For some people it’s pickles, for others it’s eggs and for others still its tomatoes, brussel sprouts, or peas. For me, it was goat cheese. As a teen, I could sniff out even the smallest crumble of goat cheese a mile away. To me, it smelt like gym socks; old, sweaty, dirty socks that my brother had sweated up during a 6am morning hockey practice. It revolted me. I vowed that I would never eat goat cheese. Ever.
Now, you have to understand. I was not a sheltered child. I was allowed to eat dog bones that my mom would feed to our family pet, Zara, when I was 3. I would eat raw ground beef when I would “help” my mom would make her legendary Berta Burgers. And you can be damn sure I was there to lick the spoon, the spatula and the bowl when we were baking a Betty Crocker cherry chip cake. When I grew up, my adventurous vein kicked in and I began travelling to far and away countries, where I was introduced to the flavours of the world. But still, I maintained that goat cheese smelt like gym socks. And then I turned 24.
I was in the test kitchen at Maple Leaf Foods and was surrounded by my co workers who were all preparing their lunches. One of my closest colleagues began crafting what looked like a beautifully fresh bounty that was transported from a perfect summer garden, right to her plate. Just when I was about to ask her to share her lunch with me, out came the piece de resistance, the cheese. Aneta was shocked and horrified to learn that I would no longer be interested in sharing her lunch as it now made my spine tingle. But Aneta was insistent. As were the 10 other people with whom I was dining with. So, not being one to succumb to social pressures, I dug in. And I loved it. What had happened to me? What had I become? I was a hypocrite! I was a trader! But I did not care. I was a new woman.
I now “put that shit on everything.” A meal can only be made better by its addition and my fridge is incomplete without it. But why did this happen? The funny thing is, the science is still fuzzy. Was it just peer pressure that made me overcome the nauseating smell? Did my taste buds change and mature as I had? Turns out it’s likely both. As kids, many tend to experience neophobia- a fear of anything new. This is why parents are told to reintroduce foods, at least 5 times, before giving up on their kids’ proclamations of hate towards beans!
Adults similarly experience food aversions, but likely for different reasons. One hypothesis is that, back in our hunting and gathering days, our ancestors would have relied on their sense of smell as an indicator to identify if something was covered is poisonous bacteria. Their noses were most likely picking up on sulfur compounds, the same sulfur compounds found in broccoli, onions and cauliflower. No wonder I am still not a fan! Just the Macgyver in me, out to save myself!
Recent research into the psychology of tastes and smells has discovered that the population is divided in their abilities to taste and smell. Some of us are super tasters while others are non tasters. This means that if you are a super taster you will be able to recognize a bitter compound at a much lower level then a non taster or even a regular taster. This may make the eating experience unbearable. Now, I’m sure the science behind the reason as to why I can’t keep my hands off goat cheese makes sense, but sometimes the less you know about these things the better. After all, it was a wiseman (but likely a woman) who said that “ignorance is bliss.”
In Toronto, there are so many great cheese mongers. The Fromagerie, located at College and Ossington is one of my favorites.
The lovely staff will break you off a block of their Chevre Noir; a piece of Quebec black gold. Chevre Noir a pasteurized goats milk cheese, produced in the style of a firm cheddar, wrapped in a silky smooth, black wax coating. Reminds me of black patent. It is certainly one of my guiltiest of pleasures. Call me crazy but in my opinion, Chevre Noir is best enjoyed on a freshly baked French baguette with a few slices of a sour dill pickle. Dubious? Don’t be. And no, I’m not pregnant.