Food's late bloomers
August 18th, 2011
03:15 PM ET
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Just when you think you know someone. During a car trip with my husband last weekend, I discovered that the man I have shared my heart, my life and my soul with for over six and a half years had never in his life eaten a BLT sandwich.

How a man gets to his mid-40s without ever having partaken in this American staple, I just couldn't quite wrap my head around. I asked him to repeat what he'd just said, and then I quizzed him. "You're an alien, right? Maybe a spy of some sort sent to infiltrate CNN? By law, you have to tell me - I think."

He certainly didn't grow up in a bacon-eschewing society. He was born and bred in North Carolina - a state where people practically stuff a wad of pulled pork in your mouth by way of saying hello. It was the tomatoes. They were plentiful, but pallid and bred for hardiness and uniformity rather than taste. That, and the local mayonnaise. While devotees like me will smuggle Duke's mayo across state lines to sate our cravings for the slightly tart spread, he's never been able to abide it.

The combination held little appeal. Even after the threshold of tomato quality in his life raised radically with the ubiquity of heirlooms and local farmstands and Hellmann's finally crossed his lips, it just never occurred to him to find out what all the fuss was about.

That is until, in my state of gobsmackedness and being bored on a long car trip, I mentioned it on Facebook and Twitter. Our mutual friends threw a collective conniption, theorizing everything from his being a secret vegan (he's not - I think) to the notion that he's a robot (we're having tests done). They texted, commented and messaged him to correct his culinary course as soon as humanly possible. Our favorite local cafe owner took matters in hand the next day, serving up the very BLT pictured above - and my husband pronounced it to be delicious.

But just as curious as my husband's BLT-less existence was our friends' and our social networks' collective conniption over the whole thing. Discovering that someone with a pretty standard palate and appetite has never had a canonical food - PB&J, hummus, guacamole, sushi, a hard boiled egg or olives - is like finding out they've never seen Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz, been to a baseball game, listened to Thriller or been sung to on their birthday.

While we are a nation knit of gloriously disparate tastes and cultural experiences, when there's a rend in the societal fabric, folks get batty and seek to repair it as quickly as they can. They generally mean well, but there is often umbrage. "How were you raised?" "Didn't anyone love you growing up?" "Are you even from here‽"

Just as my husband's 'mater hating ways had precluded BLTs, there are plenty of reasons why a food may have fallen through the cracks. Perhaps someone was disgusted by a friend's indelicate eating habits, they abide by a religiously, culturally or ethically restricted diet, a parent had an allergy or aversion, or there was plain old lack of easy access.

I recall an intensive grilling administered by the parents of a college boyfriend, upon finding out that I'd never eaten a cannoli. "As in leave the gun. Take the cannoli! From The Godfather? You've...you've...never seen The Godfather? What kind of Italian are you‽"

One raised in suburban Kentucky with no other Italian relatives nearby and a mother who served sauce from a jar, I guess. These things just happen, and the best we can do is to patch the holes, either in secret or with the help of friends. You just have to be prepared for a little bit of ribbing.

Speaking of which, my boss Cybil didn't eat ribs until her mid-20s. Fess up to your odd food gaps in the comments below, and we just might include your story in an upcoming feature on Eatocracy.

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Filed under: Culture • Favorites • Ingredients • Rituals • Sandwiches • Tomatoes


soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Quisha

    I never had yams until I was around 27. When my husband I were still dating, we went for dinner at his grandparent's house where they had baked yams. I felt like my eyes were opened for the first time in my life. Now I try to eat them when I can. I have a baby now and make baby food at home and he loves it as much as I do.

    August 26, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  2. Peanut M&M

    I've never eaten PB&J, tuna or egg salad,french dressing, baloney (it's possible that I may have ingested some of this at some point, but I don't want to think about that). Those things just seem repulsive to me. I have also never eaten beets–I'm pretty sure that neither of my parents like them, and my husband won't eat them, either. I would like to try them, though. Maybe roasted with some potatoes?

    August 25, 2011 at 10:44 am | Reply
  3. M_Gill

    it all depends on the persons definition of common foods...

    August 25, 2011 at 2:37 am | Reply
  4. monica

    I don't think I've ever had a twinkie.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • Marc Anthony

      I HAVE!

