Hundred-year-old Advice for Eliminating Food Prejudices

Brussels Sprouts on TrayBoth a hundred years ago and now, people have strong food preferences. Some people are pickier eaters than others, but almost everyone has a least a few foods they detest. The reasons for why some foods are disliked are many and varied. Cultural factors may affect food preferences. Sometimes a person develops a strong dislike for a food that they once got sick from. Occasionally foods actually taste different to different people because of genetic differences. For example, cilantro tastes “soapy” to people with a certain gene. Here is advice in a 1920 textbook to students in cooking classes about how to move past food prejudices:

Food Prejudices

Most people have decided likes and dislikes for certain foods. These opinions very often have no reasonable foundation. One taste of a food poorly prepared or a disparaging remark heard in childhood may be the cause for a lifetime’s aversion for a food.

There is no better way to overcome food prejudices than by learning to prepare foods well – to make them tasty and nutritious – and to appreciate their nutritive value. Food prejudices like most others may be overcome by a thorough knowledge of the subject.

Come to the school kitchen with an open mind. When you understand why certain foods are valuable in diet and are able to prepare them skillfully, you may learn to enjoy them. To discover that foods which you previously considered commonplace and uninteresting are tasty, is really a pleasing experience.

School and Home Cooking (1920) by Charlotta C. Greer

71 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Advice for Eliminating Food Prejudices

    1. Interesting. My daughter won’t eat anything with even a hint of cilantro, but I don’t mind it at all. She must have got that gene from her father’s side of the family. ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. You feature a photo of the dreaded Brussel sprout! Growing up, these were bland and over-cooked most times. Once I learned about roasted sprouts, they have fast become one of my favorites.

      1. I totally agree, Sheryl. My mom, who is an excellent cook, boiled the heck out of them and slapped a little butter. I recall putting them under my plate so I could join the neighbors in an ice cream run. Have you ever eaten cold, smooshed brussels sprouts after ice cream?

  2. I hate and despise Brussels sprouts. I’ve tried them every way: fried, baked, roasted, grilled, shredded, sauteed, wrapped in bacon. Maybe from now on I’ll tell people I have a gene that makes them taste bad to me.

        1. Ha! There are some out there, variety or growing process or something, that I canโ€™t stand. Then there are some that I find really tasty. When I learned theyโ€™re just mutant cabbage I gave them another try (with a lot of garlic, butter, and bacon ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

  3. I grew up with many, many dislikes. I learned, through my husbandโ€™s talented cooking, that I simply like things cooked in tasty ways. I didnโ€™t know my food was generally without seasoning, and not supposed to be cooked to rubber or mush. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. It probably shouldn’t, but it strikes me as remarkable that something like “food prejudice” was a “thing” a 100 years ago…

    And, for those keeping score, Brussels Sprouts for the win! Except, for the last several years, they have become very expensive for some reason. I haven’t had any in a long while.

    1. Apparently people have had food preferences for a long time. It seems like Brussels sprouts have become more popular in recent years. Maybe the price went up because of the increased demand (though you’d think that farmers would just raise more Brussels sprouts).

  5. I would be prejudiced against Brussel sprouts that are boiled for 45 minutes and then topped with soapy cilantro. Fun article though. One thing that was not mentioned is that our tastes do change and sometimes we don’t like a food but then it is no longer offensive, and vice versa.

    1. My tastes have definitely changed over the years. I now like many foods that I once disliked – and some of my old favorites now seem boring or bland.

  6. I knew someone once who had a grandmother who always served lunch at 12.30 prompt. At 11.45, she would announce ‘Just going to put the sprouts on’. I think he was allowed to be very prejudiced against her sprouts!

  7. My husband never liked pork. His mother always cooked it to shoe leather consistency. Once he had a pork chop done right he became a fan. Same for ham, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I love to shred the sprouts and stir fry in olive oil with salt and pepper then add chopped pecans just before serving. So good! For me it was refried beans – never liked them until I had them at a restaurant instead of from a can!

    1. mmm. . . the way you prepare Brussels sprouts sounds delicious. I can understand why you never liked refried beans when they came from a can.

  8. I’m pretty fortunate in that I will try most things, and there are only a handful of foods I would say that I absolutely dislike. My husband doesn’t have the “sour” gene (that’s what I call it) and hates anything pickled or vinegary. I could practically drink vinegar straight. I get that, but I don’t get that he won’t even try certain things.

    1. Your comment reminds me of how my parents always had different opinions about the ratio of vinegar and sugar that should be used when making sweet and sour foods.

  9. I wasn’t allowed to have food prejudices when I was a child. Eat what was in front of you, or go to bed hungry. I didn’t like the taste of some foods, and still don’t, but if nothing else I’ll try almost any food that doesn’t cause me acid indigestion.

