Foods We Love to Hate: Knowing Why

Why do we hate certain foods?


Have you ever considered what foods you hate and why you hate them? There may be more to it than finicky tastebuds. 

This is part one in a series of articles about food dislikes.

Uh, that doesn't taste very good...

Gargoyle Photo by kamshots @ flickr
Gargoyle Photo by kamshots @ flickr

Love-Hate relationship with food

I was laughing so hard I could barely start writing this article. People’s replies were stated so emphatically and incredibly humorous as they recounted their stories anyone would have laughed themselves off their chair. Usually, research can get a bit tedious. Sifting through over three hundred comments in articles about food dislikes and extreme aversions really got me thinking. I was laughing loud enough for my husband to hear me clear across the house. Why do people have a love-hate relationship with certain foods?

As I was growing up I’d hear other kids talk about foods they hated, nodding my head in agreement, echoing their familiar unpleasant sound effects. Just like them, I certainly had my own dislikes or aversions from time to time. I’d hear the same foods repeatedly mentioned as making people sick enough to hurl (throw up). Why?

That doesn’t taste as good as I thought it would: ewww, messy!

Photo by slopjop @ flickr
Photo by slopjop @ flickr

Food Aversions


Childhood experience is high on the list as the main reason of disliked foods.

Bullying siblings

There are both funny and disturbing anecdotes about food aversions rooted in childhood. Many often relate older siblings doing stupid things with food to the younger children. One story is that of two older sisters restraining the youngest and dumping huge amounts of condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard all over her and shoved up into her airways. Decades later the sight or smell of condiments set off a gag reflex for the adult to this day. There are a lot of those condiment stories in America.

Childhood poverty

Some food aversions come from the monotony of repeatedly eating the same food day after day and meal after meal on the same day. This is often related from people who grew up in unusually large families of 10 – 15 children.

Economic circumstances and the logistics of feeding so many people for three meals a day dictated the cooking was done as large one pot meals. In those cases, when the pots went empty is when a new food was cooked. There wasn’t anything wrong with the particular food, texture or cooking style. The issue was a saturation of taste, smell and monotony.

It could also have been an issue with less energy in the food every time it was reheated. Fresh food has the most energy. Food loses its energy when cooked and reheated. Meat should not be reheated more than twice. If any leftovers after twice reheating, throw it out as it could sicken you.

Eating what is not food

Sometimes, children explore their environment and start eating things on their own that are better left alone. The traditional childhood foible is eating something they should not have and in great quantity. One adult cannot go into breakfast restaurants without a negative reaction. As a child she ate an entire box of maple sugar candies and was ill for three days. Breakfast restaurants in her part of the country are known for their maple syrup and the minute she enters the door the whiff of maple smells sets off her gag reflex and resulting food aversion.

In childhood my best friend across the street and the same age was dining on cigarette butts leftover in her mother’s ashtray. She went to the doctor and he really wondered about the need for charcoal in her system at the time. Sadly, in her twenties, she developed MS (multiple sclerosis).

Apparently, my favorite as a three-year-old was to chomp on poisonous mothballs like they were candy since they smelled and tasted sweet to me. Never did have any ill effects and the doctor was quite surprised. He scratched his head and sent my mother and me home, declaring me a kid with a successful guardian angel because he was hard-pressed for an explanation as to why I was completely normal.

With toxic residue like that deposited in small amounts throughout your system it does make a person wonder if it affects how you perceive or even crave certain foods. Wonder no further, I do have a new chocolate blog: Romancing The Chocolate! I hear chocolate has great health benefits. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Now that tastes bad!

Gargoyle Photo by Vin Crosbie @ flickr
Gargoyle Photo by Vin Crosbie @ flickr

Forced to eat

Eat everything on your plate or you can’t leave the table until you do!

One really bad collective memory for adults is all those well-meaning parents who forced their children to eat all on their plate. They ended up traumatizing their children because they were primarily concerned about malnutrition.

Ignoring the child’s protestations as childish tantrums was the usual response. The reality became obvious when the child threw it up. Those protests were actually warnings that a particular food did not bode well with their metabolism.

This can be a real judgment call as some kids just enjoy being difficult and others have true issues. Knowing your child well is important. A clue could be all the other foods on their plate are eaten but not the offending one.

Bullying at religious schools

Religious day or boarding schools are a point of contention as an unpleasant cafeteria memory whether Protestant or Catholic. There are also many a collective memory of experiences where children have been loudly forced to eat all on their plate and publicly humiliated until they complied with the adult’s demands.

It isn’t any wonder why those foods brought back bad memories of bullying and a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability rather than the feeling of well-being food is supposed to provide us.

As a precocious practical kid who went to an American religious boarding school in Chinese Taiwan, I quickly figured out to befriend the Chinese cooks and ask what was really good and what to pass on. Even they thought some of what they were ordered to cook and the manner of cooking it to be unappetizing. I always enjoyed the days when those cooks were allowed to cook their food their way as it was fabulous! Chinese food in America just isn’t very authentic as it’s been manipulated to feed the American taste for extra oil, sugar, huge portions and less fresh food.


Don’t make me eat that! You will regret it!

Gargoyle Photo by post406 @ flickr
Gargoyle Photo by post406 @ flickr

Food Aversions


Food Aversions can develop as an adult

Working at an ice cream store

Often food aversions come as an adult who has worked at a food establishment like an ice cream store. How many times have you heard about how ice cream stores allow their employees to eat all they want? It sounds like they died and went to heaven! Yet, within a few weeks those same employees have sworn off ice cream and most sweets as they are saturated with the sweet taste. That food aversion often lasts for years.

Working at a restaurant

Working at a restaurant often develops food aversions when becoming saturated with the cooking smells. After waitressing for several years at a breakfast chain an employee could no longer tolerate the smell of cooking eggs. For anyone who has never worked at a restaurant know that the cooking oils and smells get into your clothes, your hair and into your sinuses and takes days to dissipate. They are not obvious until you leave the restaurant. Then you gag on the scent as it is suddenly so strong once you enter the fresh air. People who work in smoking bars complain of the same problem.

What are your food dislikes and aversions? Do you know why?

Childhood experiences are often the main reason for food dislikes. Even adult experiences can color our perception and enjoyment of food. Can you trace your current food dislikes or aversions to a particular time in your life? What is your love-hate relationship with food? Comments are welcome!

Part two in this series of articles will be Foods We Love to Hate: Unpopular Foods.

*** Food Blogs by Denny Lyon

Romancing The Chocolate

Comfort Food From Louisiana

*** Photo Credits

Gargoyle Photo by kamshots @ flickr - Uh, that doesn’t taste very good.

Child Photo by slopjop @ flickr – That doesn’t taste as good as I thought it would: ewww, messy!

Gargoyle Photo by Vin Crosbie @ flickr – Now that tastes bad!

Gargoyle Photo by post406 @ flickr – Don’t make me eat that! You will regret it!

*** Thanks for visiting and a big thank you to readers from StumleUpon and HubPages for all your great support!

 hub #9

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Comments 26 comments

Sorcha Fey 8 years ago

I have aversions to just about anything with a creamy texture. i can't stomach pudding or jello! I think this may be due to an extended stay in the hospital when i was about 16 months old. With internal burns, i imagine they fed me only soft foods, and hospital soft foods at that! The only creamy thing I will eat is hot chocolate pudding (before it's set), the kind you cook, with a spoonful of peanut butter stirred in. Now that's one to warm you in January!

I used to love mushrooms; went shrooming with my parents as a kid. Now I can't eat mushrooms after getting ahold of a bad can of mushroom soup that laid me low for two weeks!

Then there are the foods I can't eat due to the havoc they wreak in my system.

That's all of them, i think.

RGraf profile image

RGraf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

Liver!!!! It tastes bad, looks bad, and the thought of eating an organ turns my stomach.

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 8 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Yep! I'm also part of the I Hate Liver Crowd too! grin grin Nothing happened to me that was traumatic about that food, just a vile smell to me. In my next article I'll be talking about the unpopular foods and LIVER is right at the top of the list of what most people hate. I'm always fascinated as to the "why" of food dislikes and aversions. Thanks for taking the time to write your comments, RGraf and Sorcha Fey, much appreciated!

