Flavor Savor

As much as we want to believe that we begin our lives with a genetic predisposition for or against certain foods, the truth is our environment plays a larger role in our predilections than we care to admit.
Text by Rony Mo | May 25, 2018 | Lifestyle

As early as in-utero and while breastfeeding, you’re already starting to prepare your palate for real-deal meals. Once you move on to solid food, your tastebuds evolve into fine-tuned instruments of engineering, picking out the subtlest flavors and rejecting even the slightest deviation from safe. That’s why as an adult you can squeeze pickled jalapeno juice in your eye without flinching, yet it feels like the world’s hottest pepper to a toddler.
As a baby, every female caregiver that crosses your path starts to sound like Lady Gaga with Alzheimer’s constantly demanding, “Show me your teeth!” You get rewarded with green, gray or gold one-ingredient mush that seems to come out of the wrong end of an industrial sludge machine. It’s all vitamin-rich and handmade at first, but as you get older and your parents get busier, convenience becomes key. Typically, kid-friendly foods like Mac & Cheese, PB & J and Chicken Strips are beloved by children and parents alike because they’re quick, easy and prepared with love. All those moments of carefree feasting will return throughout your lifetime as comfort foods.
As a teen, your body is invincible. You can exert control over your diet and you have some disposable income from guilt-visits to granny’s house or a part-time job as a pool boy. You eat everything and anything in sight and your body repays you with constant hunger. You’re dependent on calorically dense cafeteria fare and anything outside that milieu will be battered, fried or dipped in chocolate if you have anything to say about it.
When your Companion Encyclopedia Of Psychology textbook costs over $650 — used — you can hardly afford to splurge on Shake Shack. The dining dollars mom so thoughtfully deposits in your account go to draughts and drinks, making nutritious meals seem like a luxurious remnant of your pee-wee past. The constant availability and ease of ramen and the portability of cold pizza before your Principles Of Accounting class outweigh the benefits of all other foods.
As an adult traversing the professional world, you have to impress prospective clients or co-workers with your social acumen and zest for life. That’s why you order your meal in 4 languages, “I’ll have the Wagyu Beef Burger with Smoked Gouda, Truffle Pommes-Frites and a bottle of Warsteiner,” and everyone eats it up. Peer pressure starts to rear its ugly head and everyone starts on the “You have to try the such-and-such,” so you become a team player and some dishes get through your net of negativity. Aside from being a baby where every food is new, this is a time where your palate is at its most impressionable and daring. Take, for instance, the staple of Szechwan Cuisine, Bitter Melon or India Pale Ale, your body is trying to ward off those poisons with a strong reaction, but you rock ‘n’ roll through the warnings.
After years of abusing sugars, salts and fats, your health, more than anything else, dictates what’s permissible on your plate. You’ll crave all sorts of forbidden foods and will be willing to bribe anyone to save you from another life-saving meal of boiled chicken, rice pilaf and broccoli. That’s when extreme foods like Pickled Herring Salad or Chaud-Froid (a jiggly cream-based aspic) become increasingly more palatable. Because many of the sensory clues tied to vision, smell, touch and taste become increasingly muted thereby decreasing your overall satisfaction. First to diminish is sweet & sour followed by an inability to identify bitter profiles. Oh, the horror.
With the rise of every morning sun, your senses are fractionally less refined, so you might as well indulge in everything, or the opportunity to enjoy it will pass you by. Eat what you want, but make sure it’s coming from a source you trust — and try to balance your gelato break with whole grains…and never forget that you’ll always be a kid at heart gastronomically. And that’s OK.