Re-Cultivating Our Sense of Taste

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I remember when Hot Pockets made me salivate. And ranch flavored Pringles potato chips. They don’t anymore.

If you’re at all like me, you grew up eating the standard American diet. In her own small way, your mom probably tried to make “healthy” food choices. In my home, that looked like skim milk, low-fat salad dressings, and chicken — lots of chicken. But we still ate sandwiches starring American cheese and soybean oil mayonnaise, still poured corn syrup over our white-flour pancakes, and drank just about as much Coke as our hearts desired.

Making the transition into eating according to more traditional food ways required not only a perspective altering change in what is and is not considered healthy food, but it also required re-training my taste buds so that the good food actually tasted good — so that it made me salivate.

Looking back now, I cringe when I remember what used to taste good to me. I cringe because there for a while my taste buds had been trained to love the wrong kinds of things. It’s as if I were salivating at the smell of refuse. How could it be that one of my God-given, primal senses was leading me so far astray? I might as well have been blind, or hallucinating. How could it be that something hardwired to help me navigate the world of choosing good foods could be so harmful to me?

Writing about this anomaly in a February 2008 article for Wise Traditions, Katherine Czapp said:

This phenomenon is part of the post-traumatic syndrome of survivors of the modern standard American diet. Not only do many people find they must heal their bodies from years of consuming toxic and rancid vegetable oils, a chemist’s vat of harmful additives, fake soy fabrications and just plain nutrient-deficient, fractionated foods, but their palates have become atrophied as well, and may need to be reacquainted with genuine flavors, aromas and textures.

She didn’t mince words, did she?

Further on in the article she gives some helpful advice for re-training our taste buds to appreciate nutrient-dense foods. Her first pitch? Start re-introducing hearty bone broths into your meals. A good homemade bone broth is inexpensive, surprisingly nutrient-dense, and appealing to just about anybody. It’s also really good for your digestion:

One very vital, but very often overlooked fixture in a nourishing traditional diet is the regular inclusion of soup made from bone stocks. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a soothing, delicious plate of soup, but it is peculiar how few families prepare soups regularly. In fact, genuine, generous soup plates are themselves rather hard to come by in the United States—most often smallish bowls are supposed to serve the purpose, along with tiny, almost useless spoons. In a country where cheap fast food is super-sized, and restaurant steaks are cut in one-and-a-half pound slabs, soup doesn’t even rate serious consideration. But right under our noses is not only a most appetizing aroma rising from a plate of beautiful soup, but the secret to our enjoyment of the rest of our meal and its easy digestion.

Traditional cultures around the world feature nutrient-dense bone broths at the start of meals. In our modern culture, this practice has carried over into the traditional “first course” of a fine meal: soup.

So, for the next little while, I’ll be walking you through the basics of bone broths and their many culinary uses. (Hint: it’s not just to make soup!)

In the meantime, if you or your loved ones are having a hard time transitioning your palate (or your tummies!) to love nutrient-dense foods, go check out the rest of Katherine’s tips.

(photo by avlxyz)


  1. says

    for real.
    i didn’t grow up eating junk food, but did go through a phase in high school where candy bars and soda were daily fare. but i was lucky that my parents were foodies, evenif they didnt do everything i think we need nutritionally, they had thier own beliefs and i respect that. one thing i was really blessed to experience was parents that cooked literally from scratch. we didnt have much stuff from a box until i was older. also my folks took us out to eat at high end, independent restaurants that served natural foods, and even really fancy food, so i got to try and love real, delicious food.
    .-= emily´s last blog post …Advice on Feeding Our Children and Ourselves =-.

  2. says

    I resonate with this post because I feel like my tastebuds are in transition-mode right now. I have always cooked and baked from scratch, but after beginning my journey toward real food with coconut oil, pastured meat, raw milk, and unrefined sweeteners about a year ago, I am always surprised when junk food doesn’t taste good anymore.

    • says

      I’m still not appealed to by total junk food — i.e. Pringles and Hot Pockets. But I do get a hankerin’ for fried chicken, or pizza, or something else every now and then. When I give into those cravings, that food STILL tastes good. It’s good to know that most of these have Real Food alternatives that I can make, eat, and feel great about.

