Why We Should Relook The Food Dislikes Of Our Childhoods

Posted: September 3, 2014

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Revisiting foods that you disliked in your childhood can lead to more enjoyable as well as healthier eating! Here’s why.

A few weeks ago, my husband came back from his veggie shopping trip with not one but two long and serpentine podalangai, which you may also know as snake gourd, chichinda or padwal.

Whatever was I going to do with them! It would not be an exaggeration to say that I shuddered. For, snake gourd is probably one of the last few intense food aversions of my childhood that I have retained until now, besides eating raw or semi-cooked onions (and that, I am convinced is a dislike every sane human being should share with me).

S, who works at our house as a cleaner and assistant in the kitchen, came to my rescue, and suggested making them in a curry with an onion-tomato-ginger-garlic base. Purely out of reluctance to waste vegetables that had been bought already, I decided to give it a try.

I am no convert to the virtues of snake gourd yet, but the result was indeed palatable – much more so than the dreaded podalangai koottu of my childhood.

This episode set me thinking of the food dislikes of my childhood (and yes, I was a picky eater like many children). Over the years, thanks in part to hostel messes teaching me what bad food really is, I have experimented with many foods that I once thought unbearable.

Revisiting my pet food dislikes over time has made me realize how much my tastes have changed. I eat healthier as a result, and indeed, nutritionists now advocate eating from a wide band of foods, rather than trying to get all your nutritional requirements from a few so-called ‘super foods’.

Here are my thoughts on why you should go out there and re-look some of the foods you disliked as a child.

Food memories stay; tastes change

There is scientific evidence to show that young children prefer certain tastes over others, especially foods that are sweet. Other tastes such as bitter or astringent cannot really be appreciated by most children; yet, as adults, it is possible that we may enjoy them. What prevents us? Our food memories that stay rooted in childhood and warn us that we won’t enjoy the experience, even though we might!

I was surprised for example, by how much I enjoy eating karela (bitter gourd; pavakkai), once I decided to try it. I love it in the traditional Tamilian koottu style, but also in other styles such as the Bengali style fried karela.

Which brings me to my next point: Is it really the food or a particular dish that you disliked?

Ingredient vs. Cuisine

Sometimes, a vegetable that you remember as being inedible is really a memory of a dish that was cooked a particular way during your childhood. I don’t care much for yellow pumpkin in my native cuisine, but I like it cooked in some other ways. If you like to experiment with food, trying out an ingredient in a novel manner could completely change your opinion of it.

But why go to all the trouble?

Of course, that is a question to consider. If you’ve learnt that you don’t like something, why go back to it? Why not just let it go forever?

There are many good reasons to, actually, beginning with the fact that every vegetable, fruit or other ingredient out there, is a unique combination of many good things – vitamins, proteins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other whatnots which will probably be discovered in the future.

Including multiple foods in your regular diet is one of the easiest ways to make sure you eat healthy; after all, you are bound to be getting some of all the good stuff into your body if you eat everything, rather than worrying about whether spinach has calcium, or broccoli is the new must-have. You save yourself the mental effort, if you are eating most of the fruit and veg available in your local market.

Another good reason for some of you maybe that that you are a parent, and it is easier to lead by example than preaching! Besides, for larger families, it becomes easier to cook if there are fewer individual food preferences to consider.

Yet another excellent reason is simply, the taste and pleasure of eating something delicious. When you revisit the foods you hated once, you find that you still can’t stand some of them – and that’s ok. I found that I can’t get guavas down my throat without a reflexive urge to throw up.

But you also find that some of them are amazingly tasty, and you can’t for the life of you remember why you disliked them!

With some of them, you settle down to a healthy mutual respect. This is my current relationship status with papaya – I don’t love it exactly, but I’ll eat it, with honey slathered all over it; and in return, it will be good for me!

Pic credit: arbyreed (Used under a CC license)

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

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  1. Nice observation Aparna! It takes almost 25 times to start liking a complex food taste…many times we don’t give some food that many chances we make up our mind before that and go with that memory. Also it is difficult for an adult to start something new that have no memory to begin with like fragrance of hot rice, Hilsa fish fry or Darjeeling tea means a lot to me as a bong. This may not be anything of interest to many. Similarly I might not have known the fantasy and nostalgia around amrakhand and puri or modaks if I did not see it first hand. So trying new food also makes us rich in experiences of different cultures and geographies as much a travel or reading a book can….

    • Good points, indeed, Chandrima! Those who love new experiences should definitely try out new foods…and yes, some tastes are so much more complex that we need to give them a little time to grow on us.

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