There are a lot of things that determine how you will respond to food. It starts with the five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami or savoury. Second it’s important to know that taste is a very individual thing; as this study shows. But your experiences, even your ethnicity and gender, can play a part in it. You might also be what is known as a super-taster. Any of these factors can help determine how you respond to the food you eat.
The foods you are introduced to when you are younger are most likely to stick with you as you grow older, the familiarity and memory association will play a big role, but you might find some foods become less palatable and others more so as you age; that’s because your taste buds become less sensitive as you grow older. But then you may just have a high or low sensitivity to certain tastes to begin with. So environment and genetics (i.e. some people will always taste soap when eating cilantro) will both play a part in if you enjoy a food or not.
But there’s good news if you’re interested in learning to love a food that you currently don’t. Unless the issue is a genetic one, Mari Sandell, Professor in Sensory Perception for the Functional Foods Forum, says that you can train your taste buds. “Repeated exposure usually helps people to accept flavours. But it may not be so easy to repeatedly try something you do not like. Some people may need to try the same food more than others. It is pretty easy to give up if you are not motivated.”
So there you have it! With a few exceptions, you CAN teach yourself to like a food you currently don’t. It just might not be a whole lot of fun.