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Food aversion - ALL in our heads?

I have a question. Are all food aversions psychological? I just discussed this with a friend who insisted that they all were.

Are they? All? Is it possible to simply dislike a food without a past negative experience associated with it (my friend was assuming that 'psychological' = bad past experience is causing you to dislike the food, not some inherent quality of the food)?

And what about infant food rejection? What past experience has a 6 month old had to make her spit out carrots? And cultural aversions? How can a baby or a person who has never eaten food X be repelled by it based on some past event?

I reject the idea that it's all in our heads (some instances of it, yes, obviously) - am I wrong?

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  1. I'm not sure if my answer negates or supports your position.

    I think we may "automatically" avoid foods that make us uncomfortable. All my life, I've said I don't particularly like cooked fruit with meat. The other night, had a lovely pork loin in a grape pomegranate sauce, then spent the next 3 days with sternum-clenching heartburn.
    Why is this a big deal?
    Because I've only had heartburn 3 other times in my life.
    The very first time was when I was pregnant. I called my mother 4 states away and she laughed at me once I'd described my symptoms!!

    Thus, having had heartburn only a few times, I've never made a connection to any particular food that would induce it.
    That brings up the question -- why do I say I don't like cooked fruit with meat? An aversion that my body "knows" that my brain did not?

    Therefore, previous to last week, I had a food aversion without a KNOWN past negative experience.

    1. Some food looks inedible. For example, my mother's spinach was repulsive-looking, slimy, mushy, dark green slop. It reminded me of the clumps of grass that get stuck in the lawn mower, but as if they had been eaten by something, partially digested, then thrown back up.

      So if there are food aversions based on past experience, there should also be a category for food (either because of looks or smell) that screams "I was never intended to be eaten."

      1. Your example of a baby spitting out carrots is enough to prove your friend wrong. I know a number of people who associate a food with a prior negative physical (not psychological) experience, but that's hardly the only reason someone might reject a certain food. There are the people who taste something soapy in cilantro, for starters.

        1. The fact that some unfortunate people (like myself) taste soap when eating cilantro would seem to support the idea that aversions are not all in a person's head. I really, really want to like cilantro because so many people love it and it is found in foods I would otherwise love. I can't get past the soapy taste no matter how I try.

          1. Bitter is an aquired taste for most people. Almost all poisons are bitter in flavor, and babies tend to avoid them. Its been hardwired by a few million years of evolution. That bit of information was on some program I heard on the radio a couple of months ago, but it shouldn't be too hard to google it.

            To many people beets taste like dirt and to others cilantro tastes like soap. It is hardwired into them, they can't change how those tastes affect them. That is also very well documented.

            Other aversions are no doubt learned behavior. I got VERY sick once shortly after eating Macaroni and Cheese. No one else got sick afterwards, so it probably wasn't anything in the mac&cheese, but try telling my brain that. It was many many years before I could even stand the smell of the stuff, let alone the flavor.

            So yes, food aversion can be psychological, but it isn't always. And it can't always be overcome.

            1. When you say food aversion - are you speaking mostly of the types of cases where someone eats a dish, gets very sick, and avoids it afterwards? Or simply disliking a food?

              Most of my food dislikes have been established since childhood - however being able to travel has introduced to me new foods, some of which I don't like. To the best of my recollection - I never had nigella seeds until adulthood. And I strongly dislike them to the point if I get a bread item that has a few stray nigella seeds on them - not only will I strongly notice the taste - but even if I remove the seed I'll still notice it - unfavorably. I can't think of any psychological reason - cultural or "I got sick once" to dislike them - but I do.

              On the other hand, I feel pretty confident in saying that my ongoing dislike of bananas is probably rooted in a psychological basis. At an early age I decided I disliked them, and my mom (who loves them) tried most of my childhood to push them on me in a variety of ways. This adversarial relationship regarding a food I disliked I'm sure has done more to root the dislike as opposed to other childhood food dislikes which didn't involve so much head butting.

