A few years ago, for perfectly valid reasons and not at all because I am unreasonably curious, I surveyed about a hundred of my closest friends and family regarding their eating habits. I wanted to know whether they drank, what they were allergic to, but also what they just plain didn’t like. And it was that last one that yielded the most entertaining results.
Generally, if you’re close to someone you’re going to know about the thing that makes them throw up, but you may not necessarily be aware that they foster a passionate loathing for pasta, or that the idea of putting pumpkin in their mouth makes their skin crawl.**
I think that’s bizarre. But then, I don’t like beer. Or mushrooms, or pork, or — to my ongoing sadness — coffee.*** And there are plenty of people willing to tell me that’s just weird.
When I was quite young I decided that this whole matter of ‘taste’ was simply perception. I mean how do I know that the colour I see as green is the colour you see as green? What if green looks like orange to you? What if chocolate tastes like spinach in your mouth?
This makes the matter of taste simple. It’s not that you don’t like chocolate, it’s that for you mushrooms taste like chocolate. Which explains how you can eat those yucky things but don’t want my fine, delightful peanut butter.
Then again, perhaps it’s just a matter of how intensely you taste something. Little kids generally aren’t fond of alcohol or coffee because they taste more vibrantly than adults. So perhaps I just have the taste buds of a small child.
I’ve had any number of people over the years say things to me like, You can’t taste the difference. As a child, I simply assumed this was a ridiculous lie. My mother, who was one of the strongest proponents of the idea, would regularly give me food without telling me what was in it under the assumption that what I didn’t know about I couldn’t refuse to eat. To her (and various other people’s) apparent surprise I had no difficulty whatsoever in distinguishing between camel and beef sausages or recognising when there was alcohol in my drink.
The sheer regularity with which this has been tried on me leads to me assume that most of the people who have tried to convince me on this point were doing so because they genuinely couldn’t taste the difference. Which is fascinating. And makes me want to crawl inside their heads and look around.****
Ultimately, I think I like that I can taste the difference. But I still think it’s a shame that I don’t like coffee.
* Jessi Lane Adams
** Also, for some reason, a lot of people have very strong opinions about tomatoes. For and against, methods, preparation and different parts of the tomato all had their proponents and detractors. I had no idea tomatoes were such polarising fruits.
*** I really want to like coffee. It smells nice. And for so many people it seems like something akin to a religious experience. I feel like I’m missing out on something. Every couple of years I try it and am disappointed once again to discover my taste buds just aren’t feeling it.
**** I think that’s one of the reasons the superpower I always wanted was telepathy. The idea of being able to see through someone else’s eyes is intoxicating. This is probably also the reason I love to read. Fiction is the closest we come to seeing the world as perceived by someone else.