What’s Your Taste Inheritance?

posted in: Ruminations | 7

The UK has been making impressive headway in isolating what makes us eat what. Namely, it’s our genes.

“More often than not, our genetic make-up influences our dietary patterns.”

So said Tim Spector, a Professor at London’s Kings College, in this BBC News article about a study he led that suggested identical twins shared the same eating preferences. Among these preferences, coffee and garlic turned out to be strong indicators of the genetic link. (But who doesn’t like garlic or coffee?)

And just a few weeks ago, The New York Times published an article by Kim Severson called, “Picky Eaters? They Get it From You.” Based off similar research from University College in London, the story focused more closely on food dislikes than likes. Finicky kids who won’t eat anything but plain pasta perhaps aren’t just doing it for the attention, it suggested.

The old saying, “You are what you eat” might now be more accurately put, “What you eat is you.” Well, not to mean that you eat yourself…

Anyway, do you have a funky food inheritance? Let’s all play the blame game and pin them on our ancestors. Here are a few of my random food tastes that may have been passed down to me.

Curious food likes: Both my dad and I like eating gristle. It’s fun! Also, I fear I may be developing a serious tolerance for heat. While both my parents savor spicy food, my mom tells me that her own mother used to bring a little jar of hot sauce wherever she traveled – on planes, especially – in order to ensure everything she ate was up to her spicy standards. (Um… that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea…)

Curious food dislike: My aversion to strong-tasting cheese has got to be from my mother’s side, too. I was twenty before I could smell an aged blue cheese without becoming faint or nauseous. (My uncle will go so far as to blame cheese for bad things that happen to him afterward. The last time he ate a speck of cheese, he claimed it made him break out with pimples.)

7 Responses

  1. Tri

    I’m doomed!!! My fiance’s family are the pickiest eaters! Drives me nuts. One is a vegetarian that hates… vegetables! I’ve stopped cooking for them/with them because restaurants are just easier for dealing with it. I once made spaghetti and had to sit silently as everyone picked out the diced, almost caramelized (yum!) onions.

    My family on the other hand, loves everything, any time from anywhere. We’re also big travellers and his family isn’t.

    I imagine we’re going to have children that love Vietnamese food (my family’s side), but will be picky about everything else. Well.. I guess I can live with that.

  2. Yvo

    Hm, I don’t think it’s genetics, I think it’s a product of your parents being your hero as a kid and what they won’t eat, why would you? My bf is a really picky eater (as I blather on about on my blog) and it’s mostly because he hasn’t tried (and won’t try, sometimes) what his father doesn’t eat. He definitely worshipped his father when he was a kid, and some of that spills over onto today. When I cook for both of them, sometimes I see bf hesitating after his dad says “I don’t like this/I won’t eat this”. Once or twice- and I don’t mean to sound like the evil witch who’s trying to drive them apart, I’m really not, I adore his father but he really needs to eat more vegetables, and I’m not talking “strange” ones or ones that society vilifies (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) I’m talking normal ones like lettuce or tomatoes or whatever! Anyway. I firmly believe that a lot of this comes from just watching your parents- I was going to post about this, actually- when I went to California, I was in SF’s Japantown and a woman walked by with her [I think] daughter, and they were looking at a Japanese crepe place that had plastic versions of their food in the window. The mother pointed at each one, starting on the savory side, and I was horrified when I heard, “Disgusting, never, maybe, that’s gross, ew, ew,” then got to the sweet side and everything was yum/delicious. I’m not going to fault her for not liking some of their creations, (ham & cheese, avocado salad, etc. on a crepe- I think they sound alright, if I liked crepes) but I was saddened that she basically ensured her daughter wouldn’t try those items or have any interest in them until perhaps she was much older.
    Personally, growing up in an Asian family that ate practically everything- and parents who made me try everything at least once- I realized when I was much older that this attitude spills over which is great! But there are a lot of “normal” foods I didn’t eat much/often as a kid because my parents didn’t like them (or couldn’t eat them- I found out when I was 16, after asking my mom why she never made/served cauliflower and to please make it, that it, ah, gave a certain someone in my family gas, so she just didn’t make it, hahahaha). They didn’t say so, they just didn’t serve them. Like cheese- my parents weren’t big cheese people, so I had to figure out my love of that as I got older.
    As for my own weird likes/dislikes… Huh, I can’t think offhand of any food I seriously turn my nose up at anymore… And liking weird stuff, there’s plenty of that.

    PS It was awesome meeting you last night! We should … well, does grabbing coffee count as eating out? 🙂

  3. Yvo

    Sorry, I didn’t realize I wrote a novel there. I’m really verbose online as you know… and a bit reticent in person =X

  4. Lilster

    It’s all quite odd — normally I love coffee and garlic (okay, I can’t do raw garlic, it repeats for days), but ever since I became pregnant, junior hates them. Couldn’t go near the stuff. I can now approach them (although I’m still not supposed to have caffeine), but from what I could stomach in my first trimester, I have come to the conclusion that this is not my child. I’m blaming his father.

  5. lauren

    my husband ha-a-ates garlic, though his parents and sister love the stuff. i call him The Worst Italian Ever, actually, because though he loves to make italian food (and is quite good at it), he also can’t stand onions or tomatoes. as those three foodstuffs are three of my best friends, we have a hell of a time trying to share pizza.

    yvo, i agree with you – i think that for most of us, most of the time, our likes/dislikes come from observing our parents/idols. my poor father was such a trailblazer for me and my sisters that he never got to finish his own dinner – whatever he was trying to eat looked so very good to us that we picked his plate clean. i always thought he’d make a fine microrestauranteur – he could just make lunch for himself over and over again and other people would take it away.

  6. DM

    tri- It is really frustrating when people claim so-and-so is “a vegetarian that hates… vegetables!” Keep in mind that a plate of veggies alone is not satisfying to a vegetarian. (Where’s the protein? Where’s the grain or carb?) The times that I have complained about veggies generally comes when I know that the meal will not fill me up (i.e. no protein). For example when I was younger and first became vegetarian (around 14 yrs old) my family would serve me a salad for dinner- but it would only contain lettuce, veggies, and dressing. Because it was missing a protein like tofu or cheese and a grain (dinner roll or something). So since it wasn’t very satisfying next time they asked if I wanted a salad I would say “no i don’t like that”. Eventually I went to a nutritionist and figured out how to eat better. If you’re the only veg in your family, you don’t always realize the best way to plan out your meals. You just end up eliminating the meat and doubling the veggies. Just something to consider.

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