              3 Replies
              1. re: cresyd

                I'm speaking of simply disliking a food. I definitely think some aversions are psychological. You speak of a banana problem, I have one with raisins (as a kid someone once told me they were dead flies and I've never been able to rid myself of the association - I don't dislike the 'raisin' taste, but I can't not think of dead flies when i think of them). It's my friend's contention that all food dislikes are of the banana/raisin variety. Specifically I described my dislike of mushrooms - their texture, anyway (love the flavour, so i do eat them, but big chunks can be offputting) - there's something just ick about them in my mouth, something slimy and, yeah.

                As for sickness from a food, yes, that seems mostly uncomplicated. Same with cilantro, and it'll be interesting to see if any other food/taste aversions show a genetic basis (even with cilantro one of the main researchers was quoted saying that maybe 10% of it could be put down to genetic factors*) I *think* my friend was saying that all cases of simple dislike, where there has been no (remembered) past incidence of physical sickness, are based on something other than the inherent qualities of the food. I strongly disagree with that and wanted other opinions, because he strongly agreed and it just got me wondering. I don't like the taste of caraway. Is it because of some possibly forgotten caraway-related incident? Or do I just not like caraway? Is it possible to just find something gross tasting? I think it is. Friend thinks it isn't.

                *interesting because in my experience way more than 10% of people recognize that soapy taste (I am one of them) and the descriptions from people who like vs dislike cilantro often sound like descriptions of different foods. Even if I've disliked a taste, my description of it often matches up fairly well with the description of someone who does like it. Doesn't seem to be the case with cilantro. Tried to get my dad to like sheep's cheese and he didn't - said it was barnyardy and animalic and that the creaminess mixed with those two things was foul. I would describe it the same way but I love sheep's cheese.

                Anyway I'm intrigued by this subject (taste aversions, not my blathering abour cilantro). Appreciate all the replies!

                1. re: montrealeater

                  My father is another cilantro-tastes-like soap person. I can say that if I analyze the flavor of cilantro, there is a component that tastes like soap (maybe because I have the soapy cilantro gene as a recessive), but to me, that component is not strong enough to be unpleasant. In other words, it's not just that we taste differently, but that we taste at different intensity,

                  I loathe avocados (third generation Californian -- how is it possible I don't like avocados?). I've never had a bad experience with one, everyone in my family loves them (my mom finally started putting the avocado for the salad in a separate dish), I don't find them offensive smelling, I think they look appealing, I just can't eat them. I once overlooked a small piece of avocado that was in my Mexican seafood cocktail, but when it got into my mouth I spit it out reflexively before I even consciously recognized what it was.

                  However, I still wouldn't call that an aversion, because I don't mind having avocados around as long as I don't have to eat them. When it comes to aversion, there's nothing like egg salad. I don't want it anywhere near me. I hate the way it looks, I hate the way it smells, there's no way you could get me to taste it, and I even hate the sound it makes when someone eats it. That's aversion! But as far as I know there's no basis for my aversion. I don't think I've ever eaten it, because it's too disgusting.

                  1. re: montrealeater

                    For childhood dislikes that go into adulthood - I do think there are a lot of strong psychological things that can play into it. If nothing else other than the fact of "I've never liked X, and will never like X".

                    However, there are foods I've tried as an adult (enter nigella seeds) - and it's a taste thing. Where I live now, nigella seeds are used semi-frequently - so if anything it's just inconvenient. There are also foods that I wish I liked more such as olives and black pepper - and they remain foods that I struggle with.

                    I think a huge amount of cultural and psychological issues come into play with liking or disliking food - but I also think that biological issues of personal taste definitely play a factor.

                2. My food aversions are generally cyclical in nature. For example, I love curries, but every now and then, I can't stand the smell or taste of them. I have to have a break, eat something else. I can't even be in the same room with them without getting severely nauseous. Then a few weeks later, I'll be fine and can handle it again, even enjoy it and love it.

                  Related to a past negative experience associated with that food? Seriously? How could that possible work?

