“Ugh onions!” was a fairly popular saying out of my mouth when I was a little kid. Onions disgusted me. I thought they were slimy when cooked and pungently sharp tasting raw. To me, an onion was far worse than any of the veggies that commonly scare kids – bring on the broccoli, but god help us all when onions were used! I would literally refuse to eat them whenever my parents would cook with that infamous layered vegetable. Sometimes I actually moaned loudly, as if I were dying, until they acquiesced and allowed me to eat cereal instead (I swear I wasn’t as big of a brat as this story makes me seem!).
Pre-teen Stephen never thought he would end up eating, much less enjoying onions. But that’s exactly what happened. I’m not entirely sure when that shift occurred, but early on in my teens I began to tolerate them…then started to love…and now I’m addicted! It’s such a versatile ingredient with so many varieties that provide you with a huge flavor spectrum. Anyway, I’m not writing a tribute to the onion haha.
Many of us have heard the adage that taste buds change every seven years (as that is the “average” cell lifetime in the human body). Although not entirely scientifically true, the essence of that folklore is. As we grow older, our preferences change. Of course there will always be things we hold dear throughout our lives, but there is an evolution of taste. Literal taste (your palette) is no different. We often begin our lives craving simple flavors and then slowly begin to accept new tastes into our repertoire. Think of it like this – we start with plain ground meat, move onto tacos/burgers, and end with peppercorn encrusted filet mignon. We’ll still love each level, but there is a definite progression. Part of this is probably due to exposure to new flavors (a maturation of taste), yet part of it is probably also due to the seven year taste bud flip (not many little kids will eat that fancy steak).
Our taste buds contain the ability to measure five known elements of taste – salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami (which is roughly translated as savory). As kids, we often fixate on one or two elements and ignore the rest. As we grow up, we have a maturation of taste that allows us to appreciate the rest of our spectrum. This maturation makes previously disgusting food now pleasantly tasting. I believe it is important to occasionally revisit flavors we once detested so that we can see whether or not we like them. Childhood biases are often just simple biases without any backing; there is a great chance you may now enjoy brussel sprouts, broccoli, and (in my case) onions. Revisit one of the flavors we didn’t like as a kid, and who knows, maybe a few of our 2-8K taste buds matured with the rest of us!
Happy eating :)