Are you willing to give things you hate a second chance?

What if a food you liked was right there under your nose all along?

A blog post from Serious Eats back in December sounded awfully familiar.

Ok, we’ve all been there…had something as a child and it made us toss our cookies, pack our lunch or made our parents force us to sit at the table till we were done.

For me it was olives. Growing up in an Italian family, it was hard to escape them, but, I just couldn’t stomach them. Absolutely horrible little things stuck in potato salad, on an antipasto plate or put atop pizza.

Today, some olives (mostly lots of olives) with some wine, roasted peppers, bread and feta cheese, how can you go wrong?

The author clearly wasn’t alone — the post drew 74 comments.

Some of my very favorite indulgences used to turn my stomach. I’d conduct lengthy surgery on pizza with olives to attempt to remove any shred of the offender. I didn’t understand the appeal of red wine, particularly drinking it room temperature. I loved the smell of coffee but hated the taste.

Then my roommate had the Great Banana Revelation. She had always thought she hated bananas and avoided them at any cost. For some reason, one day when she was hungry she decided to eat one she found in the kitchen. Guess what? She liked them.

She realized she’d avoided bananas for years on the memory of not having liked them as a kid. Once she gave bananas a second chance, she changed her mind.

We agreed to retry foods we thought we didn’t like to see what else might deserve reconsideration.

I gave olives another try and thanks to Zingerman's, I'm now an addict. We typically have no fewer than three kinds in the fridge at any given time.

First up for me was olives. I went to uber-deli Zingerman’s and told a helpful employee I felt like I should like olives — I love salty food and anything pickled — but I just hadn’t. He spent the better part of an hour giving me an impromptu lesson on olives, and I left with a container of manzanilla olives I truly liked.

I learned I didn’t hate olives. I hated those nasty, black canned olives so common on pizza and pasta salads.

Do you think you might like olives if you tried something different? Here’s a Guide to Good Olives from one of the founders of Zingerman’s.

Dating John, a former Starbucks barista, made it easier to make friends with coffee. He taught me about vanilla lattes, which were my gateway drug, before helping me try different roasts and different origins of brewed coffee.

Today I know I like South American coffee, like Guatemalan, better than coffee grown in Africa, like Kenyan or Ethiopian. I also know a lot of people make their coffee too weak for me and don’t clean their coffee pots very well, which can let coffee oils go rancid, so the coffee I’d not liked before, I might not like today.

It should be no surprise that the man who taught me to like coffee did this painting celebrating the perfect espresso.

Red wine came after a lengthy visit to a small winery in northern California, when John and I were the only two people in the tiny tasting room and a very patient expert poured me accessible wines and talked to me about the way to describe what I liked and what I didn’t.

I vividly remember him pouring me a taste and telling me to think of green peppers. Yes, yes, I did taste green peppers!

What are the common themes here?

  • A willingness to give something another try
  • Don’t overgeneralize dislikes — hating bad canned olives is not the same as hating all olives
  • The benefit of learning from someone who knows enough to help a beginner

Seems to me there’s a broader implication: what things in life do I think I don’t like, but maybe I would if I tried again?

I thought I wouldn’t like Jazz Fest and I was wrong. Might I like getting up early to work out if I tried it?

Have you given something a second chance and discovered you not only didn’t hate it, you liked it?


Categories: food and drink, lifestyle

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. Colleen, after years of drinking sweet milky coffee, I tried black coffee on a lark (note–it was very high quality black coffee) and really, really liked it. I just kept on drinking it black because it was much less fussy than cream and sugar.

    My writing partner, Harry Campion, starting drinking black coffee while on a diet and never returned to sweet coffee again. I think the ease of black coffee has much to do with it.

  2. Catherine, you make a couple of great points — that learning the difference between good and bad helps, as does recognizing that our palate changes as we get older so what we like is a moving target.

    Margaret, it’s hard for me to imagine a time when you didn’t LOVE coffee so you’re my poster child for changing preferences. Was it keeping up with two kids that did it?

    Lisa, I love that the social effects of not liking certain foods helped drive your reconsideration. Food is far more than fuel.

  3. It also shows that out palates broaden as we get older (maybe deadened taste buds?) and, importantly, the quality of the product counts. Shitty tasting canned olives or instant coffee are a big turnoff, for sure, but the good stuff, ahhh, now you’re talkin’! Having said that, I will never ever eat bologna again after eating every day in the 1st grade then almost losing it at lunchtime on the first day of 2nd grade. I think I tried it plenty, though, and would bologna even meet the “quality” requirement? Still, it’s an excellent notion.

  4. I can’t tell you how many people I know started with vanilla lattes and ended up drinking black coffee, myself included.

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I was such a picky eater as a kid, based mostly on the texture and mouthfeel of things compared to my expectations. Tomatoes, for example, were too watery and slippery in my mouth, and all those seeds…yuk.

    As an adult, though, I began to see that sticking to my guns could be a social achilles heel, especially when a group is trying to agree on a pizza order.

    Now? Probably 80% or more of what I eat and savor now would never have made the cut before. What a shame that would be. So I hear ya, mitten sister!


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