Foods We Love, Quirky Stories, Travels Around the World

Acquiring a taste for…

It’s an acquired taste.

How many times have we heard that expression? When I say it, it’s usually in reference to something I don’t much care for (like beets). Sometimes you really are able to acquire a taste for something, and sometimes not. I’m still working on the beets!

I was reminded of this the other day when I was piling green peppers onto a fajita, and my husband commented that he remembered when I couldn’t stand the smell of peppers. It’s true. My best friend from childhood lived with us for a while when my husband was in graduate school. She used to try to sneak little bits of green pepper into the meals she cooked. The second I walked into the house, I would smell those suckers and cringe. Yet I credit her with desensitizing me to peppers, which I now love. So yes, for me, green peppers were an acquired taste. Judging from the ratio of peppers to meat in my fajitas, I’m now a fan. Taste acquired.

Living in a country other than my own has been a learning experience. We once hosted

Acquiring a taste for tacos!
Acquiring a taste for tacos!

a Mexican-style meal for a group of dear Brazilian friends. If you look closely at the picture, you can see little note cards on the wall that tell how to construct a taco, burrito or a fajita and explains what guacamole and sour cream are (things that Brazilians don’t normally eat). In fact, guacamole was a very different taste for our friends, who normally eat avocados in sweet dishes. One of our friends told me she likes to sprinkle sugar on a slice of ripe avocado and eat it for breakfast. So to have them mashed and served in a savory dish took some getting used to—just like eating them in desserts has been new for me.

One taste I have definitely acquired is bacalhau (a variety of dishes made from dried

Tina with friends at the "House of Bacalhau" restaurant in Brazil
Tina with friends at the “House of Bacalhau” restaurant in Brazil

salted codfish), which I learned to eat and prepare while living in Portugal. Brazilians also serve bacalhau from time to time, especially at Easter. The first time I tried a bite, I detested it. It’s salty and tastes strongly of fish. It’s said the Portuguese have 365 ways to prepare bacalhau, one for each day of the year. It’s true. I have a cookbook to prove it! The second time I tried bacalhau, it wasn’t as terrible as I remembered. But the day I helped a dear friend prepare it was the day I fell in love with bacalhau. It’s a long, labor-intensive process which involves soaking the fish for a couple of days in the refrigerator in order to rehydrate it and remove the excess salt. And you don’t just shove it in the fridge and forget about it. You have to change out the water several times. Then you boil the fish. Then you let it cool and take off the skin and pick out hundreds of bones (some of which are tiny—and are incredibly hard to remove, since your hands become slippery within minutes). Finally the bacalhau is ready to use in whatever dish you’re making. You have to truly love someone to make bacalhau for them. I still fix a small casserole dish of Bacalhau com Natas (codfish in cream sauce) every Christmas. And I still love it. Taste acquired!

What about you? Are there any tastes you’ve acquired over the years? It might not even be for a certain food, it could be a book. Is there a genre you didn’t expect to like but now can’t devour fast enough? I’m currently having a love affair with YA (young adult) books that are written in first-person. One of my daughters has gotten me hooked on Meg Cabot. In fact, this particular daughter is coming home from college in a few days, and she called and said, “Guess what? I’m bringing a new Meg Cabot book with me. We can fight over it.” 😉 Taste acquired!


20 thoughts on “Acquiring a taste for…”

  1. Hi Tina! I used to work with a lot of Filipino nurse who ate their avocados with milk and sugar. I never tried it since I prefer the mashed and spicy style. I’d say cabbage was an acquired taste for me. Used to hate the smell of it etc, now love it in soups, and even use a friend’s Greek stuffed cabbage recipe in the fall months. Love it!
    Oh, and my sister married an Italian. They make a salted fish at Christmas time. Your process sounded very similar to theirs. I really enjoyed that fish, but yes, it is salty.

    I haven’t tried a new literature genre in a long time. Maybe it’s time.

    1. Hey Lynne! I guess Brazil isn’t alone when it comes to sweet avocados. I just never imagined such a thing before moving here. I’m still working on that one, but I can eat them sprinkled with sugar (if it’s placed in front of me). 😉 And cinnamon in savory dishes is also a new taste for me. I’ve had Lebanese stuffed grape leaves and the meat they use has cinnamon in it. I love it now, but it took some getting used to.

      1. I had a neighbor for 15 years from Iraq and she taught me how to season stuffed grape leaves – or Dolma as she called it. She used the same stuffing for onions, zuchinni and eggplant. Yum yum!

        1. Oh you lucky girl to get the recipe right from the source! We have a Lebanese restaurant not too far from us that we go to quite a bit. It is delicious! I love hummus so much that I’ve learned to make it. So yummy!

  2. Olives!
    Never used to like them. Could tolerate them sprinkled (lightly) on pizza but would pick them off if there was too many. And then we went to Italy a few years back and every place you ate they’d put a little compimentary bowl of olives on the table and I have grown to love them.
    I still cant eat tens of dozens in one sitting – too salty after a while – but I really enjoy bursts of them. A restaurant near where we live does warm olives – oh la la!