  10. I was just telling my husband about the school cafeteria in the early 1950’s. We had to eat everything on the tray. We were sent back to our seat if any food was left. I got a true aversion to rutabaga from school. Who ever thought of feeding little kids rutabaga anyway?

    1. Really? . . . rutabaga at school? . . . that’s a new one to me. That said, there’s a tiny piece of me that thinks that it is cool that your school served rutabaga. Today school food is so highly processed. The cafeteria workers at your school must have cooked rutabaga from scratch. I can’t image highly processed rutabaga.

      1. They definitely cooked everything from scratch. That continued in my high school. In college each dorm had its own cooks and own menus. Mine had a great crew of Italian women and I learned to love Italian food. (And gained the freshman 5)

  11. I will definitely agree that food inadequately prepared can give one an aversion. Many foods I enjoy today I would not have eaten before, thinking I did not “like” it but not realizing it was poorly prepared. Like Ally and Elizabeth, we were required to eat what was set before us. I still have a very vivid memory of throwing up turnip greens onto the table one night because I hated the bitter taste and had figured out if I put a bite in my mouth and swallowed with a drink of water without chewing it, it was tolerable. Somewhere into the meal, my stomach said “I do not think so.” It took me until I ate greens prepared by a true Southern cook that I realized they can be very very tasty.

    My favorite method for Brussel sprouts is to slice them and saute in olive oil until slightly caramelized!

  12. I agree with the article about learning to prepare foods. My tastes have broadened over the years. It truly does make a big difference when food is cooked right.

  13. I smiled at the photo of brussels sprouts. I’d always hated them but recently had to eat very bland foods as I wasn’t well, and I so longed for something strongly flavoured, that I thought I’d have some Brussels sprouts – and discovered that the current ones are actually very mild with just the slightest amount of ‘tang’ to them. And do you know what? I now love them! (Have since had a few very bitter ones but as I’ve got used to them, can now eat those too.) They’re very tasty with cottage cheese, I find. I’ve actually changed my tastes several times in my life. Used to hate mangoes, now love them. Other things, too that don’t automatically spring to mind. Not sure, though that cooking something ‘correctly’ can alter ones appreciation of foods that don’t taste right in the first place.

    1. I’ve also noticed that many Brussels sprouts are milder today than what they used to be. It’s fascinating how our tastes change over time. I agree that it’s a stretch to end up with a tasty dish if any of the ingredients don’t taste right to start with.

  14. The comments on here are as interesting as the post.๐Ÿ˜ I agree on how food is cooked as to the flavor, also it makes a difference if it is home grown or home processed. I have yet to find corn good from the grocery… so I just grow my own. Thereโ€™s an local elderly man that grows greens for a little extra money… they are better than Iโ€™ve ever grown so I just get from him.

    1. There’s nothing quite like fresh sweet corn that is eaten within few hours of being picked. And, home-frozen corn that was cut off the cobs has such a nice flavor and texture.

  15. Yep, I am a soap taster when I eat cilantro, can’t stand it ๐Ÿ˜‚ My husband had an aversion to Brussels sprouts because his mother always made him eat them and she boiled them like cabbage so they didn’t taste good. Once he tried mine, roasted with olive oil until golden and starting to char, he became a fan, especially if I added a little bacon!! Did you know that Guy Fieri, on the Food Network, can’t stand eggs? That would be a hard food to avoid!

    1. Bacon makes almost any food better. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’ interesting about the eggs. I wonder if he’s allergic to them, or just doesn’t like the taste.

  16. Your image of Brussels sprouts and your description of cilantro struck a chord with me. Now I can handle them if they they are spiced up (for Brussels sprouts) and diluted or eliminated (for cilantro). Good thing I can blame it on genetics๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. I eat just about anything, but I’ve tried and tried to like cilantro. How could I dislike an herb for goodness sake? Now I know it’s genetic! But I think we should keep that just among adults–don’t want kids knowing that little fact! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Your comment reminds me that I once saw an article that said our taste buds also change as we get older, and that spinach tastes more bitter to children than adults.

  18. This advice holds true all these years later, Cheryl. Funny that you used a photo of brussel sprouts to illustrate your point. Until recently, I’ve always said I hated brussel sprouts. Then I tried some small sprouts roasted and spiced just right, and I loved them! I guess I just hadn’t had them prepared in a way that I enjoyed the flavor until now.

    1. I decided to use a photo of Brussels sprouts to illustrate this post because I’ve heard several people say that they hated Brussels sprouts as children, but like them now. The way Brussels spouts are prepared really affects their texture and taste.

  19. Interesting topic, Sheryl! From infancy, I could barely tolerate any food and as an adult started eating more varied … a vegetarian I still have never fancied brussel sprouts! My husband loves them though!

  20. Dear Sheryl, I have nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award! I thoroughly enjoy your site and look forward to your blog posts! If you have been nominated recently, please feel free to just consider yourself double nominated! Info on my site. Have a wonderful, sunny day, Dorothy.

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