We are all born with a set of taste preferences. Scientists say that there are genetically determined predispositions to certain flavours; personally I think it all has to do with our karma, as all habits and preferences do. As we grow up our parents expose us to certain foods (usually the ones they like or think are healthy, etc) and say nasty things about others (the ones they don’t like or are too expensive or unhealthy). This is how most of us develop our likes and dislikes.
But there’s a difference between liking and loving, and disliking and hating. I have the suspicion that what makes us exaggerate our feelings towards food is a really strong impression in the past involving that food. I used to work with a guy who hated pineapple. He couldn’t even be close to it, and if he ate some without knowing, he would throw up. One of the explanations we had for that is that in a former life he was killed by a pineapple that fell on his head. Funny, but possible.
In my case, all my love and hate relationships with food have turned around at a certain point. I’m not sure what has triggered that flipping of the coin, it just happened. The first one was with mondongo (cow’s stomach), which is a fairly common ingredient in traditional Peruvian cuisine. The three main dishes featuring mondongo are cau cau (a stew with turmeric, a herb called hierbabuena and potatoes), mondonguito a la italiana (a stew with tomato sauce) and patasca (a soup from the highlands). When I was a little girl, cau cau was one of my favourite dishes, I loved eating it with a splash of lime juice. Then something happened and I couldn’t stand its smell or texture (imagine chewing a fibrous towel) anymore. Cau cau is still a dish I really like, but when made with seafood instead of mondongo.
The other cases have been foods that I used to hate and now I love. The first one was olives. I was one of those crazy persons who pick over their food in order to get all the olives out of it. Then I fell in love with green olives (particularly the ones stuffed with Brazil nuts that are sold in my country), and then with black olives. Now I can’t live without them.
The next food to cross the line was lúcuma*. I totally hated it until 2005 (I remember the year because I was in the hospitality school at that time), and now that I can’t have it fresh I miss it probably more than my family (kidding). I have a few powdered lúcuma sachets, which I use only on special occasions to make them last until the next time I go home.
The last case happened here, and it happened with the strongest aversion of all: coconut (maybe last time I was around I died from a coconut falling on my head?). Since I have memory I’ve absolutely despised coconut in all its forms: in cocadas (a sweet made baking shredded coconut mixed with sugar), ice cream, ice pops, juices, cocktails, curries, desserts and sun lotions. The only thing prepared with coconut that I have ever liked is a dessert from the Peruvian city of Arequipa called queso helado (it translates to “frozen cheese” but has no cheese at all, it’s made with milk infused with coconut and cinnamon, then strained, cooled down, mixed with egg yolks, and frozen).
I was sent to India in 2005 and had to eat the stuff because lunch was chosen by one of the managers in the office. Once I arrived here I’ve been very careful choosing dishes with no coconut in every Asian restaurant I’ve been to. Then one day we had a course in the Buddhist centre and we ordered dinner from Thai Pothong. There were a couple of curries and I decided to give them a shot. I loved them. I have no idea what the hell happened to me, I mean Thai Pothong is nice but it’s not the best Thai restaurant in this city, so it was not the food, it was something else. I still didn’t dare to try desserts with coconut until a week ago, when we made sticky rice with coconut cream in a Thai cookery class (one of the reasons I decided to enrol in that class was making a Pad Thai that wasn’t as good as Thai La Ong’s). Back to the sticky rice, I really liked it but I noticed that I still had problems with the shredded coconut on top. That’s my next goal.
* The explanation about lúcuma can be found here.