It might be hard to believe, but I've learned to tolerate fufu, the very common dish in Ghana which is pictured above. Yes, tastes can be acquired. Why did I bother? Two reasons: 1) Because I love my Ghanaian friends and not eating fufu would be a real hindrance to our friendship. 2) It helps me to grow as a person, to live life more fully and to be more confident in myself. Was it easy? No, but it was very satisfying.
I read somewhere that it can take between ten to twenty-five servings of a food you don't naturally like before you begin to acquire a taste for it. But just about any taste can be acquired. Your newly acquired taste may never become your favorite, but you can certainly get used to it. I've used this technique to be able to eat yogurt, tolerate strange and initially unappetizing food in Africa, and even be able to swallow diet soft drinks. The key is being committed. The more I force myself to eat fufu
for example, the less I mind it - and the social benefits of being able to eat it willingly are enormous in Ghana.
On the home front, Margy and I have used this technique to get our kids to be able to eat virtually anything. With them, it seems like all we have to do is insist upon it four or five times and they finally give in. Yes, sometimes its difficult, and sometimes we "help" them. Sometimes we insist on a quantity of the food they dislike which is very small. We don't object to them putting a piece of food in their mouth and washing it down with liquid (but they may never be obnoxious about it). But every time they do this, whether they realize it or not, they are growing in self-confidence. Its a great life lesson: They CAN get it down. Its NOT the worst thing in the world. Their fears and mental hang ups will not control them forever- they can confront and eliminate them if they so desire. As a parent, it's very satisfying to see this occur.
As I come into the homestretch of drinking mostly green tea, I just thought people might like to hear these encouraging words. In my mind, its worth the hassle and the work necessary to get your kids to like lots of foods, just like its worth the hassle and extra work necessary to get them to be responsible and do their chores. In the long run, you are giving them a great gift, even though its sometimes difficult and unpleasant in the short run.
As most of you know, Margy and I are not able to shower our kids with a lot of luxuries, but one thing we can give them is a developed and sensitive gustatory sense so that they can enjoy foods that others cannot. If we only made them eat hot dogs or mac and cheese they would undoubtedly miss out on some of life's greatest experiences. As adults, the ability to sample and enjoy local cuisuine when traveling is a great pleasure for which I'm very grateful.
Having said all this, I'd like to add a disclaimer that we don't judge anyone for taking a different approach. Everyone must do what he thinks is right. (By the way, I'm probably more convinced than Margy about everyone's ability to change their tastes.) My intent in this post is simply to share a helpful discovery.