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Hi Denny!  I love this hub, and I especially love your choice of pictures.

My mom worked in a seafood restaurant for over 40 years.  She wore the mandatory nylon uniforms.  To this day, I still remember the smell.  It didn't matter that they were washed every day, the smell never left.  The odd thing though, is that she always loved seafood, and never developed an aversion to it.  As a child, I didn't touch it, but now, as an adult, I do have a few favorites.

My mom also loved to cook chicken livers for my dad.  I agree with both of you, it stinks and looks bad.  She'd fry it up in a pan with onions and gravy, but it still was disgusting to smell and look at LOL.  Thankfully, this is not a meal that she imposed on her children :)

Today, I will not eat sushi, clams, oysters, octopus, slimy things like that, and certainly, not organ meats. Ugh!

I once had venison unbeknownst to me, and when I found out that's what it was, I had to admit, it was good. However, I will never order it. It's that Bambi thing.

Great hub, thanks for sharing!  Thumbs up!

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 8 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, Trish! Thanks for your stories, much appreciated!  Your mom sounds like a delightful person and quite tolerant - both in food choices for her husband and different ones for her children. 

Actually, venison is pretty good but the Bambi image of that innocent deer really does get in the way. grin.  It is very low in fat though.

I still remember the chicken livers frying in the iron skillet when my mother used to make that dish for my father.  She didn't like them either.  It was half-way appetizing smell-wise by the bacon grease and onions used to cook it. 

Onions are actually a great way to cut the fat absorption as onions are natural blood thinners!  Otherwise those organ meats are really rich and high in chlorestoral.

Thanks for stopping by, Trish!  Come again!

drgratton profile image

drgratton 8 years ago from United Kingdom

Great hub Denny. So insightful and with great photos too. I've learned a lot. Thank you.

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

I see you know a lot about food.  I didn't know onions are natural blood thinners.  Seems I should maybe read more LOL.

Nice hub, thanks again.

Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

I don't have too many aversions regarding food. Most of the ones I hated as a kid I now love, such as brussel sprouts (the greatest vegetable) and bell pepper, but there is one evil reminder from my childhood: Grapefruit. It tastes uncommonly bittler to me, but my aversion is also rooted in my childhood. I was an extremely fat kid, and this new diet came along called "The Grapefruit Diet," or some such nonsense. You can imagine the rest. Forced to drink full glasses of it every day, my gorge rising with every swallow. Even this I am starting to get over (yea, like...100 years later!) but just a little at a time.

Thanks for another great hub. I'm so glad you introduced yourself (so to speak) to me. You are a delight!

Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 7 years ago from Virginia

Wonderful hub Denny! As I was reading, I could relate more and more to how you are right about food aversions being rooted in childhood. I can share two:

1. My dad was the 'clean your plate' type, and when we had things for dinner I didn't like, he'd make me sit at the table till I ate what was on my plate. It quickly became a battle of wills between us, because I'd sit there till bedtime and not touch the darned stuff. I ended up winning that battle. lol!

2. I went to a very old school in first and second grade that didn't have a cafeteria. We had to pack our lunches and a milk cart would come around at lunch for each of us to get milk. The problem was that the milk didn't stay cold, so by the time it got to us it was warm and made me feel like puking. So I didn't drink it. Not drinking our milk was considered bad, so my teacher would make me stand in the hallway till it was gone. I'd sit out in the hall till school was over refusing to drink it every day for weeks. Eventually the teacher called my dad and explained that I was missing a lot of school from standing in the hall for not drinking my milk. My dad, who had tons of experience with how hard headed I was about food, said, "Don't make her drink the darned milk!" My dad showed her the light, and the milk rule was dropped for me otherwise I might still be in second grade to this day. lol!

I still can't drink milk! ;)

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, drgratton, how goes the living in a new country?  Thanks for the visit!

Hi, trish, thanks for stopping by, it seems I'm not able to keep up very well with the comments now that I'm past 20 hubs, sorry about that!

