Letters: ‘I’d Stop Hating Beets If They’d Stop Tasting Like Dirt’

Readers discuss what causes food aversions—and what might cure them.

Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

How to Stop Hating Your Least Favorite Food

“As far as I can remember,” Amanda Mull wrote last week, “I’ve never liked cucumbers, mostly because they taste bad.” After talking with a handful of experts in her quest to figure out why humans have aversions to certain foods in the first place, Mull learned that there’s no neat explanation; preferences can arise from genetic differences, exposure, emotional ties, or simply an innate dislike.

The author made some cogent points regarding the flavor of certain foods, but my big bugaboo is texture, or mouthfeel, if you will. I don’t dislike a lot of foods, but okra, for example, just feels limp and gross when I attempt to eat it. Same with raw fish. And there are some foods that have absolutely no reason to exist, like celery, which is more work to consume than it’s worth (cucumbers fit in there as well).

Sharon Tagle
Tampa, Fla.

Learning to enjoy a food you dislike is simply a matter of conditioning: Try ritually eating your cucumbers only in the presence of a specific person who gives you great joy, or when in a place you find especially comfortable or invigorating. In doing so, you will begin to associate cucumbers with a much loved experience, and even come to enjoy the taste. Our deepest preferences arise from the sense of security we associate with an experience. Taste, memory, security, identity are all built on the slow accumulation of associations and experiences.

Zac Albrecht
Madison, Wis.

Many readers responded on Facebook:

David Augustyn wrote: That’s what they said about raisins, Satan’s turds.

Emilie St wrote: I’ve given mushrooms a chance plenty of times. Still a hard no.

Elaine Pechim responded: Same here. I eat and love all vegetables and fruits, for real, but mushrooms are a big NO. It just tastes disgusting. Even the smell makes me gag.

Leigh Taylor wrote: I’d stop hating beets if they’d stop tasting like dirt.

Norma Neuberg responded: I thought the same until I had a Greek beet salad.

Carrie Leigh wrote: Protip: Ignore watery, waxy American cucumbers and go straight for the English/Hothouse/Seedless variety. Totally different eating experience.

Paul Lee responded: Lebanese/Persian/Japanese varieties are also amazing.

Megan Bowlus wrote: I use to hate Brussels sprouts til I roasted them in bacon and butter. Now I’m a convert.

Zabe Harmony wrote: There are too many amazing veggies out there. Cauliflower does not spark joy, I threw it in the pit.

Kimberly Gonzalez responded: I also detest cauliflower except when riced. You can hide it in a stir fry or in place of rice in almost anything and you don’t notice it! Works great if you’re trying to cut carbs or just up your veggie intake.

Zabe Harmony responded: I made myself eat it riced for awhile... until I discovered riced broccoli. Bam, cauliflower in the bin. Take your pizza crusts and mashed potato facsimiles and get out.

John Matylonek wrote: Cucumbers are 90 percent water. Humans are basically cucumbers with anxiety.

Hutch Cathey responded: Truth

Karen Tutcher Austin wrote: I’ll take cucumbers any day instead of cilantro. Cilantro is the devil’s weed!