A Ham, a Fish & a Meatloaf Walk Into a Psychiatrist’s Office

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WHY do we hate or love certain foods?

One of my favorite stories is about this cook that always cut off both ends of a ham before she baked it. When she was asked why she did that she replied:

“I dunno, I always do it that way. It is how my mother taught me to bake a ham.” We decided to ask her mother why she cut off both ends of the ham. The mother’s reply was:

“That is how my mom taught me to bake a ham.”

Luckily, the grandmother was still around. When asked why she did that to a ham, she replied:

“We were poor in the old days. We couldn’t afford a big variety of pots and pans. The biggest one we had was too small to fit a whole ham so we cut off the ends of the ham to fit in the pan.”

Like the pan and the ham, we have things ingrained in us by our family traditions that we can’t explain.

Friends of mine back in Maine hated fish. Why? Because their parents hated fish. More correctly, their grandparents earned their living fishing - they were lobster fisherman. When times were tough, lobster is what they had to “settle” for too often for their dinner. For her parents, fish or lobster was better than going hungry, but far less a good thing as meat.

Another of my good friends absolutely refuses to eat anything like meatloaf or Sloppy Joe’s or a casserole. It comes from her parents. When the parents were young, there was little money to go around. They had to make do with stretching the proteins by adding some kind of filler. The other side of the coin for many of us is macaroni and cheese. My younger days consisted of a boat load of “mac & cheese”. They were great times and even today the smell of that dish brings back positive memories. What my friend saw from an early age was her mother turning up her nose at poorer cuts of meat or casseroles. My poor friend has never been able to enjoy a meatloaf thanks to the prejudice of the parents.

Too sad for her. She has never had one of the true comfort foods. Since my diagnosis, she has learned to eat some of my diabetes-compatible versions of these dishes without gagging. What is funny is that she absolutely loves a pate. A pate is little more than a glorified meatloaf. What is being glorified are usually less expensive parts of the animal that usually are discarded.

The other “things” she won’t eat are leftovers. I had to stifle back a laugh when she told me that leftover lamb is mutton. The woman makes fresh chicken for her chicken salad. She does not realize that chicken kept overnight (in the refrigerator) develops more flavor. Don’t get me wrong, her chicken salad is good, but it could be better.

I have made buckets and buckets of tuna salad for years using dill and lemon juice along with the mayo, celery, and pepper. Because the concept of that preparation was so alien to one of my friends, she declared my tuna salad “yetchy”.

Funny how the mind works. Many of us think we only like certain foods. This is based not on having tried them, but on something not really connected to the taste, texture, or scent of the food. I am as guilty as they are. After leaving home, I decided that I hated chicken. It was in part because of how often my grandmother made chicken; and how she killed the poor thing. Happily, I got over it. For all sorts of reasons, chicken is a staple at my house. I have (and you can have) more ways of preparing this protein than most any other protein out there. The good news/bad news is that the flavor has been so bred out of the poor birds that they are now a totally neutral flavor. They are ready to absorb any flavor you add to them.

This also works in the opposite way. We are lovers of the tastes of onions (shallots, scallions). These show up in almost all of my savory dishes. It was my grandmother before me that would say:

“And a little onion for good taste.”

Now that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, how about taking the opportunity to try adding a few “new” things to your menu?

Try a different preparation, or look at some foods in a whole new way. You may surprise yourself. Deciding that you don’t like something that you never tried might be an old joke that has lost its punchline.

Source:Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic