Sandwich of the Year
While recovering from a Christmas party this week, I got a hankering for a BLT sandwich. But darn it, I had no tomatoes. As I peered into the fridge for a plan B I spied a jar of pickles at the back and suddenly, I just had to have one. It didn't make any sense.
The thing is, I hate pickles. Always have. I’m not a vinegar or sour person. It hurts the sides of my tongue. But in that instant, my thoughts on pickles went from repugnant to curious.
I toasted some bread with cheddar under the broiler, slathered on the mayo, then added some good bacon and finished with a few slices of pickles. MOTHER OF GOD. The combination of textures of soft, melty and crunchy and the flavours of smokey and fresh were simply meant to be together. I almost had to make a second one. (Ok, I did. But I only ate half.) And the pickle is what made it.
It’s not the first time my distaste has turned to deep love. For a food that is. I also used to hate olives. Then I went to Israel and a bartender put a small bowl in front of me and and it was like I was seeing them for the first time. Same goes for coffee. That bitterness had never made way for something pleasurable to my palette. Now? I hate to start the day without my latte ritual.
The reason for a sudden change in taste is an environmental or cultural one. Not many people like sardines, but that may only be because they’re not used to them. Sardines on toast was commonplace in my house growing up, so they don’t seem foreign to me. (They’re quite delicious!) That’s why it’s smart for parents to continue to introduce different foods to their kids rather than taking things off the menu because “Billy doesn’t like it”. It’s not that he doesn’t like it, it’s that he doesn’t like it because its new. The key is to make it common.
As babies we’re predisposed to like sweet flavours and repel bitter ones, since foods that taste sweet (like fruit) provide both nutrition and energy. Know any kids who like candy? I rest my case. Can’t get your kid to eat broccoli? Try sprinkling sugar on it the first several times. Eventually you won’t need to.
We’re each born with a certain number of tastebuds and that number is finite. They will regenerate over and over again when we’re young. Then as middle age arrives they begin to die off and atrophy, which is why (along with a loss of the sense of smell) things taste blander as we hit old age.
As adults we can train ourselves to like (or dislike) certain foods. If you consume too much salt try cutting it out completely for several days. As you re-introduce it you’ll find you’re more sensitive to the taste and don’t need as much. And if it’s something you need to add to your diet, like greens, try mixing it with something you already like. Eventually you’ll develop a taste for it all on its own. This explains how I have come to love my morning greens-mixed-with-blueberries smoothie. And in Israel, the olives were everywhere so it made sense to eat them. I’m not sure how much I actually like coffee, because when I’m forced to grab one on the go at a coffee shop I don’t enjoy it. It’s the morning ritual that comforts me.
This is useful information if your new year’s resolution is to eat healthier. Developing a true love of nutritious foods can take time, but once you do it you will have very little temptation to go back to the bad stuff.
Is it possible my new found love of pickles was born simply from staring at the jar in the fridge that someone else put there? Perhaps. Regardless, you’ll love my Pickle-Bacon-Cheddar sandwich. Happy new year!