Poll – personal food fouls
April 13th, 2011
01:30 PM ET
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An old boyfriend used to refer to me as being "food macho." The gnarlier the menu item, the more likely I am to order it - and it's not (just) about some misplaced culinary muscle flexing. I genuinely enjoy the funk of deliberate rot and game and un-tender animal parts. I'm the one who'll order the bowl of ox knees, duck blood or fermented catfish curry that prompts the waiter to cock his head and ask, "You know what that is, right?"

I've sifted through pig guts with my own hands, eaten numerous animal faces, am on the lookout for enough fresh sheep's blood to make Icelandic slátur and if I do ever chance upon some balut (that'd be fertilized duck egg) - down the hatch it'll go.

But plop a plate of tuna noodle casserole in front of me, and I'll start to weep, and maybe even shake a little. If it's in restaurant, I'll try and keep myself contained, but the tears may - okay, have - flowed.

There's no good reason - or not one that my therapist and I have been able to uncover after lo, these many years. There wasn't one single instance that quickened my upset with the dish. My family wasn't gunned down or bitten by a radioactive casserole - it just makes me feel sad in a way I don't understand, as if all the slights and wounds and snubs of the elementary school cafeteria were slow cooked down to a single, concentrated serving of sadness.

In the same way that food can evoke past joy and warmth and celebration, it can trigger some extreme emotional responses, even if the ingredients aren't empirically offensive. I like tuna, noodles and all manner of casseroles. United, they render me a blubbering wretch.

I'm figuring I'm hardly alone in this. My sister, a deeply well-regarded psychologist (and lawyer and triathlete...) once had to physically remove herself from a hospital building until the last traces of an Irish beef stew odor had dissipated because it reminded her of a dish she'd loathed from childhood. Another friend cannot eat eggs at night and even Jimmy Fallon is undone by mayo after a childhood incident wherein his grandfather lathered his head to slip it from where it was lodged from a banister.

Share your tales of food-based fear and edible horrors in the comments below and we'll share our favorites in an upcoming post. We're here for you.

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soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. Kate

    I personally can't stand carbonation. Of any kind. At all. And I've never been a ble to stomach it. My cousin has the same aversion as did my great grandmother but I've never met anyone else who has the same issue to the extent I do. I've met people who claim they don't like carbonation but they can still tolerate beer or soda. Literally even the smell of carbonation starts my stomach roiling. When I taste it it's this burning sensation or sometimes like pins in my mouth. I can feel it go down my throat and into my stomach, burning all the way. And it continues to burn my stomach until it's been digested. If I force myself to drink it I throw up. It's the most uncomfortable and horrible feeling I've ever had with food. I can't describe it. But it's so strange... I've never liked it. Never will. And it seems to only run in my family.

    You wouldn't believe the dilemmas this caused me. I remember as a kid, whenever I went to birthday parties they usually only had soda. So I would just not drink. I would get so thirsty but I was so shy I could never ask for a glass of water. I'd eat the cake and be dying of thirst. Eventually I learned how to survive with not drinking much at all. I used to have maybe a glass of water a day until this year when I decided I wanted to drink 64 oz a day. I literally hated drinking and only did it when I was thirsty. Even sipping on water, my preffered beverage, was difficult for me unless I was thirsty. But I've gotten over that now since I began drinking a lot. it took me a while, I had to force myself but now it's so easy to drink.

    April 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  2. amy

    Actually dealing with that Garcia taste aversion now. Last week, I got a stomach virus that had already been passed around between my 3 kids and their classmates. The last thing I ate before getting sick as a dog was a sandwich made of (very delicious but EXPENSIVE Boar's Head turkey, Muenster & extra mayo. Now, a week later and back to normal, the idea of eating that makes me queasy. I know it wasn't the sandwich, because my kids & niece had the same and no one got sick. It was just a virus. But I can't help it. I'll also not be able to eat at Arby's any time soon thanks to a lady who barfed all over her table right behind me while I was enjoying my roast beef & curly fries.I ended up throwing away all my food and barely making it to the mall restroom before I let loose too. I passed that same Arby's when I went shopping a few days ago, and instantly felt sick & sweaty. I used to love hot dogs as a kid, but because I've spent the last 5 years living a block from a huge hot dog factory, I can't stand them. I hate going outside in the summer because all you smell is hot dogs. On the other hand, I love going back to visit friends in Etown or Hershey. All you smell is chocolate, which is awesome lol. My boyfriend has a violent aversion to mayo, sour cream, cottage cheese and ALL salad dressing. He doesn't know why. He just hates them. He once got a burger from Wendy's and they accidentally put mayo on it. He ate 2 bites and got sick. He hasn't eaten at Wendy's since, and it's been 2 years!