                  For the record, I have sensory processing disorders. I get overstimulated - light, sound, smell, taste, touch - and have to avoid whatever overstimulated me.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LMAshton

                    I think the past "negative experience" most people refer to is being sick to their stomach/indigestion - either due to food poisoning or another stomach ailment. There's a dish from my childhood that involves no ingredients I dislike - however, it was the first meal I had after having my tonsils removed as a child. After the meal I was violently ill, and to this day - it's a dish I want nothing to do with.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      Exactly. It took decades for me to realize that I must have once liked grape juice. The image that comes to mind when I think of grape juice is my oatmeal in my cereal bowl all purple when I thought I'd recovered from the flu well enough to go back to school. I know I haven't had any Concord grape flavored anything since, and that was almost 50 years ago.

                  2. If it's psychological, then there's the implication that one can simply "get over it". I'm one of the cilantro people (and yes, I know there are people who have forced themselves to eat it until the problem was gone), but I'm also picky. Some things just don't taste good to me - not because my mother used to beat me with fish or wash my mouth out with beets - but because I just don't like them. Where does the psychology end and personal preference/opinion begin? I have a strong negative physical reaction to the smell of cloves - I feel nauseated and get strong headaches. I have no deep-seated childhood trauma involving cloves. There are some foods I used to not eat or not like, that I do now like and eat. Part of that is growing up, but is my dislike for other foods just immaturity? It's an interesting topic, but probably not one solvable on these boards!

                    1. Taste aversion is a very interesting psychological phenomena that has a very interesting past. Today most people take this finding for granted but when taste aversion was first studied the researcher couldn't get anyone to publish his findings because they went against everything Psychology understood about learning.

                      Taste aversion can and often does develop with a single exposure. Traditionally "learning" was always thought to take multiple action/consequence exposures to "learn" (think pigeons learning to press on a lever to get fed). Taste aversion doesn't follow this pattern. We will "learn" to avoid something after one bad exposure (but can you really "learn" after one exposure was the controversy).

                      We also are more likely to blame "food" for any illness, rather than other factors. And those "single trial beliefs" stay with us for years, unlike other things we have "learned", which we forget fairly quickly (i.e. that person's name that you just met). I use Taco Bell as an example: you go out drinking, drink too much, eat Taco Bell at 2am, feel sick the next morning, blame Taco Bell. To the point where many people wont eat Taco Bell again for years, but a few days later will drink the same alcohol.

                      Taste/food psychology really is very interesting as it seems to have its own rules.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: thimes

                        A cultural/psychological element with food that I wonder how much is effected is the notion of "getting over" a food you initially disliked. For the most part, there are no other people in our lives telling us that if we gave it a third, fourth, fifth try that we'd learn to like the taste of soap. But I went to university with a guy who'd tried strawberries once, disliked them, and hadn't eaten them again.

                        Then in university he was surrounded by people who would vocally talk about how much they liked strawberries - both because they did, and because it was culturally strange to the rest of us that he didn't like strawberries. Peer pressure, maturing tastes - either way, by the end of our first semester freshman year he was happily eating strawberries.

                        Similar thing with alcohol - for most young people it's pretty common to get sick at least once following a night of drinking. And while some young drinkers will stick to statements like "no tequilla ever again" for a bit, it's not common for being sick from alcohol to result in avoiding it ever again. Partially because for lots of young people that has far greater social/cultural impact than just saying "I'm not eating at that specific restaurant because I associate it with really bad food poisoning". Also, there's more of a cultural association that sometimes alcohol results in being sick - chicken shouldn't result in being sick.

                      2. If I recall correctly from a biology class in college there is a genetic fact. This was way before the Cilantro soap popular mantra. There are some sensors on your tongue that only respond to certain molecules. There is natural variation in that, so it not just the salt, sweet, sour, bitter, it goes beyond that.

                        The same goes for color and eye sight. As an example, the professor put up a slide with about 50 green squares of various shades. He asked us to list which ones were green and which ones were yellow. Well guess what, they were all green, but some people saw more of the yellow then green and some saw none.