Hi, Cristoph, wow you were a grapefruit guy? yikes! Actually, grapefruits are a bitter quality which is why they are great for helping to reduce weight.  But all that acid, ugh, it must be awful just thinking about consuming that much of any food.

My husband grew up hating vegetables.  Over the years I've figured out interesting ways to get him and others to eat veggies they would never meet in a dark alley!  (Your humor seems to be migrating my way...!)

Like brussel sprouts:  julienne them into lovely strips, boil gently in water with lots of garlic powder or the real thing chopped fine, (optional:  some Emeril's Essence,) some extra virgin olive oil, a little salt or soy sauce and fresh lemon juice to finish when serving.  Key:  under cook them to bright green so the sulphur smell stays under wraps.  Voila!  Instant veggie fans!

Hi, Pam, yes, I remember those dinner table battles. With me it was about being forced to eat rare steak which I hated because of the strong hormone smell. I'd go for a whole bowl of fresh green beans with delight but pass on most of the meat served. I think kids are still connected better to what works for them and what doesn't than most adults.

Case in point? Was watching Spain on the Road again with Mario Battali and he ate undercooked bird off the grill which Gweneth Paltrow tried to warn him not to do. As a chef he decided he had a cast iron stomach, well, he lost a day of filming from the food poisoning. Girl GP was right! :)

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

My pet hate is mushrooms. I can't stand the taste, smell, or texture. I can detect the tiniest amount of mushroom lurking in a dish. Evil and Wrong, that's mushrooms!

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

That's so funny about mushrooms.  Actually we really like this brain food at our house and the Japanese are crazy about them! 

As to your distaste maybe your system just isn't hardwired for the fungal family.  I've longed believed that if someone really despises a particular food then don't force them as it actually may compromise their immune system.  You may be allergic to them, so, yes, stay away for sure!

There are not too many foods I really dislike.  One I despise like you do mushrooms is papaya.  No matter how many times I've tried to eat it that fruit just makes me gag.  It smells like vomit for some reason. 

I'm sure our science friends could probably tell us what the chemicals are in these two foods that don't agree with our consititutions.  Maybe I'll put that out in the request area and someone can answer it!

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I agree - if you really don't like something, accept it, and eat other things!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I don't know where I've been that I haven't been keeping up with your awesome food Hubs. I shall ammend my tardiness post haste!

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I could not tolerate the smell of fish, the idea of fish, or even the word "fish". That was really crazy, because I was raised in a fishing family and loved all kinds of fish all my life. After my daughter was born, I was able to get back to being around fish and eating it, once five or so years passed. Interestingly, to this day, my daughter will not eat fish (except canned tuna and frozen fish sticks) although she does enjoy fishing as long as she doesn't have to handle or eat the catch. Not too long ago, she proposed the idea to me that it was my severe aversion to fish during pregnancy that conditioned her for a life of the same. There may be some truth to that, and I applaud her insight, although I have not found any studies dealing with the question.

Thumbs up for presenting compelling reasons to be understanding of others' food aversions.

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, LondonGirl, thanks for stopping by! I so enjoy people who are not short on opinions, thanks!

Hi, Sallys Trove, thanks for the visit and your awesome hubs I've been reading of late!  I've long wondered about a person's chemical makeup and food aversions, maybe it's blood type, call it what you will but there are just some foods people really can't stomach... yikes! a really bad pun! think I'll leave it here for the cranky types to fuss at me, you know, spice up our lives... groan...

Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Hello Denny! This is a fascinating topic and I'm so glad you'll be doing an entire series on it. This hub and the comments really show how our feelings about food are so tied into our life experiences. There seem to be trauma-related aversions (the child whose siblings covered her with condiments, your warm milk story, being forced to clean your plate) and physical reactions (LG and mushrooms, you and papaya). I have the latter with gelatinous veggies. I cannot stand cucumbers. It's the goo that holds those awful seeds in place. Same with raw tomatoes (which I know are technically a fruit). The texture -- mealy flesh plus that goo/seeds thing again. Gag me! But I adore cooked tomatoes as well as any/all tomato products. So it's really all about the texture.