    1. I’m the same way , Amy! Used to detest them. Olives are huge in Portugal and Brazil. I’m the only one in my family that likes them now. But only black…and I prefer them whole. But I do pop them in my mouth and savor them now. I still don’t really like green olives.

  3. Hi Tina
    Apart from olives and peanut butter, my acquired taste is for classical music. When I was twelve I was sent to boarding school (my parents lived too far away for me to attend a day school) and every Sunday we had to gather in the very gloomy dining room write letters home. I always felt really homesick on Sunday evenings, especially if I’d been taken out by my parents that day- we were allowed out one Sunday in every three from nine to six- and writing a letter to them always made me want to cry. The worst thing was that the school mistress used to play the most mournful classical music she could possibly find (perhaps she only had a couple of records) during the writing letters home session, so since then, I always associated classical music with feeling horrible. I was re-introduced to it by my husband when I was in my twenties and now I love it. (With the exception of Wagner!) I particularly like Rachmaninov, because although his music can be sad, it’s a kind of romantic sadness which is uplifting at the same time, if you get what I mean.

    1. Wow, Anne, I probably would have cried. I can see why you’d have had an aversion to classical music–I would have had the exact same reaction. Music was my minor in college, and I remember the first time I heard one of the students play a piano piece by Bela Bartok, I thought it was the most jarring thing I’d ever heard. I can appreciate his music now, but my daughter (who plays piano) still doesn’t like playing his pieces.

      It’s funny how childhood experiences can shape how we feel about things later in life.

  4. Tina,
    I used to not like asparagus, Now I love it. I think the older we get our tastes change—in a number of things. I know I’m more willing to try new foods when I travel. I certainly don’t expect everyone to cook like me. It can be exciting to discover something new,

  5. Susan, I think you’re right about tastes changing. I grew up in a family that was very “meat and potatoes.” I still love those kinds of meals, they’re like comfort food to me. But now that I’m older, I tend to be pretty adventurous when it comes to eating things that are new (to me). I’d never had broccoli (ever) before I went to college. And now it’s my all-time favorite vegetable!

  6. Tina whenI was growing up and Dad ate blue vein cheese we would all hold our noses and carry on. I also as a young adult disliked beer…far too bitter. Fast forward a few years and after a yer in Europe I drank beer because it was more lager style unlike the beer in Australia at the time. ANd picture Italy…a quatre frommagi*i pizza and one quarter was hot, melted blue vein cheese. I fell in love!
    * am guessing that is how you spell cheese in Italian!

    1. Still can’t get the taste for blue vein cheese Fiona! And I’ve started drinking beer in my 40’s but only on the odd occasion and only Corona because it’s really weak and not so “beery” 🙂

    2. I love blue veined cheeses, Fiona, but I think I would have hated them as a child. I’m still not a big fan of beer, but you’ve intrigued me with this talk of lager. Maybe it would hit my tastebuds in a more subtle way than the American beers my dad drinks. And a four-cheese pizza eaten in Italy sounds divine!! Plus seeing it written in Italian makes it even more exotic!

      A funny story about cheese. I had a baked potato one time topped with a four-cheese sauce. One of those cheeses was gorgonzola. My son started to feel nauseous halfway through the meal due to the smell and actually had to move to a different table. We still tease him about that.

  7. Hi Tina- I’m pretty happy to eat almost anything anyone gives me (including blue cheese, beer and olives!!! All together would be great!)- but I have un-acquired (is that a word?) a taste for bananas. I used to like them but now I can’t go near them.

    1. Interesting about the bananas, Louisa! Did you have a bad experience with them. I used to love eggplant parmesan, but tried to eat it once when I was pregnant. Not smart. I still get a bit queasy when I thnk about it. Although I would like to try it again, just to overcome the memory.

      I once ordered what I thought were scallops when we first moved to Portugal. I saw it on the menu and asked if they were little round white things. The waiter assured me they were. Well, they were kind of round–except for the tentacles.. 😉 Luckily the squid had been de-inked and they weren’t half bad!

  8. Yummy blog post, Tina! And how interesting about avocado being eaten as a sweet dish! Actually, avocado is one of my ‘acquired’ tastes… I used to be quite indifferent to it, but now think it’s deeeelicious! I’m trying to imagine it with a sprinkling of sugar… must try it.

    Oooo, I love the sound of your Bacalhau com Natas – sounds tasty and decadent!

    Enjoy that Meg Cabot book!

  9. Thanks, Sharon. I think avocado is used in a lot of different things nowadays. I”ve seen recipes for it in salads and sandwiches, which I never used to see. Maybe it wasn’t used as much a decade ago, because people were afraid of the high fat content..only to learn later that the type of fat it contains is the good kind. It seems we learn something new every day!

    One of my daughters was telling me that “green” smoothies are all the rage in the States right now, and that they’re quite good–they mix green veggies with fruit, evidently. They haven’t hit Brazil yet, but I’ll have to try one when they do!

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