Are We Wrong About What We Really Don't Like?


This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

I really hate to do this, but let’s talk about me. I am in the “stupidmarket” the other day, and sweet potatoes are on sale. I sorta groaned internally and thought to myself, I should buy these because they are on sale.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like sweet potatoes well enough. I always use them for Thanksgiving, but that was the only time I ever bothered to prepare them at home. I have for years lived thinking that I really didn’t care for them. I still cringe at the idea of sweet potato fries. As I looked at them that day, I still thought that I could live without them. But I bought them anyway.

I prepared them by baking them in their skins and using butter flavored with cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper. They were sensational.

The thing is that ever since my diagnosis six years ago, I have been preparing the sweet potatoes exactly that way. In those six years, I have always actually loved them. So why do I have the reaction to seeing them on sale and feeling obligated to buy them?

Some of My Negative Associations

I am a dyed-in-the-wool coffee drinker. I think I started drinking coffee at age 5. (Before you yell, "child abuse," it was 9 ½ parts warm milk and ½ part strong coffee.) My spouse likes tea. When we are home together for lunch, I always grudgingly give into him and drink tea. I always think I don’t like it very much. But when I drink it, especially some of the fun-flavored herbal teas, I really enjoy them. But why do I still think that I don’t like tea?

Let me answer the second question first: I think that I don’t like tea because, for me, tea was something I was given when I was sick. “Try a little tea and toast. You have to eat something.” Decades later, I still think of tea as “sick food.” The mind – well, my mind – hasn’t let go of that negative association. Even though I now like the taste (I still prefer coffee), something in the back of my mind says: Ward, you don’t want this. You don’t have to have this. You are not sick!

Getting back to sweet potatoes: I prepared tons of them in my family’s restaurant. We did them layered with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. They looked great and they tasted great. But when we got home for dinner, there was not a sweet potato in sight. The sweet potatoes were for the customers.

In truth, after mashing pounds and pounds of them, I wasn’t all that excited about eating them. Somehow, this feeling about sweet potatoes has stayed with me since I was a kid. Even though what I prepare now is a deliciously far cry from the old days, that external cue is still there.

What Are Yours?

OK now, enough about me. How about all of you? What are the cues that make you think things are ewueee yucky?

Was it those mussels cooked in seaweed (this is a real method for cooking mussels) which now makes you think you don’t like mussels? I know they are a little strange looking, but unless you have a shellfish allergy, be open to trying them. They are delicious.

Do you just not like things touching on a plate that keeps you from eating stews? Do you think that meatloaf is a cheap food that keeps you from enjoying the amazing flavor combinations you can create with your meatloaf?

Is it so set in your mind that salads and vegetables are bunny food that keeps you away?

I hate to say this, but maybe your diagnosis of diabetes is a way to start looking at why you think you don’t like some foods and give them another try. You might surprise yourself. Now for that cup of tea…

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Roasted Wild Mushroom Soup recipe!

Get more cooking tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.