5@5 - LeNell Smothers
December 8th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

We all remember that first sip. It was probably Chardonnay and probably from your mother’s glass, and you probably gagged on the fermented wine and clamored back toward your juice box. “It’s an acquired taste," said mommy dearest.

Well we hate to say it, but our parents were right - and we’ve acquired that taste quite well, thankyouverymuch.

It should come to no surprise that your sense of taste changes as you get older. (Yup, we're looking at you neon hair scrunchies.) And for LeNell Smothers, what better time to reflect on such changes as your fortieth birthday?

LeNell Smothers is a bona fide cocktail icon. She owned the liquor store, appropriately called LeNell’s, in Brooklyn, New York for over five years where it was recognized by GQ magazine as one of the "Best 50 Stores in America," by Whisky magazine as "US Retailer of the Year" and by New York magazine as "Best Liquor Store.”

Unfortunately, she had to close shop in February 2009 after a landlord-lease kerfuffle. From there, she did what any tequila-toting girl should do: pack her bags and head to La Paz, Mexico - where she now runs the libation refuge, Casa Cóctel, with her fiancé, Demián Camacho Santa Ana.

Ch-ch-ch-changes. They are a-coming.

Five Things I Love at 40 That I Hated at 14: LeNell Smothers

1. Tomatoes
"My mom was a 'clean the whole plate' kind of woman, whether you liked what she put on it or not. Just to give you an idea of how much I hated tomatoes, I had a favorite sweatshirt I used to wear to the dinner table. The tomato slices on my plate would clandestinely be placed in front pouch of the sweatshirt and later flushed down the toilet. My dad made traditional Southern bacon grease gravy for biscuits, but added stewed tomatoes. It disgusted me as a youth, but now I wake up some lazy weekend mornings and crave it as comfort food with a batch of my buttermilk biscuits. We recently juiced five bushels of heirloom tomatoes to put away in Ball jars to make some of the best Bloody Mary's in Baja."

2. Onions
"I hated the texture and the taste of onions as a kid, but for some reason I could devour a bag of Funyuns, the onion-ring-shaped, cornmeal-based junk food, in a heart beat. My dad was not happy about this ever. Now, I love cooking with onion and even pickle onions."

3. Anise/licorice
"I was one of those kids who didn't eat the black jelly beans. I couldn't stand the strong flavors of anise or licorice. Now, I keep natural licorice root in my pantry for making herbal infusions. Absinthe, an anise-flavored beverage, is a regular part of our lives."

4. Spinach
"My mother used to open cans of spinach as a healthy addition to dinner. This, like tomatoes, ended up in the sweatshirt pocket for toilet disposal later. I hated the slimy, stringy cooked spinach. I eat spinach regularly now and love it sautéed with garlic, creamed, and especially fresh in a salad. I'm still not a fan of the overcooked, stringy slime found in most canned spinach brands."

5. Booze and boys
"I was a good girl, believe it or not, and didn't dabble in the double devilish combo of booze and boys as a teen. I remember accidentally picking up my dad's Greyhound, a vodka and grapefruit highball, and chugging it thinking it was simply juice, much to my disgust. I saved myself in more ways than one until 21 years old when I became a bartender. Now two of my favorite things are Manhattans on the rocks and men, straight."

Did your taste preferences change as you got older? Love a food that you thought you hated? Share your mealtime metamorphoses in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Sip • Spirits • Think

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. TomL

    I've also had the privilege of spending alittle time with LeNell back in redhook. She is a fun and honest person who might just send a well deserved little dose of truth about yourself your way. She looks great and knows how to channel her energy to make her day and your day worth living. I wish her the best in La Paz and hope to visit one day.
    Didn't like mixed veggies at 14 and still don't like them now. But got a nice acquired taste for steak, wine and cigar.

    December 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  2. JimR

    All, if you're thinking the booze and boys bit is gross, you've never met the amazing LeNell. She likes to get a rise out of people This woman is an honest, straight shootin', fire(or rye rather) fueled, beautiful blessing. As someone who was a regular at her shop I must say "40 or not, it doesn't matter." I can certainly think of a more than a few times I'd wished to be stuck in an elevator with her.

    December 22, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  3. Kimmie

    Things I hated at 14 but like now: bell peppers, spinnach, mushrooms, zucchini/squash, diet drinks. Other tastes have changed as well... I used to only eat steak that was well done. And I mean ZERO pink. Now I'd prefer it rare to medium-rare, which completely grosses my parents out when I go visit them. Broccoli still makes me gag though. Some things never change.