Another thing that I believe is quite common is when you get sick on a certain food you develop an aversion to it. I know it happens a lot with alcohols, too:-)(people swear of tequila, gin, sake or whatever they associate with a particularly horrible night). I never used to have any problem with mussels until I became quite sick on them -- once from a Thai restaurant and once from an Italian restaurant. Now I just steer clear. Learned my lesson.

Thanks for a most interesting topic. Looking forward to seeing more! MM

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, MM, thanks for stopping by for a visit! I'm with you on the cucumber seeds, don't like the tough skin either. So, at our house we like English cucumbers, no seeds and a thin easy skin, very tasty because they are so thin, less gelatinous goo too. When we can only get the other kind of cucumber I skin the thing alive and then ream out the seeds and goo: good aggression therapy! :) That's the only way I can tolerate it. Cukes are really good for cooling your liver: hot summer days or too much vino out on the town as party animal.

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

That reminds me, my Dad was a small child when sugar rationing ended. He ate an entire packet of ginger biscuits, and was very, very sick.

Even now, in his late 50s, a smell of ginger makes him turn green!

bevy400 profile image

bevy400 7 years ago from scarborough

As an incredibly picky eater i made my lass eat every thing i put in front of her until one day she cried"oh no mum not sprouts again,ur killing me"...after a heated conversation i found she likes spring greens so why should i worry about what veg she eats as long as she eats some....Even now she will try to taste new food as long as i don't do my usual nagging...So now she loves/hates what ever she wants and i sit back and smile and appreciate that even kids have a mind of their own.Very good hub xx

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

Great hub Denny.

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, bevy, thanks for stopping by!  It is amusing how our tastes change for the better or the worst over time from childhood.  I've seen easy kids turn into picky adults and just the opposite! Your daughter sounds like a cool kid already knowing her own mind and not the least bit confused about what she does or doesn't want in life.

Hi, Lgali, you've been quiet lately. How is everything going in your corner of the world?  Glad to see you stopping by for a visit!

bskinny profile image

bskinny 7 years ago from US

I enjoy certain sea foods but a lot of it depends very strongly on how it is prepared. I have an aversion to "fishy" tasting dishes. I like most of my seafood charbroiled (the smoke flavor tends to remove the fishy taste). Anyway, fun hub. Thanks

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 7 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, bskinny, thanks for visiting! If seafood smells fishy it isn't wise to eat it as the bacteria has built up. What you can do to see if it's salvagable is to first rub the fish liberally with a lot of salt (any kind will do), then soak it for about 10 minutes in cold water with a lot of salt in it. Salt kills the bacteria as well as acts like a salt rub to literally scrub the decayed part off the top layers of the fish.

When you do all this and the fish still smells too fishy or worse, has that ammonia smell, it's too late, throw the ugly thing out. Usually, I'll cook it up quickly in the microwave before putting it in the trash as it stinks less in the garbage. I'd hate to be the poor unsuspecting garbage guy who opens that lid! :) Pee uuuuu.

agaglia profile image

agaglia 6 years ago

Well, I have to add this story about food aversions.

Many years ago, I had a day care child about the age of three or four. We were visiting a neighbor and she was serving Tuna Casserole for lunch. All the children (about 8) were sitting around her big table and had plates of food in front of them. This one child said he didn't like Tuna Casserole. We asked him if he could just try one bite, "Look all the other kids like it." we encouraged. But he continued to say that he didn't like Tuna Casserole. After a few minutes of us and the other children showing him how we were eating the Tuna Casserole and loving it, he tried a bite, then a couple more.

Then! he threw it all up into his plate.

He looked up at me, woefully and said."Do I hafta' Eat it again?"

Of course I said "NO!"

Denny Lyon profile image

Denny Lyon 6 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA Author

Hi, agaglia, well told! You have me laughing! Thanks for stopping by for a visit and funny story.

gggirl 4 years ago

hi denny im so glad that e can chat to you the one thing i hate is lamb i dont like it it is because of the taste

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