Friday, April 25, 2008

Does Taste Change?

This morning's breakfast prompted a deep philosophical question. It is partly derived from my frustration when someone in my family, perfectly happy to eat a certain food one day, suddenly says a week later: I don't like that. "But you did last week." "Well now I don't like it anymore." And I'm not only talking about my children here.


I think in this case it may be erratic wilfulness and control issues. But in all seriousness, do people's tastes make such dramatic reversals? Even in the long term? I know, for example, that my taste buds have certainly dulled to some extent over the years. I like my tea much stronger now. There are spirits I drink neat that make most people whince. And I seem to like things that are unbearably salty to others. This is all to be expected. But I mean just a complete about face. Some food or dish you liked and don't anymore.


How and why could this happen is what I'm wondering. Barring traumatic experience, or association, how can taste possibly change? I see how ideas can change influencing taste. Would eat meat in the past, but now as an ethical vegetarian, I wont eat meat, and it is no longer appealing. But how about with no such ideological underpinning? How does this happen? Physiologically?


You're wondering what this has to do with my breakfast? In an act of desperation and with practically nothing in the house (when I'm away my the shopping really doesn't get done, and I'm made to feel guilty for wanting to buy fresh food rather than rummage - though rummage I did) I rediscovered a breakfast dish I used to eat over a decade ago. I must have thought of it, but maybe winced at the idea, as some absurd error of my untoward youth. A gastronomic puerilism, perverse in proportion and inspiration.

Now I say, ah no. This was a flash of insight I could only had before any rules were ingrained in my head. It sounds really disgusting, even to me now, but I assure you it is magnificent. I have two bites left. Tastes, do not change, apparently.

Now that they're gone, I'll give you the recipe.


Curried Tuna Egg Burrito

Heat a flour burrito over an open flame on both sides until a little scorched. Cook two beaten eggs and a pinch of salt in a pan with butter, not scrambling, but just let cook slowly into a flat omelette. Make sure it isn't stuck to the pan. On top add some tuna (Bumblebee solid in water, drained) moistened with a generous dollop of mayo. Flatten it out. Then sprinkle generously with a commercial curry powder. (You really can't use a good freshly ground garam masala.) Then add a seeded chopped tomato to the top. And a grind of pepper. Put the burrito on top. Let gently heat through. Turn over carefully onto a board, roll up and slice in half.

Trust me, this is REALLY good. What was I thinking to doubt it?

8 comments:

Erica said...

Hi Ken (and belated congratulations!),
Physical allergies can change, so my sense is that more minor bodily reactions to food textures or smells might also change. Not enjoying something you previously enjoyed can be evidence of a latent allergy acting up. My daughter loved mangoes as a toddler, but now won't eat them because they give her hives. But surely most taste changes go in the direction of liking previously unacceptable foods. I love spinach and zucchini where I couldn't tolerate them as a kid. On the other hand, I used to be able to eat Froot Loops, Peeps, and other insanely sugary foods, and can no longer tolerate them. Red wine falls in the middle for me: hated it as a kid; as a teenager drank a whole bottle (actually way more than 75 cl -- a large Vittel bottle full of cheap wine tapped from a barrel at a mechoui roast where our parents weren't paying attention) with unpleasant (if colorful) consequences; couldn't drink any kind of red wine for about a decade afterwards, but gradually have acquired a taste for expensive reds, though I still can't stand the cheap stuff. So, yes, tastes can change...

Ken Albala said...

Erica, These are examples of experiences (like getting sick) influencing our tastes, actual allergies (which of course is understandable) or changes over long stretches of time - which are both socially conditioned (grown ups aren't supposed to like peeps -though I do, especially stale ones) but what I'm looking for is how someone can like something a lot one week, and then a few weeks later completely change opinion. This happens to children often I think, and sometimes adults too, but I don't wuite understand how.

AND THANKS, BTW.

Chrissy said...

You can ask the same about the opposite, not liking something and then acquiring a taste for that something. I know the first time I tried blue cheese i had to spit it out. I thought it tasted like pure mold, but something drew me back and as I tried over again I grew to like, even love it now.

I like my peeps microwaved!

BlueBerry Pick'n said...

taste does change over time...

either the lingual tastebuds change perception, or our cognitive interpretations change...

...but indeed, it does change.

In fact, some believe its this change to 'only tasting bitter' that might motivate geriatrics to complain that "food has lost its taste, I just eat tea & toast" or "someone is trying to poison me"


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