It is said that if you plug your nose and close your eyes, you will not be able to distinguish between an apple and an onion when biting into them. I don’t have any basis for this comparison since I’ve never tried this experiment, but I do know that when I have a cold and my nose is plugged, food loses its taste.
Science has verified what we already mostly know; that taste is dependant largely upon smell, so since these two senses are so intrinsically tied, it makes sense that they be the first two in my series.
As a pre-schooler, I was a very finicky eater; my mother tried nearly every trick in the book to get me to eat. Having endured many health issues during her pregnancy and being told by doctors that it was possible I would not live, she was determined to keep me alive if for no other reason than to prove them wrong, so when she found the few foods I took a liking to, she fed me those constantly. Over the years, I was coaxed and cajoled into trying other foods and today have a much larger menu than I did fifty years ago.
However, those early experiences have left me with limited flavour preferences. I am known to loathe anything sour or bitter, but recently have begun to accept a few new flavours. The sour of vinegar is less unpleasant now than in years gone by. I prefer sweeter tastes, and preferred such things as peanut butter and jam sandwiches, ice cream, and baked goods until well into my adult life.
It was also decided at an early age that I enjoyed meat. Beef, pork (and ham) and chicken were all staples in our household, and I ate with great vigour. As in many maritime homes, the staple diet at our house was “meat ‘n’ potatoes” with a side vegetable. My parents were fortunate enough to have enough land that they could plant a small garden and grew many vegetables such as beans, peas, carrots, corn, and potatoes as well as lettuce, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers etc. and stored them in a cool room in our basement. This garden was not a health or lifestyle choice but one of finances; it was simply cheaper to grow their own than to buy at a store or supermarket. Still, my choices were limited despite the availability of home-grown vegetables. I really wasn’t fond of them.
There was something about pasta that resonated within me as a youth, and the choice of topping was typically a tomato base with meat added. Today that is still a much favoured meal for me.
In some cases, I partook of tastes simply in order to “fit in” as many teenagers do. While I hated the taste of beer, I drank it to socialize with my friends. I eventually developed a taste for it, but again, I think it was what it did to me that I sought rather than the taste.
Sometimes we are forced by circumstances to try new flavours. Once I became a professional drummer and was on tour for extended periods of time, I would find myself in situations where “eat or go hungry” was the order of the day. In this manner, I learned to enjoy Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Greek food. When my spousal unit began to develop health problems in the late 1980s, we began to look at our diet and made a conscious effort to eat more organic, more beneficial foods, some of which tasted like nothing I want to taste again.
I think we are as intrinsically drawn to the food of our upbringing as we are to the familiar surroundings of where we spent our youth. My father was a prolific salmon fisherman, and caught as many as legally possible to store in our deep freeze. Trout were also a favourite staple in our diet. I can see now that this was again probably financial but it was good food and plentiful at that time. However, to this day, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, I prefer freshwater fish to seafood. It’s just what I had become used to.
While today I enjoy a much wider variety of foods and flavours, I still remember the foods my mother used to prepare. Food can evoke many memories and associated emotions. Food can offer comfort during stressful times, and food can become a reason to socialize.