I consider myself an adventurous and unpretentious eater. I don’t eat at my favorite restaurants more than once or twice a year because I would rather go somewhere new. I eat Dominos, and I eat fancy Neapolitan pizzas. When presented with an array of desserts or pastries, I will find a knife and take a bite-sized piece to try everything, within the boundaries of courtesy but usually beyond the boundaries of my appetite. As important as it was to get a Cronut on my trip to New York, I also like Oreos and deep-fried Oreos. And even though I don’t quite understand picky eaters, it usually don’t bother me since I’ll find a way to like whatever they like.
However, I do have preferences, and although my threshold is low, there are a few foods that fall below the line, which I will avoid if possible.
5. Coffee and tea
I think many people go through a coffee phase somewhere between 15 and 25 when they want the caffeine, and after acquiring the taste, it becomes a habit. Third wave coffee has turned coffee from instant pebbles into artisanal food with elaborate brewing techniques.
As an avid home cook, I can appreciate the nuance, but I definitely missed the need for caffeine when I was in college, and soon after, I found that it gave me headaches in my occasional cokes or coffees, so I stopped drinking it and never went back. I don’t mind the flavor in a tiramisu or chocolate bar, but I never drink coffee itself, and I feel some odd resistance to trying to be convinced otherwise.
On the other hand, I drink tea on occasion with dim sum or when I’m sick, but I just don’t particularly enjoy it more than water. At the point that I’m squeezing globs of honey into it, it’s more for the sugar anyways.
4. Raw tomatoes
Growing up, I didn’t like tomatoes. When my mom made salads, everyone else at the table would get tomato, but she gave up with me. When I started working, I put tomatoes in my sandwiches for a few years and hoped that I would sometime enjoy it. I tried beefsteak, roma, and various heirloom tomatoes. However, I found that I actually just liked the sandwich more without it, so my basic sandwich is back to bread, cheese, meat, greens, and mayo.
This one isn’t absolute. I won’t pick tomatoes out of salads, and I do enjoy raw tomatoes in caprese salads and blended into an unadorned sauce over my pizza. And once, when I was visiting my friends Evan and Lydia in Seattle, I had part of a tomato out of their garden, and that was the first time I realized tomatoes could actually be sweet. That one tomato stands out against all others I have had in my life, and I hope to be won over again.
3. Really spicy soup
I think my heat tolerance is slightly above average. Since spiciness is so important in many cuisines, I’ll usually order dishes medium since mild presumably loses some essential quality to the dish. And I don’t mind stepping up to the extra chili symbols on a menu if it looks interesting. Bring on the wings and wet burritos.
My exception is with soups or hot pot. With spicy solid foods, I can usually isolate the heat to particular parts of my mouth and get a reprieve. With spicy beef noodles soups, ramens, or pozole, however, the spiciness penetrates the food and coats my mouth. I’ll occasionally slurp too aggressively sending spicy liquid into the back of my throat, causing me to cough violently at the table.
That, of course, doesn’t stop me from eating, but I’ll definitely take that soup milder next time.
Unlike the last 2 items, I think I unconditionally dislike grapefruit. It’s sour, I haven’t found good baking uses for it, and I would rather eat a sweeter citrus fruit. Like tomatoes, my sisters always liked it much more than I did growing up. Unlike tomatoes, I really haven’t tried to change my feelings on it. Maybe it’s worth an experiment.
Putting enchiladas as the number one disliked food was definitely a sensational pick. In fact, I just ordered enchiladas at the Mexican joint around the corner last week. It get the top slot because of my confusion.
Looking at the list above, it’s pretty clear why I don’t like them: they’re bitter or sour or spicy. These are all really common reasons to dislike something, and I usually don’t eat them. Enchiladas, however, are my biggest cognitive dissonance because I don’t understand why I don’t enjoy them.
Compositionally, it has things I like: corn tortillas, meat-y filling, a chili pepper sauce, and sometimes cheese, all melded together. I largely enjoy other Mexican food. I keep ordering enchiladas when I go out and even have made them on several occasions. And yet, I always finish the meal wondering why I didn’t like it better.
Looking at the list, I guess my disliked foods really fall into 2 categories: those that I try to like, and those that I completely avoid. I certainly think about the teetering foods more often, and that desire to like, say, tomatoes, is just my FOMO. Clearly enough people like these foods to have appeared in our regular diet, and I want to like it, too. Over time, my heat tolerance has gone up. Eggplant, sushi, falafel, and countless other foods have been incorporated into my palate. But as much as I would like to see this list of disliked foods shrink, I think I actually want it to grow. I hope I keep trying new things faster than I’m comfortable liking them and always have a culinary adversary like an enchilada.