I find it bizarrely fun to hear about what foods people dislike. It’s fascinating to learn that friends I may have a lot in common with in other areas don’t share my passion for sushi or sweet potatoes. The other day, my mom and I got an endless text thread where we listed all the foods we didn’t like, and for someone who doesn’t consider herself a picky eater, I was surprised at how many came to mind. My list included pork belly, american cheese, runny eggs, and pizza with chicken on it. My mom’s main offenders were artichoke-spinach dip, flavored coffees, brie, and watermelon-feta salad. And I’d bet money that you’re thinking of some right now too, aren’t you? (go ahead, leave a comment and let me know — just to satisfy my weird curiosity!)

Of course, I also had to poll our team to find out what makes them gag, and I found their answers so varied and somewhat surprising, I had to share:

Kelly KBlack licorice. I’ve hated it since childhood when I thought I was getting grape-flavored licorice and was duped. Also – there’s not enough ranch dressing in the world to save a bell pepper.

CristinaFatty meats, which is blasphemous here in Texas. I’m the only one ordering lean brisket in the bbq line.

Chanel: Capers. The flavor is overpowering! Anytime a caper sneaks its way onto my fork, I can’t taste any of the other food. Also, melon literally tastes like eating a fart to me.

JennI don’t like mayonnaise. If a burger has mayo on it, scraping it off won’t do — I can still taste that flavor.

Katie: I’m with Jenn on the mayonnaise. I consider it the frequent destroyer of many of my favorite foods — potato salad, sandwiches, even sushi. There is something about the combination of the slightly gelatinous texture (especially of store-bought version) and its mild sweetness that completely grosses me out.

EmilyMushrooms. When they’re raw they feel fuzzy, and when they’re cooked they feel like rubber.

TaraThe one food I absolutely detest is strawberries. I’m not a picky eater at all, but I’ve always passionately hated strawberries and all strawberry-flavored things. And it’s not simply the idea of them. Once, I walked into a relative’s house and thought “Why does it smell so terrible in here?” and then I realized she was baking strawberry rhubarb pie.

Molly: Grapefruit. I thought I liked it until I married a guy who said “I hate grapefruit!!” every time I brought one home from the store. Now it’s turned me off completely. It’s bizarre!

Kelly C.It’s so not cool, but I don’t love oysters. If I’m at Clark’s and people want to get a bunch I am totally cool with it and will even eat one or two. But I would never order them on my own.

Elizabeth: Kiwi. Something about the black seeds inside the green fruit makes me squirmy

All this talk of hating certain foods made me think about another interesting question: Can you train your tastebuds? With a 3-year-old at our dinner table now, it’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought as we’ve tried to expose her to the same foods we eat and “train” her to like more sophisticated choices and flavors. Spoiler alert: it’s easier said than done. I was talking to a friend yesterday about how we normally serve our preschool-age kids what the rest of the family is eating, like roast chicken or grilled salmon, and so often they respond with an ewwwww and outright refusal to try it. But put a fried chicken finger or breaded fish “stick” on their plate? Done and done. Hmm…

When I was a kid, I refused to eat fish. Walking into a seafood restaurant, the smell would actually disgust me to the point of losing my appetite. But as I got older, I realized I was missing out on so many foods that other people loved, so I forced myself to keep trying it over, and over, and over… until one day, I found myself craving sushi, and now I’d happily eat anything that swims every single day. Oysters, scallops, octopus? Bring ’em on. And it seems that I’m not alone! Here’s what the rest of the team had to say about their changing taste buds:

Cristina: I used to hate eggplant! There was a bitter taste that I found overpowering in any dish. What changed my mind was when I started having them roasted on the grill with plenty of olive oil and salt. Preparing them this way brought out their flavors in a much more appealing way, and now it’s one of my absolute favorites.

JennI was a really picky eater as a kid. I survived on grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets for years. My parents shipped me off to a 5 week summer camp, and it was kind of a try-new-things or starve situation. I came back with an expanded palette, and an I’ll-try-anything-once attitude that has served me well ever since.

JuliaI used to hate anything briny – olives, capers (especially!) and pickled things. I took a trip to spain where there were green olives on every table instead of bread. I just kept tasting them hoping something would click, and finally it did. Now, I LOVE brine and actually crave the flavor of olive and caper juice in salad dressings. 

KatieI used to despise broccoli. There were many family dinners when I was a kid where I was made to sit at the table long after everybody else was finished because I wouldn’t touch it. Since I hated it so much as a kid, I stayed away from it for many years into adulthood. One day, after again reading about its many health benefits, I decided to give it another shot. Now, I eat it several times a week! Raw, steamed, roasted — I love them all!

Kelly K: Olives. Once I got past canned olives and tried a fresh and robust kalamata, it was much more pleasant. Pretty sure a good tapenade on fresh burrata made me a believer. 

ChanelTomatoes — I used to hate tomatoes (not uncommon), but my aversion turned into an obsession overnight. Just like that, one day I tried a super sweet cherry tomato and since then I haven’t been able to eat a meal without a tomato on the plate. Also, blue cheese. As a cheese lover, I always felt a dissonance about my disdain for blue cheese. One day I decided to train my tastebuds to like blue cheese, and after a few months of forcing myself to leave it on my salads and cheese boards, I finally came around. Hooray!

ElizabethI used to feel funny about celery, but now I adore the leaves in all kinds of dishes and use it all the time. Maybe I got over it when people quit pushing it on me filled with peanut butter. I mean, peanut butter in celery is just weird, right?

Emily: Brussels sprouts. Even when they became the vegetable en vogue, it took me a year to give in. The dish that converted me was the flash-fried brussels sprouts from Snack Bar here in Austin. With a homemade aioli on the side for dipping, how could I refuse?