    April 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  3. rn_damia

    Oh, and jello, it's only good for squishing through your teeth.

    April 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  4. beenz

    Lamb.. I know a lot of people love it, but I just can't do it. Ick

    April 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  5. rn_damia

    Liver, okra, mushrooms, blue cheese (MOLD??? gross), grape soda (forced to finish a can as a kid & barfed it back up), menudo (I don't care how good it may taste, I refuse to try), cold chicken on the bone (A&P flashbacks), green bean casserole, canned/frozen peas, horseradish & wasabi. Didn't realize I was so picky till I kept thinking of stuff!

    April 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  6. C.S.

    I'm kind of a picky eater but, not including the tastes i'm over-sensitive to, I can't eat anything slimy like cooked onions or peppers. I can't eat sushi. The idea of eating raw animal makes me gag. Also wet bread, like in tiramisu.

    April 14, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  7. PBLover

    For many years I could not even stand the smell of corn chips thanks to the previously mentioned "Garcia taste aversion", but I managed to finally get over that. To this day, however, I cannot look at or smell liver without cringing because my mother once tried to trick my siblings and me into eating liver by calling it steak. Do you know how disgustingly shocking it is to be expecting to bite into a steak only to experience the taste and texture of liver instead? I'm not sure why the smell did not give it away, but I guess we were young and trusted our mother not to lie about something like that. I will never get over my liver phobia!

    April 13, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      Yes. But mine was Moose liver.

      April 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        I literally thought (and asked) if this was "butt meat". Seriously, I thought it was tainted (Ha! no pun intended) meat. SO GROSS.

        April 13, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  8. SCBeauty1983

    Canned tuna, avocado, bananas, black licorice, salmon, steak, catfish, okra, watermelon, marshmellows, potted meat, any river-caught fish, raw onions, duck, rabbit, squirrel, and venison... *GAG*!

    I love to cook, but looking at my list, you'd never think I'd have survived childhood, having grown up in the South in a poorer family, who mainly only ate whatever we could hunt or catch fishing... =-/

    April 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Jdizz

      Sounds like you simply grew tired of it.

      April 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  9. jillmarie

    Untoasted bread. I got sick after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then got sick after eating a liverwurst sandwhich when I was around 5. Never ate liverworst again, nor PBJ's. It was all about grilled cheese from then on, as far as sandwhiches are concerned. My bread still can't be untoasted!

    April 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  10. Joe

    Kale and I don't even remotely get along. it feels like I am eating sand., I have heard lots of horror storys about stuffed bell peppers.

    April 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Jdizz

      I think if prepared incorrectly, bell pepper can be slimey. Okra, I have tried several times; even WANTED to like it. Too slimey. Not sure if that means the same bad procedure. Reminds me of vomit.

      April 13, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  11. Popcorn...

    use to eat veal UNTIL I saw a documentary about the poor calves

    April 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Jdizz

      People mow grass......

      April 13, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  12. Beth

    Anything flavored with rosemary, as well as oaked Chardonnay. These pine tree copycats are not meant for human consumption.

    April 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  13. Linda

    I have a kind of reverse story. My mom, bless her heart, was always trying to introduce more veggies into her kid's diet. She used to make these stuffed bell peppers, yuk. Even the smell of them grossed me out completely. I refused to eat them. Later, as a young adult, I lived in Australia for a year. They had this really awesome veggie called a capsicum. Delicious! Yeah, you guessed it, a capsicum is a pepper. I now like peppers. Sorry, mom.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  14. Shelburne

    And Ms. K – I understand that existential melancholy that comes over you when you see a casserole – I get the same thing driving through a '60s suburban development. I have to make no sharp objects are close at hand or I just take a flyer at my wrist.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  15. Shelburne

    A vile concoction called "Chili-Mac" that was served to us on a Girl Scout camping trip. It was dehydrated, made from a pouch, not unlike what is eaten by astronauts or suvivalists in Idaho. To this day if I see chili and pasta within 20 feet of each other, my gorge begins to rise..