      August 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  5. SC

    Despite being to innumerable carnivals and fairs during my lifetime, I never ate a corn dog until the age of 26. Like the author's hubby, I've never had a BLT. I'm going to try one sometime soon. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    August 23, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
  6. alexis

    It's eggs for me... I refused to eat eggs (fried, scrambled, hard boiled etc) until my mid twenties and even now I don't think I could eat a plate of scrambled eggs unadorned. Hard boiled and fried eggs disgust me. Scrambled with salsa and cheese is fine, but there HAS to be salsa.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:58 am | Reply
  7. Bep

    After completely boycotting hamburgers or cheeseburgers for 6 or 7 years as a child, I also refused to try most 'ethnic' foods (i.e. chinese) when I was younger. That is, until I was 15 and going on an exchange program to England and getting paired with a Bengali family who owned a takeout restaurant. I swiftly learned to like curry and then I was up for everything after that!
    I also never even thought about trying guacamole (but I don't think I even knew what an avocado was either) until moving to California at 22, when a roommate made some from scratch a few days after I got there, and I've been an addict ever since.
    Living in California for grad school and watching a lot of Food Network during that time really broadened my culinary horizons from the standard Polish-German-Typical-American and my personal Plain-Cheeseburger-No-Sandwich-Condiments-AT-ALL fare when growing up. My parents still find it amazing that I now love sushi, lamb, goat cheese, blue cheese, and Indian food, but at least they're also always game for trying out new foods that I introduce them to!

    August 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  8. IHEG@Jerv

    Oh I completely agree, I think for me its half sensory and half worrying about getting sick from it. I did try a California roll this weekend and I would eat that again- nothing raw

    August 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  9. mmkay

    I've never had cottage cheese. As a kid I thought it looked like some sort of milky vomit and refused to try it. Now I'm lactose intolerant so I don't think I'll ever be eating it.

    August 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  10. TL

    Never had a PB&J until I was 35. As a kid, the idea sounded gross. As an adult, I found it underwhelming.

    August 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  11. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    ick...Scrapple should just be scrapped. now I love tomato everything but can't stomach the smell/taste of ketchup. if I see someone putting ketchup on their eggs, I will run to the bathroom and hurl.

    August 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Reply
    • Stew Pedassle@MT@W

      Then our breakfast date is off!

      August 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Reply
    • SC

      SAME! As a child, I would only have tomatoes in the sauce on pizza. Now, I enjoy them in all of their incarnations EXCEPT ketchup. I can't stand it. It completely disgusts me. BLECK!

      August 23, 2011 at 9:57 am | Reply
    • Nik

      I hate Ketchup too, which is only made worse by the fact that I'm canadian. Ketchup basically is an entire food group here.

      August 25, 2011 at 1:23 am | Reply
  12. RedinAustin

    I didn't have my first Slurpee until I was in my late twenties.

    August 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • IHEG

      Me either, where I grew up we didnt have 7-11's.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  13. Ann

    One "standard" I just got around to trying is biscuits and sausage gravy. Strange, but they grew on me!

    August 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Reply
    • Paula Deen

      Nuthin' like some awthentick chock onna rock for breakfast, is theyer? Fwah!

      August 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  14. Ann

    There are quite a few junk foods I've never tried, nor do I have any desire to: Chicken McNuggets, Hot Pockets, and stuff like that that doesn't really resemble real food. (I admit to an occasional -1 or 2 times a year – craving for a quarter pounder with cheese!)

    As for real food, the only thing I can't imagine touching that's pretty standard fare for most is a fried egg. Greasy, stinky, slimy. If you enjoy them, more power to you, but please keep them out of smelling distance of me.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  15. amelia from z tasty life

    I've never had chicken-fried-steak...what does that mean anyways? I need enlightening, because the literal translation has me lost...!

    August 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Reply
    • Lisa

      LOL. Chicken fried steak is just what its name indicates; a piece of steak prepared the way you would prepare fried chicken. Believe me, you're not missing much. I prefer my steaks grilled.

      August 19, 2011 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • RedinAustin

      Chicken Fried Steak is a cube steak, tenderized, then dipped in egg and flour and fried. Some places essentially panfry it, other deep fry it. There is an arguement about what gravy it's to be topped with, but here in Texas, it's cream gravy all the way!
      @Lisa, I'm sorry you've never experienced a good chicken fried. Manna from the gods.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Reply
      • IHEG@RedinAustin

        Don't forget to drizzle some of that on a biscuit! So unhealthy, but as a once in a blue moon breakfast treat OMG- Drooling.

        August 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  16. a. dee

    I'm in my late 20s and I have never had scrapple. I'm not so sure I care to try it though. Something about it being an unnaturally dark shade of brown, perfectly rectangular and not ever having someone be able to properly explain to me what exactly is in it has been a turnoff for me.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • RedinAustin

      Scrapple is made from calves brains. I have no desire to try it or even see it in person.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
      • Ann

        Eew. I HAVE tried it and I didn't know that.