    December 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  4. Jorge

    Things I love at 50 that I hated at 15. Hmm, let's see... Forward, insinuating 30 year-old women. The smell of a good cigar. (I'm sure Bill Clinton would agree with me on the first two). Loitering on a lonely tropical beach with a bag full of sandwiches and nothing to do. Salsa and Mambo music. Old German cars previously owned by neat freaks or little old ladies. Bouncy little kids and dogs that howl. Cutting grass on a warm day. Mint Julep. Getting my cheeks squeezed by my aunts. Riding a bicycle in the rain. Being told by my elders to behave...

    December 9, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  5. jjdecor

    Hated all vegetables as a kid now I'm a vegetarian and LOVE all my vegees.
    Loved boys and booze as a kid don't have any interest in either now.
    Loved ice cream as a kid now it upsets my stomach
    Loved sour candy (sweet and sour) as a kid don't like it now

    December 9, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  6. TrueFax


    December 9, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  7. Paul

    Couldn't stand Chesnuts, bluecheese and mustard. Love them now. On the other hand I used to like bologna. Hate it now with a passion.
    When I first started drinking I only liked sweet drinks. Now the dryer the better.
    Tastes do change.

    December 9, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  8. amayda

    I hated blue cheese growing up, but now I love it! Same with candied ginger.

    December 9, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  9. Nashvilledeb

    Oh, and my mom used to bake slices of eggplant in a buttered casserole dish and broil sharp chedder cheese on top. I hated that mess and can't believe she ever cooked it. Today I love chedder cheese, the sharper the better, but I still hate an eggplant.

    December 9, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  10. Nashvilledeb

    Hated mushrooms, cooked or fresh when I was a kid. Love 'em all now.

    December 9, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  11. Steven R.

    I still hate licorice, always have. Can't stand mustard, pickles, sauerkraut, never could, will never change.
    Only thing i can think of that I didn't like at 14 but love at 58 is cheese! For some reason I couldn't stand it as a child and young teenager. Discovered pizza when I was 16 and that changed.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:44 am |
  12. Jonathan

    I love BBQ sauce enough that I dip a lot of foods in it, but when I was a kid, my mother made BBQ chicken, and I didn't like the sauce to the point my mother literally washed it off my piece, dried it off, and gave it back. For many a BBQ chicken dinner, I had the rogue non-BBQ chicken leg. I think it was when I dipped Chicken McNuggets into BBQ sauce for the first time, ate it...and actually liked it did I begin my about face towards being a BBQ fanatic.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:43 am |
  13. Joe, San Diego

    I like my men bi and my drinks stiff

    December 9, 2010 at 1:43 am |
  14. Bardamu

    Wow. You can actually get paid for writing drivel like this? Amazing.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  15. frak

    40? Yeah, right! She looks like one of those women who stops counting at 40 and starts celebrating the "anniversary" of her 40th birthday. I'm guessing she's on her 10th or 11th "anniversary" by now.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:14 am |
  16. Chris

    '5 things I loved at 14 but (would) hate at age 39':
    1. Drinking
    2. Coke
    3. not knowing the name of the guy next to me upon waking up
    5. Food

    December 9, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  17. Brett

    That slab of marbleized dead bovine on the 'eatocracy' banner is pretty offensive, and unbecoming of a lady.

    December 9, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • EyeSee

      That's not marbelized bovine in the Eatocracy banner... it's chocolate cake frosting!

      December 9, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  18. Stosh

    Booze and boys count as one thing?

    December 9, 2010 at 12:28 am |
    • Chris

      Wondered about that one myself...

      December 9, 2010 at 12:59 am |
  19. Rachael

    I'm with her except for black jelly beans. I couldn't eat peas or onions as a child and now can imagine a meal without onions. As a kid spinach was the worst and I would cry and stay in that chair rather than choke down that heinous slop. As a parent I feel pretty successful with my kids taste buds. My oldest is vegetarian (making my life a challenge by having to cook two meals nightly) but all my kids were introduced to interesting foods at a young age so to this day they love chinese, indian and thai food. They will also eat brussel sprouts, beets, kohlrabi and sweet potatoes. On a regular basis this gives me pleasure that my family loves to eat good food.

    December 9, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  20. bitnar

    Well, it's been about 30 years...maybe I should give liver another try?

