As we were eating intestines, tongues, blood sausages, and hundred-year eggs, I wondered what everyone at the table thought of them when they first ate them. Surprisingly, they liked them from the start. So, I pressed further and asked about durian and stinky tofu. They either didn’t like them (so don’t eat them) or liked them the first time.
I explained to them that whenever I come across food that many people love but tastes awful, I assume I just have to keep eating it to acquire the taste. The example I often use is Dr Pepper. I was in high school in Japan when I decided to give it a try. I knew that it was a popular soda in America, so I was curious. I almost gagged when I took the first sip. I could not believe how anyone could drink it, let alone like it. But after I stared at the can for awhile, I forced myself to finish it. For a few weeks after that, I bought a can of Dr Pepper every day from the same vending machine on the way home, convinced that I would eventually like it.
Sure enough, I began to like it. After a few weeks, I was thinking “What’s not to like?” It was like the “spinning dancer” video where you see the girl spinning clockwise but if you keep staring at it, suddenly you can see her spinning counterclockwise, and once this shift happens in your head, you cannot imagine how you saw her spinning clockwise at first.
My friends at the table thought it was strange that I would force myself to eat something I didn’t like. Perhaps it is indeed strange, and if so, why do I feel compelled to do it?
It occured to me that perhaps I’m projecting myself onto the food. That is, I’m thinking how I would want to be treated if I were that food. Since I am a foreigner, most people cannot connect with me immediately. It is rare for me to have an instant rapport with a stranger. I’d like people to give me more than one chance to get to know me even if their first impression is negative.
In a way, foods like durian and hundred-year eggs are immigrants too. If they were given only one chance to be liked by Americans, they are going to be lonely for a long time. I think it’s because of this that I feel compelled to give every food a fair chance.
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