat red meat or condiments, sauces or gravies. Believe me, there's no way I caused those aversions. I don't force my children to eat what they dislike, but I don't coddle them with different or extra meals either. This may seem a little rantish, but I get annoyed by the inference that parents cause all their childrens' food issues. My children enjoy a healthful and varied diet, which I spend a great deal of time, money and energy making as fun and adventurous as possible, including growing and picking our own fruits and veggies, shopping farmers markets and gourmet shops together, cooking together, trying local specialties when travelling, and reading together about the foods of places beyond our scope. The fact that my son will not eat beef or tomatoes does not make me a bad parent nor him a bad child.

        1. re: silvergirl

          Don't get me wrong. There are some people that just don't like some things. I think a lot has to do with up bringing but that isn't 100% and I agree to that. I'm just saying I think more and more in todays lives, picky eaters come from up bringing or their experience with different foods. That doesn't mean some people don't like some things regardless. My son hates onions. Go figure.
          I didn't mean that makes you a bad parent or child, just making the point that todays society I think plays a big part why kids today don't experience as many foods as they should.

          1. re: kchurchill5

            I guess I'm a little sensitive to this subject because my kids have a reputation as picky eaters. They won't eat vegetables cooked to mush, spaghetti sauce out of a jar, pasta out of a can, macaroni and cheese out of a box, fruit out of a can, that sort of thing. They expect grilled cheese to be actual cheese on actual bread cooked with real butter or olive oil. They expect their pasta to be cooked al dente. They prefer Greek yogurt. I guess we're talking about somewhat different things, I just get tired of hearing my children being denigrated because they won't mindlessly eat spaghettios and fruit cocktail.

            1. re: silvergirl

              Wow silvergirl, that's incredible. How did you raise your kids to actually crave well cooked, real food? I don't have any kids, and one of the things most terrifying to me is that someday if my wife and I do have kids, we'll be forced to default into the chicken nuggets/fake mac & cheese/spaghettios mode. The lure of TV advertising is seductive... as a kid, I still consciously remember craving all this stuff simply because it was exciting to watch and thinking, for example, that chefboyardee ravioli really didn't taste good... but the commercials made me think that I must be missing something, because those people on TV are enjoying it, and so do my friends. There's a point where I grew up, but not until I was an adult, where I slowly shed my old habits and realized how important real food is.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Mr. Taster, just don't give the kids that option. You buy the groceries and prepare the food.

                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  But they will eat the crap at their friend's houses, eat USDA-low grade school lunches (also with their friends), etc. The problem is that this bad kid's food culture is reinforced through pretty intense peer pressure, which is driven by advertising. Denying the stuff makes it all the more appealing. I'm reminded of a friend of mine in grade school whose parents refused to buy a TV. Guess what the only thing he wanted to do when he came over to my house was?

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    My grandson (7) is a good eater preferring "good" food to junk, but when he started school he noticed all the other kids bringing lunchables, and junk like that, while he went with a salad, crackers and fruit. He started pestering his mom for the junk stuff, so once in a blue moon her might get one. It's enough to satisfy him, but I don't think he really likes them that much. His little sister (3) begged for one when I took her to the grocery store, so I got one that had ham, cheese and crackers with something else . . . don't remember. When I gave it to her for lunch she was very disappointed! She didn't like any of it. All I could think was "good girl!"

                    1. re: danhole

                      The same thing happened to my son last summer. My neice cajoled my dad into buying them both a pizza lunchable. My son didn't eat it.

                    2. re: Mr Taster

                      We raised 5, they thought school lunches were junk and were exposed to friends home food, of course. They did prefer Dad's lunches and their friends at school asked if I would make them sandwiches too. All survived and are adult hounds, 19-30. Have faith and relax.