        August 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Reply
      • Kat

        Sorry, but boy have you ever got it wrong. There is no beef in scrapple, let alone calf brains. It’s very reduce/reuse/recycle: ground up pork scraps (albeit, likely there are some scraps/parts you wouldn't normally choose voluntarily, noses, ears, hair) with cornmeal to bind, and lots of spices thrown in. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1984, but my Dad was from Philly, so I enjoyed it as a kid because of how heavily “spiced” it is.

        August 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  17. JainaJade

    I have never had pork bacon. Growing up my mom preferred the turkey stuff she was raised on and soon after leaving the house I converted to Judaism so...

    August 18, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  18. RichardHead

    Mine was Pink Tacos in 8th grade without any sauce.

    August 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  19. Allison

    The first and only time I ever tried baloney was during my freshman year of college.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  20. Truth

    I've also never had a BLT, not for that matter a Big Mac.
    I am kind of a purist, especially on burgers.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • IHEG@Truth

      What about a Rueben?

      August 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Reply
      • Truth@IHEG

        Never.

        August 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • Evil Grimace

      That's something I've never had either, a big mac. I keep thinking I should try it, but judging from their other burgers, I don't feel like I'm missing a whole lot.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        You are not.

        August 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Reply
      • Ann

        If you don't like their other burgers, you'll hate a big mac. The "special sauce" makes them very goopy.

        August 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • AleeD from Home Sweet Home@Truth

      Ah. I've also never had a big mac. Never liked the thought of 1000 island flavor on a burger.
      Can't think of any other common foods I've never at least tried.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  21. Emily

    I heard your tastebuds change every 7 years. I can attest to this personally because every 7 years I've gotten a sudden craving for a food I previously did not like, ate it, and wondered what I had been missing all my life. 7 years ago I decided to start eating bell peppers and cottage cheese with fruit. Recently I've randomly begun eating red onions and pickles. Truly, I'll hate a food, even if I've tried it before and then one day I just wake up and decide it's something I'm craving and I suddenly love them! I can't get enough pickles now and 3 months ago I had never even put one in my mouth.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  22. JBJingles

    I really do not like tomatoes (raw, canned, stewed) or mushrooms. It's a texture thing. Yet, I will have tomatoe juice, sauce, or ketchup. Shrooms need to minced so fine they melt in the dish, then I will eat them. Most other things I am good with.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Reply
    • RedinAustin

      My husband is the same way, but he's gotten to the point that he can eat cooked tomatoes.

      August 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  23. Mark Larezzo

    I dont eat anything with mayo, ie egg salad. Nor do i like ketchup. Or many veggies. I have never had a BLT nor would i ever like to try one. I eat my tuna from the can with soy sauce added.

    On the flip side, i have eaten just about every single kind of meat in every possible way

    August 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  24. IHEG@EG

    Meant to be "While they are round they have "PEAS" in the title

    August 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  25. IHEG@EG

    DUH cuz Hummus is made from Chick Peas and they are ROUND and have "PEAS" in the title- naturally you wouldnt like them!

    August 18, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • Evil Grimace

      Too true. It does seem to be the chick peas that put me off, actually, as I like the eggplant version, babaganoush just fine.

      August 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McPickypants

        I don't like hummus raw nor lumpy. I had it fried once. Fallacious, fellacio? Something like that . I enjoyed it.

        Ahh. Falafel. Silly spelling.

        August 18, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  26. IHEG

    In the past year, the hubs has had scrambled eggs, gravy, chicken Picatta and chicken Marsala, Salmon, Homemade speghetti sauce, eggplant, brussel sprouts... just to name a few. He will now try things he wouldnt have considered before- he will always ask- "Do you think I will like it?" and since I have been right about everything but the eggplant, he is more apt to try new things- somethings however, I know not to bother with

    August 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  27. Evil Grimace

    Probably. Trouble is I don't know what everyone else considers common. But I have tried all of the aforementioned items. While I don't like some of them (you know who you are, hummus), I have, at least, tried them.

    August 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Jerv@EG

      I was kind of thinking the same thing. Is sushi considered common? I have never tired it and absolutely never will.

      August 19, 2011 at 7:35 am | Reply
      • Ann

        Sushi is becoming pretty common. Heck, I can remember when BAGELS were considered "ethnic food!"

        Don't forget, not all sushi has to include raw fish. Try starting with a California roll, or something with shrimp. They're really delicious.

        August 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • IHEG@Jerv

        Just curious, is it because of raw fish or just the whole idea is unappealing? I personally cannot bring myself to eat raw seafood. But under the right circumstance would try something thats not raw.

        August 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
      • Jerv@IHEG

        I've just always found the idea of eating raw fish repulsive.

        August 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Reply

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