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).
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.