    December 9, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  21. Kevin

    As a child, I utterly *hated* squash. Now as an adult I love it.
    Then, this past Thanksgiving, I went home to visit the parents... and my mother made squash. *blech!* It turns out it was my mothers recipe I had hated...

    December 9, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  22. terb0

    I never went near salad until recently–now it's growing on me.

    December 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • Stosh

      You should have that looked at...

      December 9, 2010 at 12:29 am |
      • MicheleG

        by who? A gardener or a doctor......?

        December 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
  23. Katherine W.

    Things I hated as a kid but love now: liver, chili, mushrooms, most veggies. I was a very picky eater. But then I grew up and started cooking for myself. Now I love most everything. I have to say, I prefer steaming fresh vegetables and I don't like it when I have to resort to canned or frozen. I hate Lima beans, but will eat them in company if I must. For all of you Brussel sprout haters, there was a good recipe shared earlier, but it's really very simple. Take about a dozen small to medium sprouts, cut off the ends, let the tough outer leaves fall away, cut in half, place in microwave dish, add about 1/4 inch water, steam for 6 minutes. NO MORE. They will come out fresh and green and crispy and will be a revelation. A little dab of real butter makes them irresistible. But! I have to cook them while my husband is at work...he hates them and won't even give them a try. LOL

    December 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  24. the messenger

    "I was a good girl, believe it or not, and didn't dabble in the double devilish combo of booze and boys as a teen."


    December 8, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  25. Amy

    There are only few things I have hated since childhood and probabaly always will:
    licorice (It used to be only black but now it is all. The smell of Twizzler's makes me want to vomit)
    mushrooms (I try to like them, but I just can't)

    When I was younger, I did like cinnamon, but after an unfortunate Cinabon/air sickness experience I now despise cinnamon. The smell, the taste; everything. It makes me shudder. It is only tolerable when mixed/masked with a lot of sugar- like on a churro. I have hated it for over 10 years now, and I think I always will. I also, weirdly enough, like meat less and less as I get older. I was a huge carnivore as a kid.

    December 8, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  26. greenbird

    I still don't like raw tomatoes(unless they're in salsa/pico/pasta sauce/bruschetta), and I can only just tolerate bananas, sliced bread(any kind), and lima beans

    December 8, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  27. Carrie in Bama

    Black olives.....hated them as a kid, hate them now, will always hate them.

    December 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  28. flying Dutchman

    Here's one for the "I still hate" category for a lot of people. Ask 100 people if they like anchovies. 95 will say " I hate them"... Then ask the 95 if they have ever tried them.. 90 will say " no, but they are really salty, right?".. All I can say is if you like fish you will like them, and if you order your half of the pizza with anchovies, you don't have to worry about anyone horning in on your share!

    December 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  29. Tim

    Am I the only one who was bored to death with this article?

    December 8, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
    • MicheleG


      December 11, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  30. Dave

    I think at 40 you could have left out the last part....
    But since you brought it up...you are looking a little rough for 40 – a little botox should be added to your diet since you skipped the skin saving veggies.

    December 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • Russ

      True...guess she's a nightclubbin' cougar. The lines don't show in the dark but turn on the lights and I would have guessed at least 50.

      December 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
    • ZRS

      Aaaaand who asked you, exactly, to play arbiter of feminine beauty? If you are suggesting that a truly gorgeous woman like LeNell should shoot her lovely face full of botulism to look what you think 40 ought to look like, you clearly haven't seen an actual flesh and blood woman in a long time. Stick to your online and magazine fantasies – she looks like the real, super-hottie deal.

      December 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
      • Dave

        Yes, we are suggesting actually -though never thought she was that bad – but she definately asks for it by going from veggies to "booz and boys" – kind of gross in this article – and the botulism would definately help her lifestyle. And she definatley does not fit the new 40 outside of the magazine – and ohh, this is an online magazine so she probably already had a little photoshop added.

        December 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  31. rose helen militello

    for those of you who hate brussel sprouts,steam or roast in oven with olive oil,fry few slices of bacon till crisp,crumble and drain on paper towel,in bacon grease saute 2-3 shallots,drain on paper towel also. toss together,enjoy.

    December 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • BeetsRBetter

      And please buy the small ones if possible. The big ones take too long to cook and they're awkward to eat.

      December 8, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  32. Kat

    "Absinthe is a regular part of our lives." made me bust up laughing. Ooooh, wow.

    December 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  33. Katie

    i hated bleu or Roquefort cheese with a passion. Thought it was disgusting. Now love it!

    December 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
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