Thanks, but No Thanks

What is the science behind taste-bud evolution? Or changes in food preferences?

I’m sure I can google that and find a citation-lacking wikipedia article with a scientific explanation; but my Firefox might crash if I dare open another tab

The gist of what I am trying to say: How interesting it is that some of our food preferences evolve as we age; and how there are some which remain the same- and what role environment plays in the shaping of these preferences?

I, for one was an incredibly picky child; the list of things I would eat could be surmised in one breath: (white) bread and butter, pasta with bechamel/alfredo/any white sauce, McDonalds quarter pounders w/ fries, filet mignon, oreos & peanut butter, kiwis, walkers monster munchie crisps, and gushers.

Of course there were the other related items; namely recess snacks made by Walker’s, Nabisco, Cadbury, or Philadelphia (anyone remember those CHEESECAKE bars?); and I was that child who made friends by sharing my S’mores Ritz sandwiches.

Despite the prevalence of what would now be deemed “processed and nutritionally void” snacks, my mother was still an advocate of healthy eating and these snacks would be the prized treat of the day. My elementary lunches tended to be koshary (Egyptian rice with lentils/hot sauce/yogurt salad), hummus with pita (before it became trendy, mind you), PB&J on whole grain bread (I only pretended to like the wholemeal bread because my best friend, Maya did), and I rarely ever forked over the ten dirhams for the very subpar cafeteria fare.

Plus I thought tater tots were weird…and still do

Regardless of our daily packaged snack consumption, Nora and I were very healthy, active, and vibrant children- we ate what we wanted (which sometimes was tabbouleh or fruit salad) and were oblivious to nutritional composition/facts/stigmas. How refreshing, right? It actually scares me how nowadays young children are so exposed to the concept of ‘good and bad foods,’ but as that is cliche and off-topic I will not delve there.

Nowadays, however, I fully admit that I cannot remember the last time I ate a bag of crisps or a pack of Oreos. I have tried them, sure, but they just do not taste the same as I remembered. Too salty, too sweet, too energy-depleting. I am no fun on “roadtrips,” I won’t go into the petrol station for a half litre of coke and Doritos- I’ll stick to my baby bries and dried mango. Sometime in my adolescence, I went through several reevaluations of my approach to food and within a few years was able to strike a balance between health and personal preferences– and discover a previously unearthed passion for the creative aspects of it.

Yes, I am somewhat of a food snob (and afford it by searching what’s on sale at all my favourite grocers/buying one less pair of shoes per month); but in my mind that is an improvement from being a calorie-snob. I consume plenty of cheeses, cakes, chocolates, and fancy oils; but in true balance I  also  crave and make sure to get in all my greens and proteins. Contrary to misguided magazine-doled advice, I do eat late at night; copious amounts of Dave’s Killer Bread SinDawg with Fage 2%, and I love it and wouldn’t trade Dave’s company for Debbie, Betty, or Duncan.

But, a few things which have NOT changed (and probably never will)? My distaste for celery, goat cheese, and fishy things.

And yes, I am that person who will occasionally order a salad at a college sports bar (in my defense I hadn’t had dinner yet so I needed a balanced meal):

Spinach, feta, grilled chicken, red onion, pine nuts

And, since it’s a sports bar they will still give you copious amounts of honey mustard dressing and garlic cheese bread on the side. I asked if they had balsamic and olive oil and the waitress just looked at me as if I was from Mars.

For $7.00, it was a decent and fillling albeit RIDICULOUSLY salty (I honestly don’t even know how considering I’m talking about the salad prior to dressage).

But, I do sometimes go for the chicken wings…you know when there’s a Blazers game on or something:

Point of this whole post: I really have no idea. I just wanted an excuse to post that childhood picture of my sister and I at McDonalds; so there’s 800 words of it for ya. Peace, love, and ketchup packets

Tryon Creek Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

So tell me: How have your taste/food preferences changed throughout your life?

Have the changes been due to external/environmental influences? Events in your life? Illnesses/newfound allergies that had to result in dietary reevaluation?

What did your childhood lunchbox have in it?

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29 thoughts on “Thanks, but No Thanks

  1. What an interesting post- I was a very similar kid to you. I was actually a vegetarian, but it was by my own choice as a toddler, not my parents. My mom was very into healthy eating but also bought a lot of the processed crap that we begged for (gushers included). I think she just was desperate for me to eat SOMETHING, even if it was crap. I sure ate a lot of potatoes and rice and ramen noodles as a kid! These days, I just feel like most processed food tastes like mush, there isn’t enough texture for me, and it definitely tastes too salty and makes me a little ill. I still eat chips sometimes, I still eat candy bars, but I can tell the difference when I eat them.

