Food Aversions

by Melissa Gauger

When Jason Skaggs bit into a tomato for the first time in ages, he gagged.  And gagged.  And eventually spit out the tomato, declaring, “I cannot stand it.”  His expression resembled that of a broken man, a man who had peered into the face of evil and barely escaped.

See, Jason Skaggs loathes tomatoes.  He cannot remember a time he ever enjoyed tomatoes; his entire life, he has shuddered at the mere thought.  In early childhood, he used to swallow grape tomatoes whole in order to avoid the taste. Eventually, his mother stopped forcing him to eat tomatoes. “She was like, oh I guess I can’t have him gagging at the dinner table all the time,” Skaggs laughed.

  photos by Mana Parker

photos by Mana Parker

People everywhere have food aversions.  Whether it be something grandiose like seafood or something simple like olives, most humans are averse to some food or another.  While it is not fully determined why aversions occur, many dislikes seem to begin during childhood; perhaps one hates asparagus after being forced to eat it with every meal.  Sometimes a traumatic experience, such as eating a carrot while sick, can also cause an aversion later on.

However, Skaggs clarified he is not completely averse to tomato products – such as ketchup or pasta sauce – unless the product has a clearly defined tomato flavoring or consistency.  In a sauce, if the tomato is only an accent, Skaggs won’t enjoy the meal, but he will eat it. On the other hand, if a meal has diced tomatoes large enough that he must physically bite into them, then the meal is a failure.

While Skeggs hates tomatoes, Maya Kazcor loathes caramelized onions.  Although she is not particularly “offended” by the carmelized onion, she cannot quite come to terms with its existence.  Kazcor repeatedly berates the dishes “slimy” texture; overall, she avoids gooey or slimy foods.  “I don’t mind the taste of it a little bit, so it’s mostly the texture for me,” she shrugged.

Eating a neatly prepared plate of caramelized onions, Kazcor whispered, “Oh god. Oh god. That’s some onion alright.”

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While she doesn’t like cooked onions, she doesn’t mind raw onion on a salad.  The difference she clarifies, is mostly the texture, although taste plays a small factor.  “I don’t like things that are sweet if it’s not like, a dessert or a sweet breakfast,” Kazcor said.

“I genuinely wish I was less of a picky eater,” Kazcor commented.  Later, she added, “It would just make my life easier if I didn’t mind the texture.”

Meanwhile, holding a bag of black licorice, Sam Willinger complained, “It tastes literally like fish, it’s nasty.” With a look of utter disgust he bit through piece after piece; he attempted to swallow before eventually spitting everything into a paper cup.  

“Some people say, oh, the taste is starting to build on me,” he expressed, looking at his licorice. “Not happening.”

Halloween caused Willinger’s strained relationship with licorice.  Every Halloween, he received twizzlers and licorice candies, but he tried to trade them at all costs. Eventually, he got tired of trading the candy every year, and Willinger lost all appreciation for the candy.  “The texture is very strange, and it also doesn’t have a very sweet taste, so I feel like I’m wasting my sugar calorie intake,” Willinger mourned.  

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Willinger’s upbringing also affected his outlook on licorice.  As a half Puerto Rican hailing from Miami, Willinger is used to spicy, flavorful foods.  In his opinion, licorice simply doesn’t meet his standards.  In Miami, he says, “A lot of people there are Spanish, so a lot of people just don’t like licorice.”

But while Miami may not like licorice, Willinger’s family seems to have a special appreciation. Although Willinger hates licorice, his mother loves the candy; it was an easy snack for her to receive as a child.  “When you’re a kid, you can really get into it,” he said.  “If you don’t get into it as a kid, it’s an acquired taste.”

Would he ever like to overcome his deep distaste? “I’d like to,” smiled Sam, “but I don’t see it.”