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.

tomatoes-plate

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.
tomatoes-corfu

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…

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24 Responses to “Tackling Raw Tomatoes, One Bite at a Time”

  1. Jessica Says:

    I had the same aversion to raw tomatoes! There’s just something about them that for the longest time made me cringe when thinking about taking a big bite of one. I never tried anything like your 10 day crash course, but over time I’ve prodded myself to try bigger and raw-er chunks, and it’s gotten to the point that I actually really enjoy them! Every once in a while I have a regression where I can’t stomach the idea of a particularly plain slice, but for the most part I think I can say I’m over the aversion. So, all this to say, I have faith – good luck!

  2. Karen Says:

    Thank you for sharing this suggestion. I, too, do not like raw tomatoes but really want to enjoy the health benefits of this beautiful fruit! In fact, I am only a couple of weeks away frrom being able to test the ten day taste plan. Soon, the unripened but growing tomatoes on the five tomato plants I planted in my garden (for the sole purpose of teaching myself to like them) will be ready for eating. I hope this works. Otherwise, I will be sending a lot of tomatoes to a newly, nearly converted tomato lover!

  3. becca Says:

    I never liked raw tomatoes, but I taught myself to love them. (I had the advantage of doing this in Italy). I’ve tried this with other foods too. It worked for Avocados. But shrimp and canned tuna were unsuccessful. (This may be because I turned out to be allergic to both of these things. I guess I wasn’t designed to like them).

  4. heather @ chiknpastry Says:

    i used to feel the same way, until i discovered the awesomeness of heirloom tomatoes. i still can’t eat the regular variety by themselves, but heirlooms and a little vinaigrette? that’s another story…

    good luck!

  5. Neil Butterfield Says:

    Interesting article. I love tomatoes in any format so don’t have a problem there. What I cannot stand are foods such as kidneys, liver, tripe, brussel sprouts and eggplant. There is no ways on earth that I could attempt to eat these foods for 10 minutes let alone 10 days. :-)

  6. Maddie Says:

    Ohhhh my goodness. True story: My dad HATES tomatoes with a passion, and when I was a baby and my mom would try and feed them to me in any form, he’d sneak in when she wasn’t looking and tell me they were bad/poison/that I didn’t have to eat them. Haha, kind of twisted, but I turned out okay. And 25 years later, I now like them.

  7. The Rowdy Chowgirl Says:

    So interesting! My first reaction was that in 10 days you would surely hate tomatoes even worse than before, but it sounds like that’s not the case.

  8. Leanne Says:

    I JUST had this conversation with my husband last night. I also cannot eat raw tomatoes unless they are carefully disguised. However, they go down just fine roasted, in salsa, as a sauce, etc.

  9. Sues Says:

    Yay! This is awesome. I’ve always believed this same theory and have heard that it works on babies who won’t eat certain foods as well.

    I grew up in New England hating lobster. But after years of seeing my family love it and relatives go crazy over it every time they visited, I finally decided I wanted in on the fun. So, I told my mom I liked lobster and every time they ate it, I got one too. I made myself eat it and now I LOVE it! In fact, I think I still love it a little more every time I have one :)

  10. martadc Says:

    I had exactly the same problem, and I solved it just by forcing myself too! Now I love them sprinkled with salt and some olive oil, but gag reflex still comes back if the tomato is too mushy.
    (Interestingly it’s not the slimy seed-holding part I have trouble with, but the actual ‘meat’ of the fruit…)
    I hope the method works!

  11. Eliza Says:

    i used to have the exact same problem, but my significant other LOVES tomatoes, he’s the kinda guy who eats a tomato like an apple. so i kinda had to teach myself to like them. salt is a definite for raw tomatoes – i think that’s a large part of why raw tomatoes in salsa are totally palatable. a large sprinkling of salt and pepper and i’m good to go. i even put salt on raw tomatoes in a sandwich!

    and kudos for taking ‘the man who ate everything’ to heart, i did the same thing after i read it. i can now add raw tomatoes, eggplant, and things with tentacles to the list of things i’m okay with eating :)

  12. nmaha Says:

    That is quite an effort. Raw tomatoes are one of those foods that poeple either love or hate. Good for you.

  13. Kathy/stresscake Says:

    Hooray! I’ll come over and make a lovely fresh tomato pasta for you now :)

  14. Miami Intraocular Lenses Says:

    I grow tomatoes in my mother’s garden every year. There are way better than the ones from the market

  15. Steve Says:

    My wife has the same tomato aversion Personally for me it’s raw cheese. I can eat it any which way on or in anything as long as it’s cooking and melted but raw I just can’t do it.

    I truly feel this is genetic as only one of my 4 daughters has the exact same aversion to cheese I do. We may need to try Jeffery’s solution but do I have to do this for every type of cheese? This could take awhile.

  16. Nan Says:

    I hated raw tomatoes growing up. As an adult, we started gardening and I just convinced myself I was going to like them. I started peeling them, removing the seeds, salting and peppering, then eating 1 bite at a time. Now, I can eat piles of homegrown tomatoes with just a little salt.

    Delicious! My husband still can’t eat them. He wants to and he tries periodically, but he just can’t do it.

    Store bought tomatoes are terrible. I can’t eat those.

  17. Josh Liberatore Says:

    Bravo, my friend! I’ll never forget the time Monica and I had you over for dinner and served a luscious and large platter of salted and herbed tomatoes from our garden. We considered it a testament to the strength of our friendship that you guys felt comfortable saying flatout that you hated tomatoes. Frankly, we could use your help this summer . . .

  18. KB Says:

    I cannot wait until I can grow my own fresh tomatoes! I too have the “raw tomato” problem and have gotten around it so far by scooping out the goopy bits whenever possible since the flavor of a tomato itself is rarely the issue. I’m hoping that if I can eat them fresh from the vine I’ll be able to eat them whole.

  19. giuseppe Says:

    mettere i pomodorini crudi sott’olio per farli durare per l’inverno
    se comporta qualche rischio.
    Se mi puo’ rispondere qualcuno.
    Grazie

  20. janet Says:

    i guess i’ll be one of the few, but i absolutely adore tomatoes and have been eating them like apples since i was little. i actually believe i love them as much as a kid could love chocolate, or any other kind of candy, with a sprinkle of salt, or sometimes lemon pepper. today, i still love them. its a scientific fact that tomatoes possess an umami factor, an essence in which mimics glutamate; glutamate being a meaty, salty flavor in which our human bodies crave naturally. if i was provided a large basket of perfectly ripe tomatoes every week for the rest of my life, i would the happiest person alive. try a simple recipe, instead of hiding the tomato amongst other things, try basil boats; a small fresh basil leave layered with a cherry tomato and a chunk of Valbreso feta cheese and a light drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. for most of you, it sounds like texture is the biggest problem.

  21. Rohan Says:

    I’m glad I saw this…I thought I was the only one with this crazy aversion. I’ve NEVER had tomatoes; If I see it in food, my throat clamps up and my body stiffens. I can manage if its crushed out or boiled out in some soup or sauce but only if its not noticeable, not chunks and definitely not tasting in the food. Like, I actually LOVE ketchup…but raw tomatoes have NEVER made it past the tip of my nose. This is one experiment is one I will never attempt! But keep posting! Love your blog!

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