The Roots of Your Mac ‘n’ Cheese Craving: Food Memories Influence Taste

April 14, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

As
an adult, I have wondered how childhood food memories affect our adult
tastes. Did my mom's love of smelly cheeses grow my blue cheese
affection, or would that have happened on its own? How much of my
current love for lamb, olives, and an occasional street tamale have any
reflection of my suburban upbringing? I have no idea, but a recent survey shows a connection between our memories of food and our adult
tastes. 

According to a new
survey, these memories have a huge impact on our tastes in later life
with almost half (43%) of people questioned across the UK admitting
they have not tried the food that gave them their earliest bad flavour
memory again…

“We spend our formative years being fed with things that are sweet and are quite bland,” [Professor Tim Jacob] said.

“Children's foods
are basically very conservative for biological reasons. But as they
grow up it seems some tend to stick with this conservatism even though
biologically our tastes change,” he said.

So on one hand, this seems to argue that
we shouldn't “dumb down” the food we serve our kids. By developing
more complex taste buds, maybe we can raise the next generation to
appreciate food beyond the fast food staples that we eat too much of.

And on the other hand (self promotion
drum roll please), it makes our Fresh Voices for Fresh Choices school
food memories that much more interesting. Which of our school food
memories have affected us as adults? Which of our students are
experiencing food that will affect them for a lifetime? Or which
stories are just really funny?

Audel Ortega writes poetry about her challenges in the lunchroom:

I slipped on a mopped floor
On my face I felt a huge piece of meat
It was embarrassing I ran to the door
I cleaned myself up till I was neat.

Or Nayeli Garcia's experience getting her food in a long lunch line:

waiting impatiently
cutting occasionally
still nothing changed the fact
that i hadn't yet sat
at last with full tray
with what seem almost a day

How have your early food memories shaped your tastes today? Don't forget to share your own memory online!