Funny how food preferences (or aversions) seem to just be there. There are people who can eat pretty much anything (though there are probably some things they don’t eat). And there are people who eat only a very few things, and it’s probably been that way their whole life. Taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, etc.) preferences are pretty much innate. But flavor preferences (generally detected by smell) are influenced by early learning–sometimes from our development in the uterus. While many of us find the idea of eating a lobster or clams disgusting, we pretty much know where that came from and can probably agree that if we had a different upbringing, we might find them delicious. But what of the more specific tastes or aversions? I know a man (who has been married for a number of years and has several children) who has been pretty much a steak and potatoes person, apparently from very early childhood and eats almost nothing else (though I’m not sure how he got steak from nursing!).
On the other hand, I have been a fairly selective person in terms of food from as far back as I can remember. I vaguely remember greatly disliking soup and having a somewhat frequent battle with my mother over it. She would demand, insist, and pretty much force me to eat it. I remember her sometimes threatening to pour the soup over my head if I didn’t! I also remember her actually doing it a number of times. I overcame that distaste in my early marriage years by sticking to the few soups that were okay, and slowly expanded the list somewhat. But vegetables, fruit, and a bunch of other things were limited from as long as I can remember. And the list was quite specific, though not terribly logical. I ate only the few vegetables that were somewhat common in my home, like peas, raw carrots, basic salads, and baked beans. But, for some reason, I couldn’t stand cooked carrots (and still generally don’t like them). Celery was always something I carefully avoided–even when chopped into small pieces in tuna fish. And peaches–feh! I couldn’t go near them and was always convinced that I had a sensory avoidance of them. They were so disgusting that I avoided anything that reminded me of them like nectarines or canned peaches. Berries were another food I avoided at all costs–strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. And the list goes on.
But then one day six months or so ago, I began wondering what would happen if I just closed my mind and tried some of these things. And guess what–I did! Berries turned out to be not so terrible and I now eat them. Then one day I tried a peach–it’s not bad! And just a couple of days ago, I ate a (small) stick of celery and it was okay! What happened? I don’t know that I can tell you, but I do know that many of my forbidden foods were “logical,” though I can’t in any way understand the logic now. But I have a feeling that many of you “fussy eaters” would be able to tolerate and even enjoy things that you can’t imagine even trying. Just decide you are going to try the food and don’t think about all the reasons that you can’t. You are hopefully going to expand your diet and enjoy even more of Hashem’s bounty.
By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick