Recently, I was reading a book that talked about how people use food to signify their identity. I find this idea fascinating, and I wrote about it a little yesterday. One of the examples they gave was on people who are adventurous eaters. Adventurous eaters will be happy to tell you about the crazy thing they tried on vacation, or this new restaurant they found that no one has ever heard of. Food, and the willingness to try new things, is a part of who they are. It says, “look at me, I’m willing to try anything! I’m open to new experiences!”
The example stuck with me because I am an adventurous eater. I am one of those people that will always order the one thing off the menu I’ve never tried before. I’m not interested in the new and trendy places, I want to go to the hidden little ethnic restaurants where the first language is not English. And I am proud of that. It is something I talk about regularly. I love nothing more than having a restaurant staff member tell me “white people don’t usually order that…” I deeply enjoy trying new things, it lights me up. But I can’t help but wonder if genetics are involved.
I have a pretty terrible sense of smell. It just isn’t as developed as other people’s. I often get asked if it affects my sense of taste, and I don’t think so… but how would I know? I can identify flavors and I feel like my sense of taste is robust, but I have never been able to try anyone else’s. It is possible my sense of taste is diminished. Perhaps it similar to how my colorblind boyfriend sees the world. He doesn’t think there is much of a difference, but as someone who is totally attuned to color, I know there is. He’s missing huge swaths of the rainbow, maybe it is like that for me, but with taste.
So, if that is the case, perhaps that is why I like most types of food. Since smell is so closely associated to taste, maybe it makes sense that most of the foods I am not fond of, I dislike because of bad experiences and issues with texture. It is very possible that I am taking a genetic disadvantage and finding the silver lining – the willingness to try almost any kind of food. (I should say that I know someone who lost their sense of smell and sense of taste all together. It was an absolutely miserable experience for him. He said it was so bad he wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy.) Maybe, because my sense is dulled, the idea of trying something I might not care for doesn’t scare me the way it does other people.
I have known many picky eaters. I’ve never really understood it. I certainly see not wanting to try something in restaurant for fear of spending money on something you can’t eat. And of course, I understand allergies and food sensitivities, but I don’t quite understand not wanting to at least try something. The world is full of so many amazing, interesting, wonderful foods. I only wish I could try them all!
I guess I am that way in life too. I try to be as open as I can to new experiences. I have a phrase I apply to a lot of things, “The likelihood of death is really small.” Once you accept that, the actual risk of trying something like pork blood cake seems inconsequential. So, I wonder, how many food likes and dislikes come from nature or nurture. Was is the way we were raised? The foods in the womb? A genetic dislike for fruits with pits or “slimy” textures? Where does it all come from?