One of the things I love most about food is the fact that everyone can respond differently to it. Unlike a drug, such as heroine or cocaine, where the majority of users will become addicted, food has the power to attract as well as to repel. That makes it a very personalized drug, which I would consider to be all the more intriguing and, in some cases, dangerous.
Take, for example, sushi. In my case, it is the equivalent of barrel-aged whiskey to an alcoholic. It’s nearly impossible for me to resist and I will continue to eat it long after my stomach sends the signals to my brain that it’s full. In fact, my stomach has to basically resort to an airhorn and whirling lights before I’ll stop shoveling the seaweed wrapped deliciousness into my mouth. It’s that strong of an addiction for me.
However, this very food tends to repulse a large portion of the population. There are people who won’t so much as try a piece of cooked sushi, nonetheless engorge themselves on sashimi and ngiri at the speed I inhale it.
How is that?
My mind reels at the thought that something I find absolutely irresistible can be revolting – pugnacious! – to someone else. I found the concept so interesting that I did a bit of research on the “science” of taste, and here is what I learned.
- Physiologically speaking, our four major taste buds evolved because that was one of the few ways prehistoric man had of determining what was edible or not. For example, since your body needs salt to function properly, you are able to detect salt, crave it, and seek it out. The same applies to sugar: you need carbohydrates for energy, so you naturally are inclined to like sweet and starchy things as an almost Pavlovian response to the spike you know it will provide.
- Genetically speaking, some food tastes different to certain people. I won’t go into the science behind it (primarily because I didn’t understand 95% of what I read about it), but one article I read discussed that fact that a specific chemical, phenylthiocarbamide, is either tasteless to some or horrifically bitter to others, which is purely based on their genetic makeup. Applying this same principle to all foods and drinks, it can be assumed that what tastes good to me could be repulsive, purely because their genetic makeup processes the flavor differently. An interesting thought!
- Some people were not exposed to a variety of foods when they were young, so they never acquired a taste for the varieties of herbs, spices, and flavors that exist. I know MANY people like this. They grew up eating chicken nuggets and fries from McDonald’s as a child and, as a result, find pretty much every food with a hint of natural flavor or real vegetable to be disgusting. Is that a form of child abuse? It should be.
I’m sure most of you aren’t going to be as interested in this topic as I am, but I thought I’d share my findings nonetheless. It still blows my mind that there are people out there who hate chocolate, hate wine, and hate exotic cheeses – three things I probably couldn’t live without. However, looking at it from a positive viewpoint, that just means there’s more for me.
Hmmmm. Maybe if my tastebuds changed and I suddenly hated the taste of all unhealthy and fattening foods, I would no longer need to have a blog about dieting? Doubtful, but something to hope for!
On that note, I think it’s time for some lunch!