Can You Love The Food You Hate?

I think of myself as a bit of a foodie. I have wide-ranging tastes and an adventurous attitude to trying new things. In fact, my favourite way to eat at a restaurant is via the chef’s selection – where the head chef gives not a damn squat about your dietary preferences and serves you up whatever he likes. Yep, I reckon I’m quite daring when it comes to food.

Except for beetroot. When it comes to beetroot, all bets are off. It’s what I imagine biting into an eyeball would feel like (if I ever had the misfortune). And that’s just the texture. When it comes to taste, it’s the essence of dirt. So you can take your beetroot, and pop it right back into the can from whence it emerged.

So I harbour a rather lengthy resentment with beetroot. And I’m guessing we all have at least one food we just refuse to stomach. But why?

The psychology of taste.

Generally, our food preferences are learned, so many of us will have dislikes for certain foods based on history or circumstance. Your mother might have consistently boiled mushrooms for instance, or overcooked Brussels sprouts (I suspect many of us still do), or maybe you ate a rank pickle one day, vomited and forever banished them to the over-my-dead-body category. On the opposite scale, you might love olives because you’re Greek/Italian/Spanish and olive oil practically courses through your veins.

But there can also be a predisposition to like or dislike certain foods. Some people are more likely to avoid bitter tastes, have a deeper appreciation for sour flavours, or have biases against certain textures. That’s ok.

Dislikes, however, become problematic when your list of avoided foods is longer than your arm. It’s no fun being a picky eater. In fact, it can be lonely. If you’re the only person who can’t do share plates at a restaurant with friends because your dislikes outweigh your likes, then you’re verging on social pariah. Ouch.

You can change.

Believe it or not, you don’t need to be stuck with those preferences for life. There are probably a handful of foods you avoided like the plague as a kid or teen, but somehow began enjoying as an adult. Often it’s not a singular moment that signals changes, like jumping out of bed one day and deciding you must have broccoli for breakfast.

It probably happened over time. As with many things, a gradual introduction of the new food, served or cooked in different ways, is the gentlest, most likely way to learn to like a food you once loathed.

Be positive!

Expectation often dictates outcomes. So if you expect to hate olives…guess what? You probably will. Why not try believing in yourself for a change? We do this with kids all the time, encouraging them to get back on that bike, with positive reinforcement. Praise yourself for trying, and then keep trying.

If all else fails, deep-fry it.

Actually, I’m not kidding. It’s the grownup’s equivalent to drowning veggies in tomato sauce.

I’ll admit to a few dalliances with beetroot since the 80s. I once bought a bunch from the local farmers market, thinking I’d just face my nemesis head on. I sauteed the stalks and tossed them with quinoa (not bad), I cut up into small cubes and served with rocket and yellow tomatoes (fairly appetising), then roasted and dressed it with sesame oil and fresh coriander (practically delicious.)

Though I haven’t bought or cooked beetroot since then, I’m proud to say that when we meet, in a salad or mixed through roast veggies, we’ll nod at each other in a civil and dignified way.