Highly divisive foods

Cilantro, Marmite, black licorice, and olives – what do these items share in common? They are all foods that people either love or hate, with almost no one on the fence about them. If you look at various lists of divisive foods, most of the same one rise to the top; for example, a list from Reader’s Digest contains significant overlap with the top ten list from Plated.

For most people, the flavor of the divisive food drives the intense dislike or appreciation. So-called super tasters do not cotton to the strong flavors of items like licorice, while others have a physiology that makes cilantro taste like soap. Texture can be the determining factor as well, with mushrooms and oysters landing on the ‘hate it’ side due to their unique compositions. Smell can also play a role – I know a few people who absolutely loathe the smell of bananas.

If you love one item and live with someone who hates it, the hater can go to great lengths to avoid eating or even being exposed to the food in question. I learned this after asking my husband to look up a particular chimichurri recipe in one of my cookbooks and read it aloud because I couldn’t quite remember the proportion of ingredients. He recited the items, but made one glaring omission (cilantro). When I called him on it, he said that it wasn’t on the list (it was). Since it wasn’t critical to the dish, I acquiesced to his desire to keep it out. The things we do for love.

However, I do have to admit that the subterfuge can go both ways. Since my husband is not a super taster, I can sometimes sneak items in that I love that he doesn’t. If I told him the ingredient was in the dish, he would say that he did not like it, but if I lie by omission, chances are good that he won’t notice. For example, if he saw me smashing up anchovies to add to a pasta sauce he wouldn’t eat it, but I never let him see that part of the process and he is none the wiser. We both eat happy. What subterfuge have you performed to either avoid something you hate or incorporate a food you love?

Photo of Chimichurri sauce from Food Wishes by John Mitzewich

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  • Jane  on  January 11, 2020

    My daughter decided at one time that cumin brought her out in hives (because she once had hives after eating something with cumin). I tested this by continuing to cook with cumin (which I love) and she never had hives so I carried on without telling her, If she had known she would have refused to eat it.

  • dmco6863  on  January 12, 2020

    My husband and I despise marzipan. I come from a Dutch background where it’s used in many sweets and was mocked for not liking it. I can’t get my head around how ordinary almonds can transform into such a vile, poisonous tasting paste.

  • Indio32  on  January 12, 2020

    dmco6863, Am completely with you!

  • averythingcooks  on  January 12, 2020

    My husband detests flaked coconut but also equates coconut milk with this aversion. Little does he know that coconut milk goes into every curry that I make and he loves – a secret worth keeping.

  • Rinshin  on  January 12, 2020

    Pine nuts causing pine mouth that lingers eternally for both of us. Completely avoid it and sub other REAL nuts.

  • lkgrover  on  January 12, 2020

    I usually substitute parsley for cilantro, which tastes like soap & gives me indigestion. I also don’t like canned black olives, although I enjoy fresh marinated black olives from the supermarket deli section. I would never eat a spoonful of mushrooms, but I appreciate the flavor they add to a casserole or stew (often 50% of the recipe’s suggested amount).

  • averythingcooks  on  January 12, 2020

    So as a “soap taster” I avoid cilantro like the plague …..& I have friends who have NO IDEA what I am talking about. So Rinshin…. pine mouth ?? Never heard of that but I fully trust that you know what you are talking about (except that YES, I love them :). But Re bananas…..I refuse to even consider a discussion – they are just nasty 🙂

  • sir_ken_g  on  January 12, 2020

    Well I do not eat bugs – but other than that almost anything.

  • dmco6863  on  January 12, 2020

    Averythingcooks, I’m quite sure I know where Rinshin is coming from. I was once served a dish that was overpowered by pine nuts and I couldn’t understand why days later I could still taste them. I have avoided them since.

  • Jenny  on  January 13, 2020

    Black licorice, olives, offal – those are off-limits for me. But that is about it.

  • Rinshin  on  January 13, 2020

    Regarding pine mouth https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684458/

  • averythingcooks  on  January 13, 2020

    Interesting! Thank you! I certainly believed you – I just don’t know anyone who has ever told me they experienced it. Of note that in Ontario high schools PTC tasting paper is strongly discouraged (and banned in my specific board) for use in our genetics classes for several years (but it certainly was a classic activity – test papers would be sent home for a family analysis of tasters vs non-tasters.) I believe it is banned in several school regions in the US as well. The article from the link you provided has now been added to my curriculum resources.

  • readingtragic  on  January 15, 2020

    Bananas – I hate the taste, I hate the smell, I hate the feel of them, I hate the sight of other people eating them, I hate it when someone says “you can’t taste the banana”…

  • mjes  on  January 15, 2020

    I didn’t raise my children well – one married a woman who hated mushrooms to the point she would pick them out of meatballs; the other married a woman who could not stand to even be in the same room as bell peppers.

  • MarciK  on  January 15, 2020

    My son hates peas but will eat samosas containing peas.
    My mom is a cilantro hater, but she acquiesced to try a Peruvian dish with a cilantro sauce, and she didn’t mind it.
    I had a new friend who hated mushrooms and insisted he could tell if they were in a dish. I brought him some leftover steak covered in a porcini rub and truffle fries, both which he loved and had no idea they contained two kinds of mushrooms.

  • fluffies  on  January 25, 2020

    My husband loves fruitcake but hates candied citron, which he doesn’t know the name of and calls “those green things I hate.”

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