Many of us enjoy having a glass of fine wine, an after-work cocktail, or a cold beer. I wonder how many of us, though, embraced of the taste of alcohol at first sip. You see, taste is learned, and if not for rites-of-passge and peer pressure, loosening inhibitions and the promise of blunting emotional pain, or through outright adventurous curiosity we might never choose to take an unpleasant dose of alcohol. All manner of spoonfuls of sugar are concocted by bar tenders to help the medicine go down, at least until a dependence has developed that goads us into savoring the complexities of fine wines, aged Scotch whiskey, and micro-brews. Without encouragement our natural palate tends to reject alcohol as the toxin it is. Ultimately, we must consciously override our initial repulsion in order to “enjoy” a drink. And we do.
Few question. Fewer resist.
Far from moralizing, or condemning drink (as I happily bend elbows with friends) the point here is that since we seem adept at consciously overriding our initial repulsion to alcohol just to experience some level of intoxication, how come the converse so often fails? For instance, when given the option of eating or drinking something that’s good for us, something that provides some level of un-toxification, many people forget the power of the manual override and default to nutritionally poor, highly processed, food “products.” Instead of making a reasoned decision some automatically reject, even scrunching their faces at the mere thought of more prudent food choices. They petulantly object, “I don’t like that.” (Really? They don’t like food?)
There are tribes of primates each living in adjacent trees who distinguish themselves by the fruit they will or will not eat. Same species. Same neighborhood. Same nutritional needs. Different tastes. Go figure.
Few resist. Fewer change.
Could it be that we have so insulated ourselves from our primal grace that real sustenance itself has become uncomfortable? In fact, healthful food presenting an initially unfamiliar flavor, texture, or even a culturally challenging idea often provokes defensive ridicule. Why is that?
Fear of change. Fear of difference. Fear of the unknown.
But consciousness is known to us. If we can take a drink, or especially if we are able to somehow swim against the societal current encouraging alcohol use then we have it within us to consistently make intelligent, rational decisions about the food we eat instead of giving in to infantile or emotional impulses, don’t we?
I’ve sampled raw, sour milk in Poland, menudo in Southern California, and moonshine in Costa Rica. Each required a bit more conscious involvement than ordering a croissant and double espresso at a French brasserie, but was well within the scope of reason. Not surprisingly, I like it all! While tarantula, brain, or coffee beans found within the excrement of the civet might initially prove a higher hurdle, I’ve already made the biggest leap— taste is learned.