    April 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Lea

    I cannot smell, look at or even think about Twinkies, even as I type this, I am getting sick to my stomach.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  17. IDgal

    Black licorice & peanut butter..can't stand the smell & make my husband brush his teeth & use mouthwash before he even comes into the room with me......my brother loved them & liked to torture his sisters in anyway he could think of, I don't remember a particular incident-either I have repressed it or was too young.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  18. The Witty One

    Milk. I keep milk for like 2 days before I pour it out.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  19. TJ

    I'm a terribly picky eater, though I don't think I have ever thought about any emotional reason behind it. And I'm not going to start blaming my pickiness on it now. I just acknowledge that I'm weird that way.

    Speaking of food people never go back to after getting ill, though...why is it someone can't forgive, say, a bowl of chili, but everyone is always willing to forgive tequila? Seriously, no matter what happens with tequila, everyone is willing to give it another chance. And another. And another...

    April 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  20. Elizabeth

    I refuse to eat tuna fish from a can/pouch. It smells and looks like cat food. I cannot understand how anyone can eat something that smells that badly. If I ordered fish in a restaurant and it smelled like that, I'd send it back because it certainly wouldn't be fresh enough for human consumption.

    That said, I love fish and am having a major craving for ahi tuna with some miso. I can't eat ahi tuna as I'm pregnant out of mercury concerns.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  21. Tina K.

    There are lots and lots of foods I just can't eat, including almost all fruits and vegetables. I was an extremely slow eater – the finicky child who could have lived on mac n cheese or pb&j every day of her life and been as happy as could be. However, I was not allowed that option and dinner time was awful! The whole family had to sit at the table until I was done and I had to eat everything! I dreaded that time of the day... there were tears, yelling, gagging, you name it. It is really pathetic, but I am 44 years old and cannot bring myself to eat a vegetable. Before you ask I did not raise my kids to eat like me, they love everything. If I take one of my girls out to dinner the daughter orders chicken ceasar salad and the parent orders chicken strips. Now that I've opened myself up to ridicule, I'll stop. :-)

    April 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  22. SoulFood

    I CANNOT under any circumstances eat chitterlings. What they are and the smell are enough red x's to keep me away.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  23. Mark L

    For some reason I cannot eat chicken off the bone. Pork chops, steaks and other meats are fine but not chicken.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Mark L

      Oh, and lets add peaches to the list. Had a very very bad experience with peach snapps in college and even 20 years later the smell of peaches makes me sick

      April 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  24. Virago

    Mayonnaise based coleslaw. My middle school was so small and old that the cafeteria was given up for use as the library, so we all had to trek downstairs to the kitchen to get our lunches, then eat them in our classrooms. Forty-gallon garbage cans were placed in the hallways to collect waste food, and NO ONE ever ate the coleslaw. Imagine walking by several forty-gallon garbage cans filled with nothing but room temperature coleslaw. If you had to use the bathroom after lunch, you held it. Nothing will erase the smell from my mind.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  25. Kathleen

    Black olives. My sister once put them up her nose (for shock value). Mom caught her and made her eat them. Black olives = eating boogers!

    April 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  26. MamainSC

    Cauliflower is Satan's vegetable. I can't stand it cooked or raw or in salads or au gratin or in a house or with a fox...
    Just the smell of cauliflower makes me gag. It is vile.

    April 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  27. Jeepers

    I can't think of any food that makes me emotional to that degree. My mom used to serve us Spam a lot and I freakin' loved it. But when I later found out what it was, I never touched it again. Is that emotional or just grossed out?

    April 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • AleeD@Jeepers

      Yes. ;)

      April 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Jeepers

      Oh I thought of one, but I've since gotten over it. In high school I had a virus or something. I drank some orange juice for breakfast, and then threw it up...it came out my nose. Burning, acidic orange juice...out my nose. I couldn't drink it for a long, long time. But I'm over it now.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  28. Tazer

    I. Hate. Pickles. Even the smell of pickles makes me gag. I think my mom ate too many while she was pregnant or somethign because I have always hated them. Can't eat anything with any bits of pickles in it (think macaroni salad, tuna sandwiches I haven't prepared, etc.)

    April 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
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