Learning to like what you think you don’t

An article for today, from NPR: “How Do We Grow To Like The Foods We Once Hated?”

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Photo: Toshi-koshi soba. Believe it or not, I didn’t like soba the first time I tried it.

Yesterday I was talking to a woman who was guiding some people from Indonesia around Japan. She said she was surprised when, at various restaurants, they pulled out a container of some spicy condiment from their bag because they thought the food here was generally too bland. They even did it at a sushi restaurant.

While this may not be very polite, it’s certainly understandable, if they customarily eat very spicy food. Foods we like have nothing to do with our “race” or ethnicity. They have everything to do with how we grew up. I don’t like natto, but it’s not because I’m not Japanese. It’s because I didn’t grow up eating it. Maybe that’s splitting hairs, but many students I meet seem to attribute these likes/dislikes to ethnicity.

But dislike of certain foods or flavors is not something you can’t overcome. And if you think you hate something even though you’ve never tried it (the Japanese language has one very handy word to describe that: 食わず嫌い, “kuwazu-girai”,  literally “hate without eating”), then you have no excuse. Try it!

Some of the things I thought I didn’t like the first time I tried them, but now are some of my favourite foods: soba noodles, mugi-cha (barley tea), fava beans (sora-mame), satsuma-age (fried fish cakes).

Fava beans are on the list because I hated them as a child. Why? Because I was served over-cooked (boiled to death, really) beans. There’s another lesson: it may just be the way you’re eating those foods you don’t like.

Natto is next on my list. What about you?

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3 thoughts on “Learning to like what you think you don’t

  1. Strange things make us sometimes shocked, because they are really more tasty than we judge and imagine from their figures. One day I wish I could try some milk in America with a mega-sized hamburgers.^^

  2. Well, the first time I tried soba, it was my first time in Japan and I wasn’t the expert I am today 😉 I suppose saying I didn’t like it isn’t quite accurate. I’d say it was a very unfamiliar taste to me, and I wasn’t used to it yet. Just like mugi-cha. But it didn’t take me long to love both.

    Thanks for your comment, and I hope you continue to try new things, too!

  3. I am so surprised to hear that you didn’t like soba, even though the person who learned well about this country like you has some trouble eating our hometown’s food. But I also respect your spirit and attitude, with which you try positively.

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