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On Changing Tastes


Our guest this weekend, Jackie, is transitioning to veganism. Her hurdle, you might not be surprised to learn, is cheese made from the milk of cows. She eats cow cheese daily.

Wrongheadedly, I was excited to make her nachos-her favorite snack-with Daiya cheddar cheese. I was completely confident that she'd instantly get over her desire for cow cheese. But my effort backfired and was met with either a "yuck" or an "ew" – I'm trying my best to wipe the disappointing moment from memory.

The texture apparently is "slimy" (which is true, mid-cook, which it wasn't when she tried it. Prior to that it isn't slimy, and after that it does congeal almost like cow cheese) and she says it doesn't taste like the cheese she eats daily.

In retrospect, and after Tweeting a bunch about it and getting some great thoughts from fellow tweeters/twitterers, going the route of replacing someone's favorite food with a vegan alternative designed to replicate it might not be a great idea. Instead, I probably should have made some food with nutritional yeast and other unlike-cow-cheese-and-having-a-completely-different-taste combos. Or just stayed away from the topic of cheese. That way, Jackie wouldn't be comparing what she was eating to what she ate 24 hour hours prior.

Later in the afternoon in the Twittosphere someone asked who likes nutritional yeast and I responded that at first I disliked it immensely, and now I have a shaker full of it (with ground walnuts and sea salt) in my refrigerator and I use it daily (it's cheaper than buying Parma, which I'm knocking off). This led me to research taste and taste buds a bit and unsurprisingly discover that they change with time.

I started thinking about what I used to think was tasty, and what repulsed me. Avocados, for instance, made me gag as a child, as did any type of olive. And I now have a dozen recipes, raw and not, that feature avocados, and I'm not above eating half an avocado smeared on a slice or two of Ezekiel toast for breakfast. And I thought about tofu, many vegetables, seaweed, and even grains that are staples of my diet now but I didn't enjoy them when I first stopped eating animals.

My tastes (and taste buds) have changed and now I look forward to the food I eat and can't imagine eating any other way. Food is enjoyable and makes me feel good. Meals aren't events I have to recover from or take a nap after. But they look and taste very different from my meals of 25 years ago.

There's no substitute for the time it takes to acquire the taste for foods you don't like or are just so different from what you're used to that you don't know what to do with them (mentally), which was the case for me with nutritional yeast. This isn't to say I consciously approach veganism as acquiring tastes–I hadn't thought about most of this until yesterday. But time certainly has worked in favor of my vegan diet, and I now know that not liking the taste of something the first time you try it doesn't mean you won't like it the second or third or twentieth time. Then again, after nearly 43 years I still can't stomach raw tomatoes and I do try them every couple of months.

Fortunately, this weekend we also made roasted vegetable baked ziti and not only did Jackie enjoy it for dinner, but she ate the leftovers for breakfast. And we made a cheesy, beany, guacamole dip from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, in addition to Silverstone's chocolate peanut butter cups (above), and no one (not even the omni who popped in for a visit) complained about the taste or texture of either.


Yes, those are black olives in the guacamole dip. I bought them at the olive bar at Whole Foods (in other words, they weren't canned and sliced and pitted) and I thought they tasted great.

And yes, I put chopped tomatoes on only half of it. Some taste preferences may never change.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nick #

    It's strange how tastes really do change. Up until I was seventeen, when I went vegan, I had a very unhealthy diet and didn't like many vegetables. When I went vegan, I suddenly had to force myself to eat lots of vegetables, and after a few months I noticed that I had actually begun to enjoy the taste. And although I missed cheese for a while, now, three years later, I actually prefer cheeseless pizza to pizza with vegan cheese.

    November 15, 2009
  2. Angus #

    Jean-Paul Sartre didn't like tomatoes either. He didn't much care for vegetables in general — or for meat. But he especially didn't like tomatoes. In fact, he didn't like any food that reminded him of the natural world. Amusingly, and true to his existentialism, he preferred food from which the look of nature (the in-itself) had been abolished. He wanted food that was obviously the result of an active human project (the for-itself) — like cakes and pastries. For me, on the other hand, ripe, garden-grown tomatoes are one of the best tastes in the world.

    The other day at the Naam restaurant in Vancouver I got to experience Daiya for the first time. An initial thumbs up! I'm looking forward to pizza like that pictured in your November 1st post.

    November 15, 2009
  3. I used to loathe vegan cheese but currently I chow down on melted follow your heart like there's no tomorrow. The smell of dairy cheese used to induce me with pizza cravings but now it grosses me out.

    November 17, 2009

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