    • You became vegetarian as a toddler? How adorable; was it for ethical reasons? I ate TONS of potatoes as a kid; with butter on top- in fact it’s funny, but I don’t remember being particularly keen on protein as a child; but just tons of the white stuff and butter-funny how that’s changed; perhaps dietary needs shift with age (like I needed far more carbohydrates and fats in childhood). Yeah, I still eat candy bars every so often as well- the ones I really like, but it’s true I feel most sluggish when I eat an unbalanced/nutritionally-void meal, plus from getting used to eating such pure foods, that’s what I naturally crave.

  2. I love that picture!! So classic. And, I love thinking back to my childhood. My lunchbox had PB&J or turkey sandwiches, baked lays, Zebra Cakes, Juicy Juice, and an apple (that’s what I remember, mainly, and sometimes Gushers!). I was very healthy, most of the time, but my mom always allowed treats (hence the Zebra cakes). I was not picky at all, AT ALL, and I would eat whatever my mom made. There were a few random things I didn’t like, such as crunchy PB (had to have smooth) but other than that I didn’t like tofu and artichoke, which I LOVE now!!! But really, what kid likes those things?!

    • I was also freaked out by artichokes…that and eggplants which are now two of my favourite vegetables! I also was only able to tolerate my PB being smooth; then when I was older I wanted the ultra chunky one…funny how it changes :)

  3. I was a super picky child and my snacks/treats looked very similar to your likes. My mom was always an advocate of real food first so I think I had a good balance. It is always tough for parents I think to find a balance between giving kids healthy food and also letting them enjoy a few “kid foods” in between.

    • Very true; it’s great that nowadays ‘kid foods’ are getting healthier facelifts; but still I think as long as a kid is eating balanced meals, a pack of gushers or some cheetos isn’t going to hurt anyone :)

  4. I’m not surprised that you guys were healthy kids – it’s not excluding ‘unhealthy’ foods that makes people healthy, it’s including healthy ones. You guys had a solid baseline, so what you ‘decorated’ with was up to you! :P

    • So true- it is about including healthy ones; I mean i think that completely ruling out ‘unhealthy’ foods is a little unhealthy in it of itself

  5. Ahhh can’t believe you mentioned Monster Munchies..those were my FAVE growing up, either flamin’ hot or pickled onion! I was the dork who’d put each in my finger haha! Love this post, Sara a.k.a my fellow food snob! I really think taste buds are a case of nurture instead of nature! They are constantly evolving and more than taste, it’s about perception! I used to view broccoli and veggies in general as ‘disgusting’! Now the whole way I see them has changed: pretty green trees that taste amazing if cooked right, versatile and a powerhouse of nutrients. Same with avocado- I used to never eat them during my anal days because of the fat content and hence my aversion towards them…now I can’t get enough of that creamy goodness! I could go on but to spare you, I won’t! Also, just for the record- I used to be the Maccy D queen…I’m talking about orders of 18 chicken nuggets at a time! The thought of eating even one now makes me want to barf! Despite all this, I am still partial to Oreos- love ‘em!

    • The pickled onion Monster Munchies were KING in my lunchbox! My dad couldn’t understand how I could like pickled onion crisps; but they were SO GOOD- I also used to love those Bugles! Haha as a kid I used to only pretend to like broccoli to be all ‘better than thou’ than the other kids, but really I thought it was gross and would only eat the bushy bits. And yes, avocado is something I JUST started liking as well- I mean it does taste rather plain without anything, but once pizzazzed up it can give the finest texture and creaminess!
      18 chicken nuggets, Khushboo? Are we the same person? I was ordering quarter pounders and big macs when I was 7…no happy meals here! Gross.
      And yes, Oreos are the best- I still love them too; especially with peanut butter or as the crust to my cheesecake ;)

  6. Great post, very interesting topic! I was never a picky eater, but my tastes have changed very drastically over time. I am much open to new/crazy foods now than I was as a child, and I like all the vegetables that I didn’t as a child. And the things that I loved back then, are no longer my favorites and I can most definitely do without… um bologna? no thanks. a McDonald’s burger and milkshake, i’ll pass. it’s not only that those things aren’t good for me, I’m always up for a splurge on something I love even if it’s not healthy, but they geniunely don’t taste good to me anymore!