  3. says

    While I have done a lot of transitioning in the last year, there are still times when what I really want is something I shouldn’t have. Every now and then I HAVE to have a Starbucks Chai–I am now constantly disappointed that it doesn’t taste as good as I remember it! Every six months or so I have to remind myself that it doesn’t give me that flavor rush that I remember.

    My husband still wants junk and sometimes I even give in, but for the most part I have few cravings for it. If I do want something I know I’ve gone too long without food and need to eat–ANYTHING–but I do try to stay with something I’ve made myself or its in with a traditional diet.
    .-= Bonnie´s last blog post …Health and Expectations =-.

    • says

      I was like this until I got pregnant this third go ’round. Now I’m assaulted by all kinds of cravings for things I haven’t had in ages, or things I would normally cringe at, or things I would normally just ignore. The further along in this pregnancy I get, the fewer the cravings I have. But still. Now I really identify with people who have to constantly RESIST temptation in order to choose healthier foods.

  4. says

    We have been eating healthy, real foods, but just in the past couple of weeks I have introduced bone broths. I can’t believe the differences I have seen in my kids. My daughter’s asthma is better, my eldest daughters skin problems are almost completely gone. I had no idea how important bone broths were, but I believe it now!
    .-= Rene @BudgetSavingMom´s last blog post …Free Digiorno 200 Calorie Portions =-.

    • says

      Rene — We’re also going to make a more concerted effort to get more bone broths in our diet. I always forget how much I *love* them until I make them. My goal is to perpetually have some form of bone broth simmering on the stove — to in some way incorporate it into my daily meals. As it is, we get a hearty broth once every week when I make a chicken, and I freeze the little leftover portions in ice cube trays to add flavor to some dishes. But I want to do more.

  5. Momma says

    Oh, we had more than skim milk, low-fat dressings and lots of chicken. We had ground beef quite often, fixed as either spaghetti or lasagna, and we had fried catfish. Granted the ground beef wasn’t grass fed, and the lasagna used crescent dinner rolls, and the catfish was fried in mainly canola oil! Not only that, we had cereal quite often. Outside of boxed cakes, most everthing else was from scratch…maybe not with the best of products! But we were following what we were told was best for us. Little did we know! I have to thank you for steering us into the right direction! Although it’s a work in progress for us, for me, personally, I have definitely noticed quite a few changes in my health! Can’t wait to see the info on broths!

    • says

      Well, Mom, how am I supposed to summarize our ENTIRE diet in 3 words or less? Sure, we did a lot more from-scratch cooking than just about anybody I knew, but it wasn’t with real food. I remember making all our baked goods with white flour and Crisco, for example. And I remember using LOTS of cans of Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken soup for various recipes. And we didn’t shrink away from the Velveeta when we needed something gooey and cheesy in a casserole or queso dip.

      Don’t get me wrong, it was GREAT that we actually cooked instead of opening up boxes of Tuna Helper or other such silliness. That went a long way towards making me the kind of cook that I am today! And, I am very thankful for it.

      My biggest point in those few sentences is just what you said “Maybe not with the best of products, but we were following what we were told was best for us.” We had been training our taste buds to like certain things based on the advice of a government and a society that were just plain WRONG. And as an adult, I had to work to re-train my taste buds to like traditional foods.

  6. Alex says

    Bone broths sound divine! i was thinking the other day–as i have transitioned to real foods/whole foods and making things from scratch, i have naturally moved away from most dairy because other than raw cheese, i cant easily get raw milk and i have a mucous issue from processed dairy…i was wondering where to get my calcium because i cant stand the idea of taking honkin big supplements–i make kombucha and i had read that you can soak clean eggshells in bucha and it will dissolve them and make a naturally fortified calcium supplement–while that is an idea–it reminded me of the coke dissolving a tooth story that i never knew was real or not–bone broths sound like they would be full of calcium…and if you make them clear i think my kids would dig them–their father turned them on to instant broth a while back, much to my shock!

    I have a funny fake food story–my daughter bought a roll of cookie dough they other day for a girl scout party–and they had some left overs along with some store vanilla icecream–so we baked the cookies and make chipwiches–they smelled AMAZING cooking–but after a bite or two i threw mine away–it was so sweet i thought i would gag and in place of the lovely butter and real sugar my tastebuds were expecting in the cookie–i got a mainline hit of high fructose, white flour and hydrogenated oil…

    my body said–no Fing way!!!

    so, i am planning on making some sprouted grain chocolate somethings this weekend–time to experiment–if anyone has any ideas–please lemme know!!!

