Forkful of brussels sprouts halfway to mouth, I am stricken with the sudden, not entirely welcome epiphany that I am now an adult who voluntarily eats brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts. The one vegetable I despised as a child who had to be reminded to share the green beans and broccoli. I’ve become one of them, those scary brussels-sprouts-loving-vegetarians that the rest of the world thinks have aberrant tastebuds.
Naturally, I hopped on Google to find the answer to the question: does going veg screw with your tastebuds? There don’t seem to be many studies on this topic, and I can’t really answer it myself. I went vegetarian at an age when most people are transitioning to adult taste preferences anyway, so it’s hard to say whether I’m now more into spicy food, bitter greens, and mushrooms because I stopped eating meat or because I grew up, moved out, and discovered Ethiopian food. Probably a little of both. I have noticed that roast chicken no longer smells appetizing, though bacon is another story entirely.
What really prompted this post, however, was my recent experiment with kale chips. The idea is pretty basic. Tear kale up into pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, and spices, and bake at a low temp until crispy. The vegans from whom I got the idea have written gushing panegyrics to kale chips, including: “More addictive than potato chips,” and “like fries,” and “amazingly delicious.” I was skeptical, so I made my own. They were interesting. Texture not unlike desiccated autumn leaves (not that I’ve ever eaten one). Mostly salty, with a hint of roasted broccoli (not one of my favorite vegetables to roast), and a slightly bitter finish. Verdict: OK as a way to eat kale, but not life changing, and not even close to replacing my Kettle chips (chipotle barbecue flavor, please). And that’s to say nothing of the gastro-intestinal distress the kale chips caused me later. Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to details.
Without really meaning to, I’ve filed kale chips in the ‘foods only vegans could love’ mental category. There it is joined by anything in which tofu is used to substitute for cheese. Any dessert that calls for a significant quantity of beans. Anything raw and sprouted, but especially for breakfast. Wheatgrass or other dark green smoothies. (Note: I am not a ruminant.) That’s where my ovo-lacto vegetarian tastebuds draw the line. If I went vegan, would these things start to taste good? The question, at present, is unanswerable.
While I’m certainly aware that plenty of vegan food is simply food without animal products, the fringier recipes definitely strike me as acquired tastes. What do you think? Have your taste preferences changed significantly since going veg?