2018-01-21 / Family

A matter of taste over time

By JANINE TALBOT
Columnist

Over breakfast last week I was enjoying a grapefruit half when I had a flashback of my childhood days. Back then, Big Sis and I were forced by our obviously cruel parents to eat the occasional grapefruit half. We would, by way of defending our taste buds, douse each grapefruit serving with a pound of sugar. You can disguise almost anything with enough sugar. I grew up believing there was no other way to eat that horrid fruit.

Today, Spouse and I eat grapefruit like we eat oranges – peel it and pop a piece in your mouth. Funny how your taste changes over the years, as well as how much camouflage you use to deem certain foods edible.

My mate and I have had many conversations about what foods such as spinach and Brussels sprouts looked and tasted like when we were kids. Our moms boiled spinach, which was nothing like the sweet baby spinach we buy these days. My mom then soaked it with lemon because she thought that would cover up the fact that I was eating green shoelaces.

Brussels sprouts were also boiled until they became softened, yellowish-green hacky-sacks. I masked their pungent flavor and my own disgust with heaping piles of mashed potatoes. Same with peas - the only way I would let a pea pass through my lips was within a mountain of mashed potatoes. You can disguise almost anything with mashed potatoes, that is, if it can’t be helped with sugar.

With kids, it’s not necessarily that the food looks squishy or sour or that it didn’t come from MacDonald’s. It could just be that it’s different, ergo, unacceptable to young taste buds.

When First Born was a toddler she was a fussy eater. I always thought baby food looked too gross to eat, but it was regular food – the good stuff - that she refused to try. Eventually I learned that almost anything was acceptable if it was on Daddy’s dinner plate. Spouse became a pro at juggling a fork on one side and a squirmy 2-year-old on the other while she picked at his meal.

I wonder if everyone has foods they avoided as kids that are now favorites. Did you chew steak until it became soggy shoe leather, only to crave a good steak as an adult? Did you hate broccoli then and eat it in any form you can get it now?

There weren’t many foods I avoided as a kid, but liver was on the top of my no-contact list. My mom was determined to get me to try it, but the smell alone gave me the shivers. One evening she made a favorite of mine - breaded chicken breasts. I was halfway through my meal when she asked if I liked it. I nodded enthusiastically. She gave me a half smile and said, “It’s liver.”

Frozen in mid-chew, I couldn’t decide whether to spit it out or gulp. What neither of us expected was that my eyes would fill with tears – not because I was eating Food Nemesis Number One – it was the taste of betrayal that I felt. Suddenly she changed her tune.

“I’m kidding – it’s chicken.” And it really was. She had just wanted to gauge my reaction to the possibility that I might like something I had sworn to hate. My advice to parents is: do not try this at home. That little tricked out trick caused me to be suspicious every time we had breaded chicken breasts after that. My mother’s reaction seesawed between guilt and frustration as I examined and dissected my supper like a surgeon.

Everyone outgrows certain things and adjusts to others. Then again, I realized last night as we feasted on breaded chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli, some things never change… including liver being at the top of my no-contact list.

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