                        Taste buds are probably the same way.

                        1. I detest seafood. I can't stand the smell of it even. I don't even like to be at the table with people who are eating it. There's another name for sushi...we call that bait.

                          About the closest I'll come is if I'm eating Chinese, say hot and sour soup, and there's occasionally a single tiny shrimp in the mix. I've eaten Manhattan clam chowder in the distant past but it's been two decades plus since I've had it. I won't touch the New England abomination.

                          People wonder why because fishing is my favorite sport. I tell them when you play baseball, the winners don't eat the losing team.

                          I detest bell peppers. The mere smell makes me retch. I have walk to the other side of the aisle in the produce department when I'm shopping.

                          I've gotten upwards of a hundred bucks of free pizza from chain pizza delivery because they've put peppers on one of my two for one 'no bell peppers' orders and I got a refund on the whole order.

                          I also detest sun dried tomatoes. But absolutely love fresh ones.

                          1. It’s funny but I do think what a mother eats during pregnancy and definitely while breastfeeding can influence a child tastes. So why not in reverse? I don’t think its guarantee and I have no "studies" to back it up just something I have always thought.

                            When a baby is breast fed the taste of the milk they are getting is constantly changing. Even the texture changes while they are eating. In essence they are getting exposed to different flavors all the time.

                            The foods I ate a lot of during my pregnancy and while BFing are all my sons favorite foods and have been since he started on solids. His first food was avocados- of which I ate, in one form or another, every single day. The foods I never ate due to my dislike of them he doesn’t care for either even though I made a point of offering them often.

                            My number one food aversion is green peppers. I am not allergic but they make me feel ill and give me terrible heartburn. I will taste a green pepper for days if eat one accidently. While I can tolerate other colors I just don’t like them and never eat them if I can help it. Since day one he would spit out any and all peppers. When he was about 6 he caught on that while I served them I never ate them myself. At age 11 he will eat the occasional yellow or orange pepper at school but will not eat a green one. His dad on the other hand is green pepper fan. I think he east some kinds of peppers 3-4 times a week.

                            So to answer your question- I don’t think they are “all in our head” and due to some food related trauma.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: foodieX2

                              I have experienced something very similar. I am an adventurous eater, and the only time I threw up when I was pregnant with my daughter was after drinking cranberry juice (I'd had it before, but never since). That same daughter can't stand cranberry juice either. So, which aversion is which? Did her tiny being tell my body that it couldn't tolerate it, or the other way around?

                              1. re: susan1353

                                Who knows!! :)

                                Growing babies is about the biggest scientific wonder to me. I get how our bodies do it but it is still an amazing thing to me.

                              2. re: foodieX2

                                Most people find Green Bell peppers the most harsh. That is why when you see roasted peppers in the grocery store the are always red or yellow.

                                About the only thing they are really good on are pizza if sliced really thin, like almost shaved. And I think they are a standard in Sloppy Joes. Also why the Red and Yellow are more expensive.

                              3. With children, my philosophy is: You Never Can Tell.

                                With adults, it is learned. An aversion (a strong repugnance) is not a question of taste, but a kind of phobia. I call them Food Fears.

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: Steve

                                  And if you have an aversion to a movie or a tv show or a book or a song, is that also a fear? Because I don't think I'm scared of Girls. I just don't like it. In much the same way that I just don't like zucchini.

                                  1. re: small h

                                    That's just a question of taste. Like if you said I don't like my mother's meat loaf, but I like Aunt Jenny's meatloaf. You do not have an aversion to meatloaf, just one in particular. I don't think this thread is about that.

                                    This thread is more about: I have an aversion to eating intestines or raisins or cold food. Or zucchini.

                                    Do you really find zucchini repugnant? Or do you just not like it?

                                    If so, yeah, somewhere along the way you learned it. It has to be of the body or the mind if it's a categorical aversion. Unless you think it's spiritual, but that has to do with the mind as well.