    • says

      Alex — You hit the nail on the head. Bone broths are the PRIMARY source of calcium for most traditional people groups (excepting those dairy-based cultures).

  7. says

    I was also raised in a family that cooked from scratch when I was young. My Mom said when I was very small, my favorite treat in my high chair was “olliechees”: olives and cheese. Although bread was Mrs Baird’s “Wheat”, at least I grew up thinking bread should be brown and have *some* texture. Ketchup was NOT allowed, and CocaCola was a rare treat. On the rare occasions we went out for a burger, it was never McDonald’s, but Whataburger, which I think (then – 1970s) was more like Real Food.

    Nowadays our local burger joint uses fresh beef from a local producer, and cuts their own fries. Sadly, some people don’t like their fries because they don’t taste like McDonald’s.

    I always make stock from a holiday turkey (from my brother’s organic farm!), and sometimes from chicken bones. A few weeks ago I made my first-ever brown beef bone broth. I thought it smelled a little weird, so I never had the nerve to try it, but the dogs have been LOVING it on their food! And I figure it’s great for them, as they are both breeds prone to joint problems (St Bernard & Basset) I think there is/was nothing wrong with the stock, I’m just not accustomed to that smell. I finally realized it smelled like French Onion Soup, which is *delicious*, and I meant to make some (Husband’s favorite!), but suddenly it was almost all “gone to the dogs”, LOL. Guess it’s time to go buy more bones!

    Thanks for the encouragement! – And the calcium info – bizarrely, that aspect hadn’t occurred to me, and I’m not eating/drinking much dairy right now.
    .-= Gigi´s last blog post …Mrs. Economides’s Yogurt Recipe =-.

  8. says

    Thanks for the excellent post! When trying to encourage people/family members to change their diet to a traditional diet, they often act like I’m totally nuts! The entire process is indeed a re-training! BTW, I linked to my blog (number 33, Cathy) but I guess I didn’t follow the directions! I’m learning!
    .-= Cathy´s last blog post …Who Loves You, Baby? =-.

  9. Brittany says

    I’m looking forward to the bone broth stuff coming up! I’ve been trying to use it in recipes more often.

    It sounds like you had a lot of the same kinds of foods my mom served growing up. I don’t usually struggle with craving the food of my childhood. But on the occasion that I am served it, it still tastes so good to me. Like the other night we were at someone’s house for dinner and they served a chicken casserole filled with cheese, cream of chicken soup and crescent rolls. I could have eaten the whole pan! (But I refrained :)) Perhaps the day will come when I’ll break free entirely.

  10. says

    I can’t wait to hear more about bone broths. I have the Nourishing Traditions cook book but I get overwhelmed by it easily. I decided to take a step back and work on getting (my husband) used to eating whole grains and choosing healthy foods, few processed things, exploring local food, etc. Once we get a better grip on that we can explore sprouting grains and all of that.

    My husband grew up eating only restaurant food or things that came out of boxes, so it’s been very hard for him. When I cook fresh foods without additives he still feels like he needs to drown it in salt. We did have some major success though–he now asks for me to make whole wheat pancakes and waffles! He tasted his old favorites, Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, and he thought they tasted so fake he couldn’t eat more than one bite.

    We have about 30 chickens in our backyard and so we enjoy lots of fresh eggs. Over the winter when they stopped laying we had to buy store eggs. We thought they tasted watery or something, no flavor at all. I guess once you get used to the good stuff it’s shocking to go back and taste what you used to like.
    .-= Amy´s last blog post …Rosie-isms. =-.

  11. says

    I watched a documentary once about how we have disassociated ourselves with taste. They blindfolded people and then asked them to eat their “favorite” foods and the people suddenly did not like the taste. They had become so accustomed to eating the food without thinking about how it actually tasted – and they did not really like the food at all! So, if in doubt, so the blindfold test (or just close your eyes) and eat slow, and concentrate on the flavors.
    .-= Jon´s last blog post …The Top Websites To Help You Lose Weight =-.

  12. says

    You can definitely change your tastes. Many people may not know this, but your taste buds have a 3 week lifespan and constantly get regenerated. If you cut out processed foods in your diet, you will be able to diversify your tastes. You will enjoy tastes other than sweet and salty which processed foods give you. Even if you make this transition slowly, you will still get results.

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