                  2. re: Mr Taster

                    It's true that my kids are small and haven't been out in the nasty old world much yet, but you just serve them good food and explain nutrition to them (kids are smarter and more interested than people give them credit for), that in order to be healthy and fit and to have lots and lots of energy for playing, they need healthy fuel to run on. And explain how advertising works, that some big corporate empire is trying to entice them into handing over their money. However, I don't restrict them. Nothing is off limits. I don't want to turn chips into the holy grail or anything. Think about it, if you'd spent most of your life trying different cheeses, being allowed to choose which you wanted, would you want to eat the processed stuff? And if you haven't had it for 20 years or so, go try some canned ravioli or hamburger helper. Or a loaf of white bread. Does it taste good? No. My boys do occasionally ask why we don't get a particular product, generally a sugary drink and I tell them it's not an every day food, that we can get it for our next party. I do worry about what Pikawicca mentions below though. I don't want them to be ill-mannered. Generally, I just lie and tell people that they're not good eaters. Luckily, they're thin and it's believable. (And hopefully, my host is gracious enough to not be offended by or judgmental of the eating habits of a 2 and 5 year old, especially since my kids are generally better behaved than average [probably due to their diet (insert Sam's grinning icon here)]) It'll be interesting to see how this plays out as they get older though. I'm hoping they don't call them "formative years" for nothing. But I may yet end up with a pantry full of cheeze whiz and pop tarts.

                    *This ended up in slightly the wrong spot - it is meant as a reply to Mr. Taster.

                  3. re: silvergirl

                    Hey, no bragging allowed.

                    [insert sideways grinning moron icon here to indicate making a joke]

                    1. re: silvergirl

                      I understand your point but I think you are in the minority, but it is a great think what you have done. I always cooked well, and until school ... everything was good. School and peers changed everything, TV, Ads, etc. I prepared everything fresh but it didn't matter, he went hungry and then traded with kids at school and ate junk food. Parents don't give kids enough credit how manipulative and deceptive they are and what really happens.

                      Remember I am not for this but it happens, I just learned to live with it and let them go through the phase but always cooking good at home and hoping some of it sunk in. But in highschool, taking lunch just doesn't happen so they buy. JUNK ... After that college, good luck. All you can do is try.

                      1. re: silvergirl

                        If you've raised your kids to be so inflexible about food that they will turn up their noses at food offered to them at a friend's house, you certainly don't fit my definition of a "good" parent. My mom was a great from-scratch cook, but we were raised to be well-mannered and respectful guests. I ate many a dreadful meal at friends' houses, but I always smiled and said "thank you." I love great food, but it's not the most important thing in my life.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          The problem is a very human, social one rather than a problem as it specifically relates to food.

                          I was in Vietnam 2 years ago and a very friendly old man (who kept saying "America #1!" and knew nothing else in English) insisted on sharing his hard boiled egg with me. The problem? There was a duck fetus still inside. I declined, explaining in extremely broken Vietnamese "duck fetus is for Vietnamese mouths. I have an American mouth." Am I now a rude, picky eater because I won't eat the duck fetus that this man so clearly enjoys? (For the curious-- yes, they do have feathers and beaks). I didn't make him feel strange or say it was disgusting, but I also didn't take a bite... just like I wouldn't want my kids to take a bite of some chemically processed goop-in-a-can, even if it were offered by friends. Oddly enough, I'd hazard a guess that the duck fetus is better for overall health than all the chemicals loaded into those processed cans.

                          Of course I can't stand the vegetarians, for example, who say "Oh gross, I can't eat that", making sure that everyone at the table knows what a terrible thing they're doing to their bodies and the world by eating meat. But I also wouldn't expect a vegetarian to eat the meat dishes that I prepared. And I certainly can't deal with the eating habits neurotic skinny actor types which plague the city of angels where I live. They're great at letting you know why their food is better than yours.

                          But that brings up a good point.... despite the annoyance and profound rudeness of having someone insult the food you're eating, isn't some food inherently better than others? And how do you define "better"? If you were a kid turning down one of these bad foods while everyone around you is enjoying them, particularly in a family situation where you've been invited to dinner and the whole family, parents included, are eating crap food and offering the same to their own children, certainly this does a great deal to undermine the healthy-minded parent's authority in the child's mind. ("If Mikey's 400 lb mother serves him deep fried oscar meyer hot dogs in twinkie buns for dinner, then why can't we???")

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Yours is a classic "straw man" argument. I'm not talking about fetal ducks in distant lands, but typical fare in many households in OUR OWN culture. Yeah, if my kid is offered Kraft Mac and Cheese at Little Johnny's house, I expect him to eat it. Just don't ask for it at home!