                                  2. re: Steve

                                    See, this is exactly the side my friend falls on. I guess what I want to know is - why? Why do you think it is learned for adults? Do you think it is always learned, or only sometimes? At what age does it become learned and not You Never Can Tell? If children can have no obvious cause for a dislike, why not an adult?

                                    Good point above, too re: the TV show Girls. In the 'things we perceive with our senses' category, why is food put in the 'phobia' category and not, as per the example, a TV show?

                                    In short, what proof do you have, if any, that it is always a 'phobia' with an adult, or something learned? What about a food youve never seen or tasted before and an instant dislike of it - how can that be a phobia?

                                    Still curious about this.

                                    1. re: montrealeater

                                      The difference between children and adults should be obvious. For children at a very early age, it can be difficult to tell why exactly they are rejecting something. After that, children can have other reasons for the rejection other than dislike. Children often exhibit behavior that would be unacceptable as an adult, so why not with food? Stubbornness is one obvious possibility. But below is another widespread example:

                                      I fully expect not to like anything that is totally foreign to me the first time I taste it. As Checkov said, "All new forms seem formless at first." The lack of exposure to something can cause an aversion. Nobody is born liking opera or long novels. And I wouldn't take middle-schoolers to a Bergman double feature. Tastes have to be developed. An exotic cuisine often takes some effort which would not be possible with a child who has not had the time or maturity for that.

                                      But if you have developed an aversion.... yes I think that has its roots in something psychological.

                                      The physical is another story: clearly food could make you sick. If you have a peanut allergy, then you might like peanuts and still not be able to eat them.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        OK, children can reject foods for reasons other than dislike, yes. And totally foreign foods can be (can be, not always are?) offputting solely for their alien qualities the first time.

                                        I can agree with both of those points and I still don't see why that = all adult food aversions are psychological. You still haven't given me a *reason* to believe it. I'm not trying to be an ass, I really am interested in why you think as you do. I could be wrong, too.

                                        How would you fit Cresyd's nigella seed issue into your 'it's all psychological' theory?

                                        I'm starting to wonder if this discussion hinges quite a bit on semantics. Are we understanding word meanings in different ways? I'm understanding your argument (and my friend's argument) as somewhat along the lines of 'if you eat something as an adult and really don't like the taste, you don't *really* dislike the taste, it's some other reason, other than inherent foulness'. Am I misunderstanding you?

                                    2. re: Steve

                                      I have a question regarding foods that you only encounter as an adult. I subscript that foods I dislike as an adult that I began disliking as a child may be linked to a food fear.

                                      However, my example of nigella seeds doesn't work for me. I only encountered them when I moved to the Middle East - and as they're often sprinkled on bread (and some kinds of cheese), I've had them far more often than I would choose as it's common for a few nigella seeds to end up on a non-nigella seed flavored bread item. And I hate the taste. If I pick a nigella seed off the bread, I can still taste an offensive flavor.

                                      Now unlike childhood food dislikes, I don't spit out the offending bite or throw out the rest of the bread. But the food experience as enjoyable is lost and I'm just not being wasteful. Exactly what my fear of the nigella seed is - other than a dislike of its taste - I'd have a hard time narrowing down.

                                      1. re: cresyd

                                        Your nigella seed thing is exactly why I'm skeptical of the 'it's all psychological' stance. How could it be, in your case? And there are many cases similiar to yours.

                                        1. re: cresyd

                                          I suppose there is a question of defining our terms. I don't see a preference or dislike the same as an aversion. There has to be a significant strength to an aversion as I see it. I would never put mayo on a freshly steamed corned beef sandwich, and I would consider that an aversion. It is definitely learned.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            In your sense of the terms of aversion to dislike I do agree that things fit into either a psychological fear or rejection of a food item, or a cultural concept that such a food or dish "isn't" food.

                                            However, I do think that there are biological answers as to why some individuals have a very strong dislike or rejection of food. You have the cilantro tastes like soap, the idea of super tasters, or those who have stronger senses of smell that will be quicker to sense/be turned off by the sulfur in a hard boiled egg.

