It’s amazing to me how much tastes can change over time. I never used to eat kale. Suffered through spinach. Wasn’t a huge fan of swiss chard. But, over time, things have shifted. Now I crave kale salads from restaurants (Thistle Hill, I’m lookin’ at you). It’s totally normal for me to wake up and eat a pile of greens with eggs and avocado first thing in the morning. I put spinach in berry smoothies. I officially have a love affair with greens.
Mary Roach’s most recent book, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, provides enthralling research and a deep exploration on topics like taste, smell, flavor, and preference — not to mention beauties like saliva, oral processing, and a chapter with the subheading, “How to survive being swallowed alive.” Yes. It’s riveting and hilarious.
Our likes and dislikes are largely (I’d say, mostly) learned. When we enter the world as babies, we don’t yet have information about what is edible and what isn’t. We learn that mostly from the people around us, often our parents, siblings, and peers. Roach has this to say regarding taste and preference:
To open people’s minds to a new food, you sometimes just have to get them to open their mouths. Research has shown that if people try something enough times, they’ll probably grow to like it. In a wartime survey conducted by a team of food-habits researchers, only 14 percent of the students at a women’s college said they liked evaporated milk. After serving it to the students sixteen times over the course of a month, the researchers asked again. Now 51 percent liked it. As Kurt Lewin put it, “people like what they eat, rather than eat what they like.”
So, the way I see it, junk food has the upper hand. I’m thinking of advertisements on paper and in media. I’m remembering the last-grab items up at the counter at a pharmacy or bodega. I’m also considering the intoxicating, addictive qualities of sugar, salt, and fat. Each of those have their own place. And by no means am I shunning them. Rather, I’d like to up the ante from the greens side and get in the habit of enticing myself (and you) with pictures of hard-to-resist leafy vegetables. A little healthy food porn, if you will…
Rainbow Swiss Chard, fresh from the Sol Flower Farm CSA. Sautéed in butter, with chopped garlic and shallots.
Glazed Hakurei Turnips with their own greens. Glazed in butter and water, with a dab of molasses and a pinch of sea salt.
Simple, beautiful Kale accompanying a meal. Sautéed in olive oil, with yellow onion, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
And, lastly, massaged Kale. Raw and mashed with avocado, salt, pepper, and a bit of lemon.
Hope you’re feeling as
turned on inspired as I am! Now, go get cookin’!