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Pikawicca, it sounds as if you're saying that there are no foods commonly eaten in our culture which some might find disgusting. Fetal ducks in distant lands are just as unappetizing as canned meat to some.

                              But all this is really a distraction from the actual issue at hand. The real question is how does one react to genuine hospitality (whether it's in Louisiana, New York, Mumbai or Ha Noi) that we cannot or will not appreciate or eat for cultural, political, socio-economic, aesthetic reasons, etc.

                              As I see it, in these situations you have 3 options:

                              1. You could choke down the terrible home cooking/fetal duck/canned meat and hope for the best (which seems to be your default choice, pikawicca)

                              2. You could turn your nose up at it and complain loudly.

                              Or

                              3. You could politely decline with a smile.

                              Decent people will not pick option 2. Your personal judgment will guide you the rest of the way.

                              Mr Taster

                            2. re: Mr Taster

                              But, but, Mr Taster, how can you be Mr taster and not taste balut? Balut tastes good, Mr Taster, taste some if you get another chance.

                              [insert sideways grinning moron icon ...]

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Hey, Sam, Have to confess that I've never tasted that corn fungus thing that folks eat south of the border. Is it tasty, or would it seem weird to a gringa?

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  I'm a gringa, and really enjoy huitlacoche. At home, I make quesadillas with it. My husband usually buys cans of it online.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Huitlacoche is good! If you like good cheeses and truffles, you'd probably like huitlacoche.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      With recs from you and MM, I will gird my loins and procure and try some. Is one brand better than others?

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        Really, it's just mushrooms, you'll be fine. My husband is in the Dominican Republic this weekend, but I'll try to find out which brand he ordered!

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          That's funny. I never knew that huitlacoche came with brands. Is it canned or dried or? I've just had it cooked fro me in Mexico in good restaurant dishes; and I've used huitlacoche from the markets in Mexico in creamy pasta dishes and in omelettes (dishes that my Mexican friends said that they loved - albeit ...?).

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            I think that the only way I'll ever find this in mid-western U.S. is in a can. Will this be disgusting, versus "fresh?" Although this doesn't really sound like a "fresh" product. I don't have a clue. Any Hounds who eat this stuff here in the U.S.?

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              pika, go for it. Give it a try! Report back, please!

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                I've never found it fresh in Manhattan, though I've not looked in Mexican areas of NYC. I have had it fresh though in local restaurants. That said, the stuff in the can is pretty damn good - we went through four cans of it quite quickly. Once I have the brand for you, I'll post back.

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  Thanks, MM, and please tell me what you do with it.

                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Does my handle imply to you that I should taste everything my tongue can reach? If so, I'm I am bound to disappoint you.

                                        As for the hot vit lon (it's not called "balut" in Vietnam) I just couldn't get past the rather strong funk of amniotic fluid and such that billows out when you crack it open. Same reason I couldn't eat the stewed silkwork larvae in Korea... the smell of it hits some primal auto-reject button in the back of my brain. But somehow I knocked down the stinky tofu barrier in Taiwan and can power it down without flinching, and I've come to actually enjoy it. (mind you, I did have a very strong initial urge to vomit the first time I smelled it).

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Used "balut" because it is more familiar to people on these boards. Actually, balut, durian, silkworms, and stinky tofu are "refusable". People know that not everyone will be a fan, even in their own respective cultures.

                                          On the other hand, I worked with small poor farmers all over south and SE Asia for 16 years and never refused any offering. Although I don't really like sun dried pig fat and yak butter tea, I've politely consumed both because both are culturally not "refusable".

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            I think whether or not a local person in these areas would consider something "refusable" without being offended would depend entirely on that person's worldview.

                                            Certainly this wouldn't be the case with everyone, but how would a poor dirt farmer in the outer reaches of Cambodia have any idea what you and I would find objectionable? It is my experience in interacting with local people that their worldview is often even limited to their own village. Even in a more developed country like Vietnam, it wouldn't be unusual for a person in one very local town to have never visited the town next door, or even areas of their own town that were further afield. Even if the town next door served a relatively famous specialty dish that could be found nowhere else in Vietnam, it's a crapshoot as to whether the villager next door has even heard about it. Given this perspective, how then is this person supposed to be able to judge what in his own culture is "refusable"?

