I read that if you eat something you hate for ten days in a row, you can train yourself to like it. Testing the theory and hoping it works.
I have always felt that my dislike for raw tomatoes was imprinted somewhere on one of my chromosomes. When I met my husband, I was shocked to find out that he had the exact same tomato tasting parameters. We can eat all tomato sauces and foods with a cooked tomato base. We can even stand to eat plan tomatoes if they are just slightly roasted in the oven. Oddly enough, some fresh salsa with onion, cilantro and lime is not only palatable but enjoyable. But, just the thought of biting into a plain, raw, fresh tomato revs up my gag reflex.
Since my husband and most of my siblings have the same aversion, I have always assumed it is a genetic thing based on a chemical reaction to something in raw tomatoes. The best we can tell is that it resides in the slimy, seed-holding stuff. However, it is NOT just the texture as many propose because I really like other slimy things like jello, tapioca and oysters. I don’t know what it is but as much as I love food, raw tomatoes are my kryptonite.
I have always wanted to like tomatoes. They are beautiful and good for you and my brain can tell that they should taste good. Every few years I try them again in an attempt to find peace with my tomato problem. Or, I find myself in a social situation where I must eat them or risk offending a host. A family friend we visited while traveling in Provence once served my husband and me a first course of ONLY sliced tomatoes. Since there was no hiding them under the nonexistent lettuce or moving them around the plate, we gulped a lot of wine to wash it down. And, I admit I have hid tomatoes in my napkin and then furtively disposed of them in the bathroom.
Just before coming on vacation to Greece, I started reading The Man Who Ate Everything. At the beginning the author lists all the foods he hates and then claims that you can learn to like anything if you eat it ten days in a row. My husband and I have bravely decided to take the challenge. We figured that if you can’t learn to like raw tomatoes in Corfu, where you can pluck them straight from the garden, then there is no hope.
Day 1 was obviously not easy. We took a deep breath and ate a large bite. I fought back the gag reflex, chewed and hoped that this experiment was not for naught. Day 2 was surprisingly a touch easier. On Days 3 and 4, there was no longer a gag reflex though when offered a small, grape tomato (especially burst-y with the “stuff”), I had to turn away.
We forgot to eat our daily dose the following day and considered it intermission. To make up for it, on Day 5 we ordered a sandwich for lunch filled with raw tomatoes, feta, onions and olives. It was a game changer. We actually liked it. Of course, most things taste good surrounded by feta and olives and onion could be one of the factors in fresh salsa that eliminates the bad reaction. So, I wasn’t convinced I had become a tomato lover.
Days 6 and 7 we ate bites of tomato straight from the garden. No gag reflex. We sort of liked them. When I was alone in the kitchen facing the plate of tomatoes, I even took another and chewed it up and ate it. Yes, I liked it. Day 8 was a slight backtrack with a restaurant tomato. The warm, garden tomatoes were more meaty and went down easier.
And now, we find ourselves at present. There are two days left. We have made great progress. I am still skeptical about the future. Is this like building muscles? Will my ability to eat raw tomatoes atrophy when I am back home if I don’t keep “practicing?” I hope not. What I truly wish is that Jeffrey Steingarten knew what he was talking about and that this is just the beginning for me and raw tomatoes. Wish me luck…