There are foods that we like, and others we dislike. Flavours we love, flavours we hate. Sweet. Sour. Salty. Bitter. And all other sophisticated flavours – like earthly, tropical tastes – in between.
I’m not a fan of sour foods. But my mum is. Whenever she’s back in Malaysia, she buys loads of sour lollies from the dried fruit-lolly shops there and asks me why I don’t want any. I don’t like tom-yum laksa or fish head curry either.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Asian food. It’s just the sour kinds I don’t like. We love certain foods and hate others because we’re used to eating certain foods and others very little. I don’t remember being served sour foods apart from oranges at home as a kid. I do remember my mum making me Maggi instant noodles for breakfast a lot, which is probably why I like instant noodles today.
And so memory can have something to do with our eating habits. Maybe we have good experiences with some foods, and bad with other foods. I remember little me getting stomachaches from drinking orange juice all the time; maybe my dislike for sour foods stemmed from there. Or maybe it has something to do with genetics since our food preferences are learned when we’re still fetus. Like me, my mum isn’t a huge fan of orange juice.
Then there’s the fact that at times culture and upbringing has nothing to do with our palate for certain foods. We’re all individuals. We all have our own personal tastes and preferences, and we taste things differently. It’s like how some of us like wearing certain outfits and some don’t. How some of us choose to follow vegan or paleo diets. How some Westerners don’t like glutinous Asian dessert because of their squishy texture.
Eating certain kinds of foods come with sexist stereotypes. Sweet foods are typically seen as more feminine and popular with the ladies, and savoury “man-food”. When I reach for a snack, it’s usually a savoury one. And I’m not exactly a girly-girl kind of girl…and not a tomboyish one either.
When it comes to comparing cuisines, Asian dishes taste flavourful while Western dishes bland in general. For some people, going from one flavour to the other (sometimes within seconds) is too adventurous for their palate. When I’m out and hungry, I tend to grab something non-Asian to eat, like a chicken sandwich or fries – mainly because it’s more convenient and cheaper in Melbourne. So maybe after all these years in Melbourne, my tastebuds are quite Westernised now.
Some of us get used to eating certain foods the more we eat them. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to eating sour foods. A few months ago at work I was feeling peckish after lunch and the only snacks around were red chewy gummy candies with sour syrup centres. Maybe they aren’t that sour. I popped one in my mouth, chewed and made a face. My colleague Asha looked at me and said, “Are you okay?” The lolly went down my throat without incident.
A few weeks later at the work Christmas party, I helped myself to a lemon meringue tart. As I was chewing, my colleague Mandy stared at me and commented flatly, with a lot of honesty, “Your eyes look like they are going to pop out of your head.”
I suppose I’ll never be the typical Asian who likes sour foods. And I’m fine with that.
Do you like sour foods? Do you dislike any foods?