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              I think the point is a poor dirt farmer * anywhere* is offering his guest (mind you he is sharing his very limited resources!) the BEST he has to offer, to refuse that gesture is unforgivable in any culture.
                                              In short if a family takes the little they have and shares it with me, whatever it is, is not "refusable".

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                  ?

                                                  Quine has just reinforced my point... i.e. that a poor villager likely wouldn't have the perspective to know what parts of his culture would or would not be "refusable" (your term, not mine) to others.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    *sigh*

                                                    I so did not say that. However I concede that you will not *get* what I did say, so it is OK for you to disagree.

                                                    1. re: Quine

                                                      But by saying that a villager is offering you the BEST of what he has, it implies that if the best is fricasseed eyeballs, he will offer you the biggest, most tender eyeballs to his honored guests because he does not understand that you might not enjoy them.

                                                      It's not like if your orthodox Jewish neighbor comes to your BBQ and you offer him the choicest baby backs, since Jewish aversion to pork is well established in our culture.

                                                      So you did reinforce my point... if not explicitly, then implicitly.

                                                      Mr Taster

                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                        NO, But it is Ok that you don't get it.

                                                        1. re: Quine

                                                          Sorry, but I don't get it either. Seems to me that you and Mr Taster agree.

                                                          1. re: Quine

                                                            Then please explain to me how our opinions diverge so that I can understand your perspective.

                                                            Mr Taster

                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              I wondered when you were going to start truncating!

                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                            I have to say ... Thanks for the wonderful comment. I truly believe in good eating, I believe that there is nothing wrong with fast food now and then, I don't chains are bad, I may not love them but I go with my friends and if they like them - fine. I think kids go through phases and should. I think kids should eat junk even though I always tried to work in some good now and then. I also think kids should eat what they want and shouldn't be taught that mickey dees is bad, taco bell isn't, canned spaghettio's aren't a death sentence, even thought I don't like them, kraft macaroni isn't as horrible as it sounds. Moms mac and cheese may be better but you will live. I think being able to adapt to anything, eat anything and just have fun in any circumstance means to be well adjusted. That means as you said pikawicca, food isn't everything. It may be important and for those who think that, fine, but when out with others being able to mix with them and not worrying about food and just having fun is what should be important.

                                            1. re: kchurchill5

                                              Have to agree:

                                              I did judo as a kid for eight years under the highest ranked guy in the world, Yamauchi. He would say things like, “Emmmughh! Sensei go Switzerrand and eat chocorate. People ask, “How you eat chocorate? Chocorate not-u good-u.” But- a sensei repry, “Judo boy adapt all things. Amelican boy rike hot-u hous-u prant-u, rook good-u, but-u not strong-u. Judo boy rike weed-u, Notu rook good-u, but Strong-u”!!

                                              [Emmmughh! Sensei went to Switzerland and ate chocolate. People asked, “How can you eat chocolate? Chocolate is not good for you. But sensei replied, “Judo boy try and adapt to all things. American boys are like hot house plants, look good but not strong. Judo boy like weed, doesn’t look good, but strong.”]

                                          3. re: silvergirl

                                            I don't have kids yet but whenever I think about it, one of the things that scare me the most is striking the right balance between teaching them to like healthy, home-cooked meals and never ban any foods as the real world, whether we like it or not, is full of junk and I believe that part of growing up is trying to fit in. I am also aware that my mum was very fixated on weight which I believe is completely the wrong approach to have, especially for a child.

                                            I grew up in a culture where processed foods were (and still are) very unusual and most families eat around the table. However, the invasion of the American-style fast food is absolutely everywhere and the worst part of it is that with its marketing gimmicks, they lure the kids into eating stuff that has been packed full of addictive, artificial additives that make them want more.

                                            I think that the best is t lead by example at home and to teach them to eat whatever is put in front of them when at someone else's. Manners and politeness are certainly more important, in my eyes, than the occasional bad meal.

                                    2. I think both too. There have been scientific studies that demonstrate that at least some food likes/dislikes are inherent. And, of course, some people have allergies--melons always give my mouth a slight stinging sensation, so I'm not ultra fond of them, although I can eat them. Presumably some likes/dislikes exist because the person grew up where, for example, fresh seafood was never available, or people didn't know how to cook it . . . .

