Let me tell you about nature’s most perfect fruit, the avocado. The avocado is a masterpiece of fruit engineering. It is aerodynamic. Deliciously, gothically black, with a lush green interior. The flesh is creamy and fatty and rich and delicious and can be used in so many delightful ways. It is, for those who care about these sorts of things, rich in all sorts of things that are nutritionally useful. It is a flexible, diverse, spectacular food. I have been known to eat avocados straight, like apples, right out of hand. I adore avocados so ferociously that lack of avocado availability would actually be a dealbreaker in any discussion about relocating.
I have a handful of tragically mistaken friends who dislike avocados. Yet, somehow, we manage to remain friends. It’s so odd, it’s almost as though personal tastes in food items do not actually rend a friendship to shreds! I like avocados, they don’t, and we get along just fine. I make a note to not invite them to the Avocado Festival and to avoid avocado-themed items if I have them over to dinner, and that’s that.
When people don’t like particular foods, they often encounter the attitude from the people around them that if they just tried harder, they’d start liking them. They’ve only had them prepared badly. They should try this authentic recipe. When was the last time they tried it. Their friends will try to trick them into trying the food item they don’t like, and they will constantly be berated and teased for it. ‘Well, I guess we could go to such and such a place, but I know you can’t stand lemon chicken, so…’ It becomes a constant running commentary. How dare you not like a food that other people enjoy?
I always want to know how it’s my business, at all, beyond my responsibilities as a host who wants to make sure my guests get food they actually enjoy. I have an interest in what kinds of food people like inasmuch that I want to make sure they have a pleasant time at my dinner table. It’s important for me to know what people are allergic to so I don’t kill them or make them sick, but I also want to know what people don’t like. Not so I can triumphantly present them with the dish that will change their mind, not so I can try to sneak that particular food into a meal, but so that I can make a choice not to serve it on that particular occasion, so they can eat something they do like.
What foods people like and don’t like just aren’t that important to me. I don’t see any need to force my tastes (or lack thereof) in food on other people. Andrea not liking avocados has absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever beyond that, in the event we are in the same physical place, avocados will not be on the menu. And that, when the revolution comes and we are trapped in Harvest Market, I won’t have to fight her for the last avocado.
People who don’t like particular foods will be asked why. Why don’t you like it? What’s wrong with you? They will be endlessly quizzed with demands to justify it. It’s not enough to say ‘it’s not to my taste.’ You have to say it’s the texture, or the flavour (‘but what about the flavour?’), or this one bad experience you had. You can’t just go ‘no, thank you,’ or ‘I don’t particularly fancy shrimp’ without being subjected to the third degree. And beyond the quizzing, after the interrogation, comes the next step.
The firm attempt to convince you that you are wrong. If you’re lucky, it remains oral in form. People will argue with you until you say ‘oh, ok, maybe it’s not so bad’ because what else are you going to say? How do you ‘win’ an argument about whether or not you like a particular food? More commonly, though, a recipe is pressed upon you, that you must try, and people will make a point of asking about it every time they see you. Or, even worse, people will directly force the food on you, will expect you to smile when you come over for dinner and the main dish is something your hosts know you do not like to eat. ‘We just needed you to try it when it’s prepared properly.’ And of course you don’t want to offend your hosts so you try it and you don’t like it and then what do you do? Say you like it so they can crow over you? Or say, no, I don’t like it, and have their faces fall because you’re reneged on the social contract that says you lie to your hosts when you don’t like the food?
Why is it so important that people don’t like particular foods? How does it impact you? Does it really matter, in any meaningful way? I think we can have conversations about taste and how tastes develop, and some of the cultural things that go into professed dislikes for certain foods; I, for example, have never tried pig’s feet and don’t have a strong desire to do so and am well aware that this is a cultural and regional bias. But there’s a distinct difference between ‘that is not to my taste’ or ‘I am not comfortable trying that,’ two perfectly reasonable things to say, establishing boundaries that should be respected, and going ‘errrrrgh that is so gross! Who could eat that?!!’