Monday, March 20, 2006

Food Psychology

"I didn't die or anything. I didn't even throw up -- so I guess they were not nearly as bad as I expected." That was Jason's response to my first attempt to make eggs en cocotte for him. The good news is that he still loves me (a really good ham and butter sandwich with those eggs must have helped :) He even claims that he is willing to give the eggs a second shot, but I think I should wait a while before putting him through this traumatic experience again.

I guess there are some dislikes that are set in stone by our memories or cultural expectations. We all have them. Even people who claim to eat everything (like me ;) have something they dislike to the core of their being.

You'll never guess what incredient is my worst nightmare. When I order tasting menus in restaurants or eat at friends' houses, I always hope and pray that I won't have an encounter with it. Of course, I could tell the restaurants that I am allergic, but I always worry about missing out on some great dish just because I don't eat this one little ingredient. It's white, it's mild, it's creamy, so innocent looking, and yet it has some unmistakable taste that I just can't learn to like. Have you guessed what it is? It's goat cheese. I know, it's hard to believe, especially that I love cow and sheep cheeses (hard, soft, runny, stinky, moldy -- I love them all). I even like goat meat! But goat milk makes me feel terribly uncomfortable. I have recently learned that the ickiness is mostly gone if the cheese is warm and melty. But if it's cold, I just can't stand it.

My parents tell me it's because of a bad experience I had with goat's milk when I was a kid. We were renting a house in the country side for vacation and the nearby goat farmer gave them some milk. I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in Russia parents are convinced that there is nothing better for their child's health than the warm milk right from the cow or goat. They say I hated it so much they never gave it to me again.

Interestingly enough, I don't remember this at all. I only found out about it because my Mom told me recently. I find my goat milk amnesia strange because I remember vividly everything I've ever eaten since I was 4 years old. Jason and I keep joking that I have culinary autism. But I don't remember the goat milk incident. It must have been such a terrifying experience that I blocked it out of my mind. I think I missed my calling as a food psychologist. I can totally see a session of food therapy: "So tell me, how did that Brussels Sprout make you feel?"


Erin Eats said...

I have a similiar thing, but it's with a certain texture.. beans come to mind, as well as over-cooked or mashed potatoes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen, My husband has the same aversion, although he remembers why clearly. He milked goats as a youngster and to this day he swears that chevre smells like a goat's udder. You can chase him with the stuff. I've tried to get him to try other goat's cheeses such as Chaource, but to no avail. If he finds out goat cheese is in a dish, he won't touch it with a 10 ft. pole. Oh well...

Helen said...

Hi Shoma,

I guess I am not the only one with goat cheese issues. My goat cheese dislike is not as severe as your husband's (or maybe it is, but I hate the concept of not eating something, so I try). I once consumed half of a goat cheese panna cotta in a really nice restaurant in Quebec city. It was a tasting menu and that was the cheese course. It was such a cool dish I just had to try it. I only lasted a few spoonfuls though ;)


Anonymous said...

I have been searching for those like me who can't stand goat cheese--and cilantro. I think it is so arrogant for foodies to say that people like us are somehow retarded in the taste area. I taste goat--dirty goat--anytime I eat by accident goat cheese. A relative is allergic to dairy but can eat this, so she includes it in her cooking. No matter how small the amount is, it ruins the entire dish. Cilantro has already been vindicated, and let's just all accept the fact that some people have a genetic make up that doesn't go with the cuisine of the year.