    • Yes; and I HAVE tried a mcdonalds burger since my childhood and it just doesn’t taste like how I remember it…I think my standards have become far more refined.

  7. Love the wing eating action shot! U just look so classy doing it, ha!

    I used to LOVE tater tots dipped in MAYO! Talk about a heart attack! lol! Yup I eat WAY different now!

    Goat cheese! <3

    • Why thank you ;) Real girls eat chicken wings…or something like that
      And tater tots in MAYO?! Too funny! My little sister has this thing she likes to call ‘trailer park dinner’ where she puts on a baking sheet tater tots, dino chicken nuggets, tempura shrimp…basically all the beige fried/breaded frozen food you can imagine, then eats it with ranch and mayo.

  8. Wow, I think I do remember those Philadelphia Cheesecake bars…wow, was that really such a long time ago? Haha…

    My lunchbox as a kids included gushers (which I hated and my friends would fight for), as well as some “exotic” things like hummus and carrots. When one of my classmate’s compared it to barf though, I couldn’t look at it for a while :(

    I also remember eating cheetos flamin hot asteroids in those containers with the top that also served as a cup, smores ritz, lunchables (nachos and pizza…only vegetarian options), dessert lunchables (the brownie was the best!), and Swoops (they were like pringles-shaped chocolate?)

  9. Hahaha i love the picture of you and the chicken wings. And those phily cheesecake bars?! Totallly forgot about those packs of deliciousness. I had a large obsession with Homemade Brand Peanut Butter Ice Cream. as in every night. And every breakfast was Honey Bunches of Oats. I still love both ;)

  10. Great post, very interesting words here! I used to eat sooo much worse when I was younger.. junk food up the wazoo. There weren’t things and ideas in my house that were thought of as good and bad foods… I just adapted my healthy habits on my own. And then of course I went overboard and now am trying to find that balance!

  11. Ahh this post rocked!!! So interesting and thoughtful. My tastes have changed so much, and definitely continue to do so. I used to HATE mushrooms and fish, and now I love both. Actually, I used to love fish, and then hate it, and now love it again. I still hate truffles (the smell makes me want to vomit), but I can definitely handle (and sometimes crave) mushrooms. It is so bizarre. It’s like I woke up one day and changed my mind, hah!

    I definitely crave healthy foods a lot of the time. When I go out with friends/my bf, I like to splurge and treat myself…but sometimes I really do want that massive salad!

    • Thanksss and yes I also used to despise mushrooms and fish! I still can’t do smelly fish or canned mushrooms (GROSS) but otherwise love them both.

  12. Love this post Sara! I agree my taste buds have definitely evolved since I was a kid. I was hardly a picky eater especially in comparison to my older brother who wouldn’t touch most veggies with a 10-foot pole. I pretty much ate everything until a bad dish of beef stroganoff when I was 12 turned me off meat completely. I also used to douse EVERYthing in salt – I mean literally, I would salt every bite of food sometimes and but now I can’t stand anything that’s too salty.

    I’m thankful to my parents for letting me have a good mix of different things growing up – healthy and unhealthy. I’ve loved avocados since I was 7 but I also had my fair share of meeno chips. Maintaining a good balance is definitely key!

    • Just curious, did you become vegan initially from the bad stroganoff? I actually got turned off by eggs for three years from some nasty ones I had at a hotel breakfast.

  13. Great post! My taste buds have changed so much since i was little. I used to have a terrible sweet tooth and was constantly snacking on dried fruit (any kind! + even better when covered in chocolate). I now mostly prefer savoury stuff over sweet (except when it comes to superdark chocolate and CCKatie’s desserts).
    I think by experimenting with food and reading other people’s blog you get to try a lot of new recipes that introduce you to to food that you might not have tasted before- and that can change your taste buds too!

    • So true; there are so many incredible ingredients I’ve learned about through reading blogs (such as how versatile kale can be), various mixtures, etc.

  14. I love this picture! I think we all have our own Mickey D family photos centered around fish fillets and fries. :)

    I am a total food snob now. I haven’t eaten a packet of “crisps” (love that you used that word) in ages either…and I don’t miss them! I think that as I’ve aged I’ve realized that it’s okay to spend $30 on a piece of salmon once in a while instead of eating sub-quality salmon more often.

    • Haha if you ever come to Portland we can go be food snobs together! I am most certainly a quality over frequency type of person; I will gladly eat several shabby homemade meals to afford a lobster feast on the weekend :)

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