                                            1. re: cresyd

                                              Very true, good points all. Also, stinky tofu and Durian both smell like rotting garbage. That'll keep a lot of people away.

                                              Cilantro used to taste like soap to me but no longer does, so I know it is possible to experience a change. Though I have no idea what accounts for that.

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Stinky tofu and durian I think are fascinating because it's a whole new factor in the question of "what is food". I don't think of tree bark as food - but I do eat cinnamon, and while I know it has no real caloric value, I still think of it as "food".

                                                Foods with a strong smell more associated with garbage can be really hard mentally to cross the barrier in "this smells like garbage but still is food". On a more moderate level - something like jarred gefilte fish often smells and can look a bit like cat food - which again brings to mind the question of "is this food". Durian is at the extreme level of a smell strongly signaling "NOT FOOD", but it's definitely a spectrum of where the biological yucky smells transitions into the cultural thoughts of "this isn't food for people".

                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                  We always have a jar of gefilte fish in the fridge. And we don't even have a cat!

                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                    I think the likes of gefilte fish definitely help if your raised with it - the inverse of "I hated it as a child but like it now as an adult". Rather the "had I not started eating this in childhood - not sure I would like this now".

                                                    I was raised with, I love it - but I sympathize with those who equate it to cat food. Also with the jar, my grandmother used to just eat the jelly with the spoon - and in the realm of bad food memories, that still grosses me out.

                                          2. re: cresyd

                                            If your aversion to nigella seeds is not psychological, then do you think it's physical? Is your body somehow different than someone else's body regarding nigella seeds? What other choices are there?

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              I don't know - regarding how my body is different, I know that I have a more sensitive sense of smell regarding certain fragrances than others. Not in the sense of being allergic or getting headaches - but a strong rush of certain smells that I find very strong and lead me to light headedness/fainting. According to doctors it's just one of many triggers that lead to me having a vasovagal syncope. It's not something that every human deals with, but it's also not rare. There are lots of features like that which make one body different from another - but not hugely unique.

                                        2. A bit of both. For starters, when I was a baby Mom attempted to feed me some kind of baby food meat product - with negative results. I'd eat it and my face would wrinkle in disgust. She finally tasted it and discovered why!

                                          I live in an ocean-bordered state, and have had food poisoning as a result several times. I now avoid fried oysters, cream of crab soup and macaroni and cheese from Sheetz (granted, none of these were probably a good idea, esp. the third one).

                                          As far as the psychological dislike of food that you were going for, I have never eaten asparagus with Hollandaise sauce again after having contracted the flu right afterwards. Not a particularly nice experience.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: aslovesfood

                                            My mom served us fried mush with honey for supper the night all three of us came down with stomach flu. The bedroom was awash in used mush and honey … while this did not affect my attitude towards mush, she never fed us fried mush again, but couldn't understand why I couldn't abide honey. I was well into my teens before I could tolerate it again, and I'm still not nuts about it 65 years later.

                                            I'm also pretty sure that my almost lifelong aversion to sweet custard (while I adore the savory versions) had its genesis in the many dishes of bread pudding Mom made during the WW2 rationing years; as a mother with small children she was allowed all the milk, bread, eggs and sugar she could buy, and I dreaded yet another lunch of that hated goo.

                                          2. The examples of cilantro and ginger tasting soapy are not aversions. Similarly, beets, as mentioned, and papaya and mango, all taste dirty/ruddy to me. I tasted them completely expecting to like them... and didn't.

                                            Another example -- as a child, I ordered a salad in a restaurant, leaving out the bacon... It was a cobb salad... I discovered that night that I do not like avocado or blue cheese. I remember biting into the salad and thinking, "Oh lord, what's that mushy bit that tastes awful? And what tastes like mold?" Process of elimination... avocado and blue cheese, respectively.

