Learning to like unusual foods

Exposure to different people and cultures often expands your taste horizons. Some taboos — horsemeat, snake, dog — may simply be too emotion-laden to be overcome. Others with no emotional baggage fall to experience. Most people hate very salty, very bitter, very acidic, or very slippery foods such as caviar, coffee, Scotch whisky, and oysters on first taste, but many later learn to enjoy them.

Coming to terms with these foods can be both physically and psychologically rewarding:

i Many bitter foods, such as coffee and unsweetened chocolate, are relatively mild stimulants that temporarily improve mood and physical performance.

i Strongly flavored foods, such as salty caviar, offer a challenge to the taste buds.

i Foods such as oysters, which may seem totally disgusting the first time you see or taste them, are symbols of wealth or worldliness. Trying them implies a certain sophistication in the way you face life.

Happily, an educated, adventurous sense of taste can be a pleasure that lasts as long as you live. Professional tea tasters, wine tasters, and others (maybe you?) who have developed the ability to recognize even the smallest differences among flavors continue to enjoy their gift well into old age. Although your sense of taste declines as you grow older, you can keep it perking as long as you supply the stimuli in the form of tasty, well-seasoned food.

In other words, as they say about adult life's other major sensory delight, "Use it or lose it."

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