                                      1. The whole nature vs nurture argument. We, as a nation of eaters, would be a lot less fussy, if we reinstituted the draft (for every one). After military chow, what's to complain? Maybe a big war or famine would weed out the fussy eaters. The Darwin effect.

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                          Ah the Draft! NOt that I know it...but would Pizza be so common in the USA if not for WWII? Just starting the idea that military coming home after long posts in strange (to them) food lands.. created things like Pizza here and Indian in England?

                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                            I agree. Also PAO, yes allergies or sensitivity to certain foods I don't think count. They don't like it because it tastes odd to him. My mothers best friend couldn't eat onion. It burned her mouth and tasty almost HOT like a better. No medical reason and she loved foods with onion powder but fresh burned like a habanero to her. She wishes she could eat them.

                                            But Passa, too many have too many excuses to not eat every day food and rather than teaching kids to try things just shove mcdonalds fries or happy meals or pb&J and never make them try anything. Fussy eaters I think is a big cause and the adults are part of the problem. But maybe the parents never learned either. And agreed, that demographics, age, and just experience where you live what you do, where you eat is a big part of it.

                                            1. re: kchurchill5

                                              There is very little I will not eat, but I choose not to eat chain foods and SPAM for political reasons.
                                              Leftykeg

                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                Well I won't go into SPAM, no thanks. Chains, I have to being on the road at times with 10 minutes in and out, but try hard to do good when I can. But I don't consider that fussy. I'm sure if you went with a group who all went to a chain you would go and fit in somehow.

                                                My sons best friend ... doesn't eat tomato, fish, peppers, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, any green veggie others than beans, rice, fish, etc. THAT is fussy. But his parents don't fix or eat any of that either. It sounds like you are adventurous which is good.

                                                I always wish that people just try things. I'll try just about anything. I wish more parents would learn in order to teach their kids. Fast food including myself becomes too convenient. I guess why the micro or sometimes using a canned salsa, but I try. My problem is time and the desire to cook great. They don't always go together so I merge them, using a little of each. OK, off topic, sorry

                                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                                  Might have a hard time gettin me into chains. First, I got taste buds, then my antichain beliefs are political/economic almost quasireligous. A few years ago I coached high school soccer and drove the bus. The only way I would do it was to get an agreement not to stop at chain restaurants after the away games. An unintended consequence was that the kids almost looked forward to the food as much as the game. One kid said that "Playing soccer for you is almost like an appetizer". Read my post about The Claim Jumper from last Feb.
                                                  Didn't Marx say "All food home grown to each according his ability to pay."?

                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                    I woke this morning thinking along the same lines as this general thread, and posted the following:

                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/623176

                                                    As for this subtopic, I'm with Pass. Avoiding Chain restaurants is easier when the motivation is more than just the food.

                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                      Being raised on all the great little places in South River helped too.

                                              2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                My husband who's turning 65 this year would heartily second that. He was known to family and friends as a picky eater (his parents were not). He got out of the Army in Germany and upon arrival on the East Coast contacted some family friends. The wife said that she'd invite him to dinner except she knew he didn't eat a lot of things. He quickly assured her that after his years in the Army he was no longer a picky eater. And he isn't.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I was (past tense) a very picky eater too, the military does funny things to a person. Funny, we tried our best to expose 5 kids to world foods and healthy non-corporate foods. The pickiest eater is our "poor' little adopted daughter, but mainly only w/ fish products. My 2nd son last week emailed me a photo of menu in Vietnam. Upon seeing it, my wife just uttered, "Your son." In 3 weeks we'll be able to test a lot of this hypothesis in South Korea (Nuke Salad anyone?). Sorry, we'll miss you on your visit east. Enjoy O'Rourkes and walk off the meal w/ a stroll around Weslyan U.
                                                  Mark

                                              3. I think both. My father introduced me to capers when I was four. I love capers. My young daughter now eats capers.

                                                My mother hated Shredded Wheat cereal; said it tasted like cardboard. I've never been a big fan.

                                                Conversely, there are many many things I eat now that my parents never heard of, and also things I eat now that I wouldn't touch as a kid even though the rest of the family loved them (steamers, for example). So who knows?