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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 1/1/2013

Spam, liver, and cottage cheese — ick

BY DAN NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

The giant cosmic odometer has turned over once again; a new year has begun.

It seems like a good time to reflect on the foods we love. But when you get right down to it, isn't it a better time to take a look at the foods we hate?

Finding a list of most-hated foods was easy. Facilitating the research of just such information (along with elevating civil political discourse) was precisely why the Internet was invented. A few keystrokes, and we found ourselves at the unfortunately named slashfood.com, and its list of the 27 least-favorite foods, according to a poll of 78,000 readers.

Admittedly, a majority of those 78,000 readers, based on their choices and comments, seem to be teenagers. But 78,000 people of any age is a good-sized sample, even if it is self-chosen and unscientific.

And it must be unscientific, because liver is listed at No. 27. How could liver score so low? I will eat pretty much anything, but, in the words of the singer Meat Loaf, I won't eat that. Although, come to think of it, meatloaf is another thing I won't eat.

No. 1 on the list is Spam, which I can definitely understand. I was in the Boy Scouts. I've eaten Spam. I understand it helped get us through World War II. I know they love it in Hawaii. But I've never been to Hawaii, so I do not feel obligated to ever eat Spam again.

Next on the list was celery. My jaw dropped. How can anyone hate celery? I'm not sure I've met anyone who actually likes it, who goes out of his way to eat it, who proudly answers "celery" whenever asked his or her favorite food. But how can anyone greet it with actual disgust?

On the other hand, I kind of agree with the voters who dislike cottage cheese. One voter summed up my feelings perfectly: "Cottage cheese reminds me of baby barf and Jell-O."

Why don't I eat cottage cheese? (Apparently, there are many things I don't eat, but in my mind it is only calves' liver). It isn't the taste — at this point, I couldn't even tell you what it tastes like. It is the associations I formed about it in childhood.

I didn't like the way it looked when I was 5, and that determination has informed the way I have approached it ever since.

I am not alone. Nearly all the reactions listed on that site and other sites, and in conversations I have had with friends and colleagues, do not list the flavor as the reason they avoid foods. What they don't like is the texture or the way it looks.

One man compared oysters to "a fresh phlegmball," which I thought was funny even though I love them (oysters, not phlegmballs). Raisins made the list of most-hated foods because of their appearance: They "remind me of roaches from my old apartment. AAACK!" wrote one, while another opined, "cooked raisins look like FAT TICKS."

Well, maybe, since you put it that way. But they taste so good. And what else do you put in your cereal? Blueberries?

Not blueberries, not for a lot of the voters. Blueberries were among the list of hated foods, along with — shockingly — maple syrup. Who could possibly hate maple syrup? Or, for that matter, blueberries?

How can there be widespread opposition to mayonnaise? And would they all change their mind if they ever tried the real stuff made from scratch?

Looking at the slashfood list and other similar lists just depressed me. An awful lot of people seem to have irrational feels and inexplicable reactions to a lot of food. Opinions formed in childhood, opinions based almost entirely on the unquestionably immature concept of yuckiness, still hold sway. Millions of people, if not billions, withhold the pleasure of experiencing delectable foods beloved around the world solely because they looked unappetizing to them when they were 4 years old.

Today is New Year's Day. This year, why not resolve to try some foods you have been avoiding your entire life? You may well learn that you love them.

But as for me, I'm still going to stay away from liver. That stuff is gross.

Contact Daniel Neman at dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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