                                            Aversion? Shredded tortillas strips... had food poisoning on a Mexican pizza topped with them as a teen... needless to say after seeing something twice in one night, the very thought turns my stomach now.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Emme

                                              That's interesting - I get the 'dirt' thing with beets, although I don't dislike them for it, but mango and papaya don't taste dirt-y AT ALL to me. Perhaps you have more 'dirt' receptors on your tongue than me? :)

                                              1. re: montrealeater

                                                what can i say... maybe i didn't eat enough dirt as a kid...

                                            2. Perception can be influenced by appearance, smell, texture, or simply reading about the food and finding something unpalatable in its origin or manner of manufacture. Interestingly, the cilantro like/dislike appears to have a genetic basis.

                                              http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/din...

                                              1. I think for me (a psychologist) I'm not sure what we mean in this thread when we say "psychological".

                                                Are we trying to determine if food aversion is under our conscious control - and thus psychological? If that is what we mean, then I would say no, food aversions are not all psychological - i.e. not all based on conscious/recallable/learned experiences.

                                                Food/taste/instinct are very much a lower brain order and not necessarily subject to our rational/higher brain functions.

                                                For me that is still psychological but I'm not sure in the same way the general public thinks about psychology.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: thimes

                                                  The BIG question is: how does life on Earth manifest itself?

                                                  Everything has to be either physical, intellectual, or emotional, though clearly there is overlap.

                                                  Physical I would say are those people whose throats constrict when they eat peanuts or get acid reflux.

                                                  Psychological is not liking 'yucky' foods, and I guess that aversion can come from many sources, from lack of exposure to a physical fear of choking on something wriggling in your mouth.

                                                  Take the example of eating live baby octopus. Extremely common in Korea, where many enjoy the sensation of the suckers clinging to the inside of their mouth. (Often while drinking copious amounts of alcohol). However, there may be many Koreans who are grossed out about this for obvious reasons even if they've been exposed to it.

                                                  1. re: thimes

                                                    Thank you for this. I shouldn't have used the word 'psychological' in the first post (or the word 'aversion') because it's blurring the issue. In my original argument with my friend we were both using it to mean 'psychological' = you don't REALLY dislike it, you just think you do (and could therefore get over it).

                                                    1. re: montrealeater

                                                      Oh yeah, I think a lot of people could get over a lot their dislikes if they are avoiding a whole category of food or even a particular dish.

                                                      As someone who grew up in a seafood averse family, I can tell you that it is a formidable aversion to overcome, but really worth the effort.

                                                      In the infamous case of the nigella seeds, I suppose that is a lost cause. And it's hardly worth the effort.... I've been successfully avoiding nigella seeds all my life and didn't even know it!

                                                  2. As someone who has never met a food he didn't like (although, I have to ingest some foul preparations) this subject fascinates me. Particularly because it's between other food geeks and it seems like many of 'em have food aversions. I'm just glad that, for whatever reason, I don't "hate" anything (I will admit, however, that overcooked steak does kinda suck).

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                      Are your friends aware of your tastes? Because if I was your friend I would almost certainly spend an annoying amount of time trying to find something that disgusted you. Have you tried the brains slow-stewed in ditch runoff? :)

                                                      1. re: montrealeater

                                                        That might be fun - but you gotta provide the tequila or beer.

                                                    2. Where else should a thought be but in our heads? I see posts on the Chicago board looking for a really good place to get tacos with cow eyeballs in them. My head tells me that is a disgusting idea. I have no agenda to eat an eyeball. So what? It's a free country.

                                                      1. I think it's a tangled mess of tastebuds, psychology, past experiences, and personality.

                                                        An example of personality/psychology would be my mother. "I just don't like the LOOK of it" or "the idea of it" or "that just doesn't sound like it goes together".

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          Oh, and I forgot hormones....as in pregnancy.

                                                        2. Several years ago my wife started to take Boniva (treatment for osteoporosis), and immediately developed an intense aversion to bacon and canned tuna, both of which she previously loved and ate often. She has since switched to another med, but still cannot eat either of those things.