Orange shag carpets? Not my taste, though I imagine I would’ve been fine with them in 1975.
Zany, zig-zaggy patterns mixed with paisley, plaid and polka dots? Definitely for women of a different stripe, although in fact I know several who pull it off in spectacular style!
And yet… Though we anticipate divergent delights to the eye in kitchens and couture, don’t we expect that some basics hold true when it comes to the pleasures of the palate? Don’t we presume that everyone from everywhere will share some fundamental likes?
Tell me… Would you expect that everyone loves pasta? I would. What about soft warm, fresh, just out of the oven bread? Mmmmm. I’m guessing that’s a yes. (Please pass the babka, the buns, the baguette…) And when we speak of bread don’t some of us think of chocolate?
Yes there is a film by that name — bread and chocolate — but some of us recall afternoons as children or teens in France when this combination was the de rigueur after school snack. And I daresay that during my various stays in Europe, chocolate always figured heavily… no pun intended… in the storied stops for something special.
Strange Food Quirks?
Even in a not too distant dalliance in Brussels, chocolate was on the agenda… window shopping-wise, that is. (What’s not to love about this amazing chocolate sculpture of the Mannekin Pis, the famed fountain just off the Grand Place?)
Of course most of us have heard of weird food quirks from pregnant women. Pickles and ice cream may be the stereotypical “unusual” taste combo, but… I’ve always enjoyed pickles and I’ve always enjoyed ice cream, so why not eat them together?
When I was pregnant with my first child?
I couldn’t get enough Chinese food. And with my second, I craved strawberry yogurt All. The. Time.
Incidentally, taste quirks are not to be confused with eccentric modes of eating, for example consuming your backwards, crust first or separating every type of food on your plate so nothing touches (a stereotypical habit of those with certain obsessive-compulsive tendencies). These particular peculiarities are another (albeit interesting) story.
Now imagine my surprise when I ran into an article from a French publication about a journalist who does not like chocolate. Given my adoration for the substance in nearly all its forms, talk about unusual!
What I had never considered is a scenario in which your taste so diverges from the crowd that you garner the suspicious stare, the glassy eyed glare or, the jarring judgment as some alien outlier to All Things Civilized. I am reminded of my firstborn who insisted that he was allergic to marshmallows. Stubbornly defiant on the subject until he was a teenager, I find myself wondering if he simply found a means to deflect judgment because all his friends loved these traditionally enjoyed sugary, gooey confections…
This article (in French) on people who don’t like chocolate caught my eye. The writer refers to some 1% of people who don’t like our much feted sweet, remarking that:
No one holds it against you if you don’t like caramel or meringue or apple pie… But to deny that chocolate can tantalize your taste buds is beyond reason…
The writer goes on to mention the association between the enjoyment of chocolate and our appreciation of other “pleasures” in life, and clearly he rejects the notion that not liking chocolate means not liking sex!
On the other hand, what about what tastes good to us? I might assume that a fair amount of that is the result of what we grow up eating. Still, how do we explain someone who doesn’t like chocolate? Aren’t there “universal” foods that generally taste good to everyone?
My own adoration of chocolate aside, what about something like spice preferences?
Taste Testing, and Then Some
I’ve always assumed that our tastes are defined primarily by what we grow up eating. However, research suggests otherwise.
This research on personality factors predict our spicy food liking tells us:
In addition to cultural and biological variables, it has been proposed that personality may play a large role in determining responsiveness to and liking of chili containing foods… In Mexico, chili pepper consumption is linked with strength, daring, and masculine personality traits…
The study just cited is actually very interesting, and in looking at personality and response to spicy (burning) foods, considers:
… a number of personality measurements including Private Body Consciousness, Sensation Seeking, and Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward…
Yikes! How “hot” and thrill-seeking are your palate preferences?
So what about other assumptions and judgments about what “everyone” should like?
Judging Others by the (Romantic) Company They Keep
What about our tastes in a romantic partner? Who would deny that there is a cultural component to this mysterious magic? All amorous alchemy aside, we tend to bend to societal pressure to see and be seen with certain ‘types’ in order to be accepted, or at least to deflect judgment we might attract otherwise. And, we may come to measure our own self-esteem through the (imagined?) eyes of others.
The gold standard in white America’s heterosexual dating scene, at least when it comes to the person you wish “to be seen with?”
Tall (for men)… thin (for women), and on the female front (pardon the expression), additional requirements include boobs, booty and quite possibly, blonde. Well, in our Caucasian media circles, anyway… Oh, to be able to dismiss the tendency to rely on the Looks Good on Paper Guy or his Paper Doll counterpart! What about tall women with a fondness for short men? Or average weight men who adore large women?
Don’t even get me started on the double standard when it comes to age… We don’t think twice when a man dates 20 or 30 years younger, but for a pop culture example, we have only to look at the recent wretched exchanges between two #RHONY personalities.
The source of contention?
The smart, successful and stunning Carole Radziwill, 52, who is in a relationship with an attractive 29-year old man. I say — good for her, and for him. So must we raise an eyebrow in all of the above cases? Isn’t it time we stop?
Incidentally, this is Carole Radziwill’s birthday. A very happy birthday to this chic and accomplished New Yorker!
Image of Carole Radziwill, capture from Bravo TV RHONY Reunion Part 1, 2015
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