Kelly C.: I only recently started eating meat, so steaks are a new thing to me. At first I dreaded eating them and kind of made myself do it (I was trying to up my iron stores) but now I actually kind of look forward to them!

After all this talk of changing tastebuds, I’m left wondering — do we prefer different foods because we actually taste foods differently? I’ve read that some people have an aversion to cilantro because they perceive a soapy aftertaste — and that it’s actually caused by genetics! I’ve also heard several people describe their dislike of shrimp to its “bleachy flavor,” which I’ve never personally experienced. What do you guys think — do we taste foods differently, or do we just prefer different flavors? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that in the comments, plus let me know what foods you hate and which foods you’ve learned to love!

*image: Bianca Balti for Elle Italia March 2015

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Comments (17)
  1. 1
    Rachel October 8, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    After a bout of food poisoning in a restaurant in Spain due to a horribly undercooked steak pizza, the taste of gruyere cheese (which probably had nothing to do with my sickness!) honestly sends tremors to my stomach 10 years on… also I too cannot face a runny egg!
    This post is so fascinating! 🙂

    • Mollie October 8, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      I was sick with the stomach flu as a kid and my parents bought me a bag of Andes Mints to make me feel better. But then I associated sickness with the mints and couldn’t eat them for years. Twenty years later and I can only have one or two before I start feeling weird. Ha!

    • Camille Styles October 8, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      ugh – after reading that, I may not be able to eat Gouda, either! 😉

    • Gabriella October 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Gosh, now I feel compelled to comment, too! For the longest time I couldn’t stand the thought of mac+cheese, because as a kid, when I was staying with my auntie in England, I got sick after eating m+c. And then, a year later, I got sick again, after having it at another auntie’s place. I haven’t had it since my childhood, even though I’m sure there was nothing wrong with either of those dishes…!

      Also, I don’t like honey (I am training myself to like it, though!), raisins, and blue cheese. And I used to HATE chanterelle mushrooms, and now I LOVE them (like, to the point of craving them and asking my mum to make chanterelle sauce with bread dumplings for me when I come and visit). I don’t know how it happened, though. Over night hate turned into love. Weird!

  2. 2
    Vanessa @ Living in Steil October 8, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve always hated celery! I can’t even be in the same room with it, let alone have to touch it. The smell of it makes me gag. I’m a picky eater, so this post is giving me hope that I will be able to expand my palette one day!


    • Mollie October 8, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      I was sick with the stomach flu as a kid and my parents bought me a bag of Andes Mints to make me feel better. But then I associated sickness with the mints and couldn’t eat them for years. Twenty years later and I can only have one or two before I start feeling weird. Ha!

    • Mollie October 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      I’m sorry I meant to reply to Rachel!

  3. 3
    Jackie October 8, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Calamari has got to be the grossest type of food to me. I love almost all seafood, and I’ll try it every time I go to a restaurant in a coastal town where I know the seafood is fresh, but the rubbery consistency mixed with the fried breading does not bode well for me. And seeing all the tentacles poking through.. It’s terrifying.

    • Camille Styles October 8, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      I happen to love calamari, but after reading your perspective on it… can totally see how it could be downright scary.

  4. 4
    Molly Kendrick October 8, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Oh my gosh. This is such a great post. I would rather die than come face to face with a runny egg.

  5. 5
    Mollie October 8, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I hate bananas. I keep trying them over and over but I still can’t eat one. What is weird is that I love banana bread and the smell of banana bread. The smell of a plain banana makes me gag. I don’t understand. My uncle has the same aversion. I think it’s a textural thing too maybe? Definitely an interesting topic though. There’s not much I just flat out won’t eat. I don’t like chicken on pizza but I will eat it if there’s no other choice. I just don’t prefer it.

    • Camille Styles October 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      Wow — can’t believe that you love banana bread but hate bananas! That is so funny… it’s got to be a textural thing.

  6. 6
    Ivana @ Macarons and Pearls October 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I had so much fun reading this post! I was actually giggling all the way 🙂 I’m a pretty unpicky eater in general: I’ll try anything at least once, and there aren’t many foods that I actually detest. But the one thing that’s been on top of my “hate” list for the past 10 years is the goat cheese. When I was 18, I went to France for the first time, to work as an au-pair, and to this day, I remember vividly one of the first lunches I shared with my French family. They presented me with a funny round-shaped cheese, and I dug in earnestly, only to find myself almost gagging. It was a mature goat cheese (probably the most fragrant one that’s ever existed), and I hated it immediately and passionately. The smell and the taste were just too strong for me, and that hasn’t changed over years. I simply can’t find myself in the same room with a goat cheese – that smells like catastrophe (pun intended).
    On the other hand, the one thing I’m glad I’ve rediscovered, is actually avocado. The first time I tried it, I found it quite bland and tasteless, but once I tried a delicious guacamole, I was a convert. Now I have to have it several times a week, or I’m unhappy 🙂

    Thank so much Camille, for this amazing idea and post. It was so much fun!

  7. 7
    Whitney October 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I’m not a picky eater at all but I will not eat liver or rutabagas. ????????

  8. 8
    Ashton Roberts October 8, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Oh my gosh, kalamata olives. I just detest them. I ordered a pizza once at Alamo Drafthouse sans kalamata olives. Well, unbeknownst to me, it showed up with tons of those babies. It’s dark in there so I bit into one and it basically ruined the whole movie/pizza/usually awesome Alamo experience for me. I couldn’t power through it, I had to spit it out!

  9. 9
    Isabel October 9, 2015 at 3:47 am

    I try to like organ meats (fits in the theme from nose to tail that i totally agree with) but the thought of what it is makes me feel sick… Yuk!

  10. 10
    Louise October 14, 2015 at 10:42 am

    rice pudding….so disgusting…also sweet pickles…yick