A 14hr flight had a lot to tell about food neophobia

Date: Not important

From: Not important                                              Departure at: Not important

Destination: Not important                                  Arrival at: Not important

Duration: 13h 45min


The flight started with much hope, some thoughts and many dreams for what is coming after it lands. It turned out that I should had thought a little about the flight itself in advance. It took only a couple of minutes to figure out that the Indian passengers exceeded 90%, but a couple of hours to know that the available food over this trip is some sorts of cooked vegetables and chicken that seemed to be on the Indian way. The hosts offered us three meals over the long flight with two options for the main dish. My first meal smelled strange before I gave it a try to figure out that it is simply not for me. By the time of the second meal, I was really starving and ready to pick the other option for the main dish. It was not my day, was it…? These meals sounded strange and tasted too bad to me. I thought that maybe I can spend the time with my window and just forget about any food for the remaining hours.

This was not the first or the last time to have such a situation: I also remember that favorite meal of Jordan, mansaf, a meal that almost every Jordanian recommended. The meal is composed of a dish of rice and meat and another with something whose main ingredient is supposed to be milk, however, its structure, smell, and taste made me though that this is never made to be eaten….

A good point to start with is our childhood: No matter what is your culture or nationality, we share common interest in our mothers’ cooking as we grow up. We are sure that they do their best for our happiness. But it is very unlikely that all the mothers are successful cooks. Maybe, it is the other way round: what we got used to during our childhood, impacts our sense of taste. This is a nice chance to introduce food neophobia: simply rejecting new food to what we are used to.

Is food neophobia an acquired behavior?
Well, it is much more complicated; it starts much earlier than we might think: According to an article from Current Biology journal, published in 2013, the formation of our food preferences dates back to our early days in life, to be specific, in the utero, where our senses are developing, and where we receive our early nutrition. Ventura A., the author of the article, categorized the amniotic fluid components into nutrients, tastants, and flavors, all of which reflect the dietary of mother.

Food neophobia at childhood
Childreen are exposed to food neophobia the most; specially from 2 to 5 years old, the period where their diet changes from milk-based to the ordinary food. Some studies had a successful stategy for increasing childreen’s food prefences. They recommend exposing novel food to children multiple times (6-15 times) and giving them a chance to taste the food and recognize it.
To this point, I wonder if there is a similar strategy to increase our food preferences at adulthood and enjoy more foreign meals…Well, I had no clue yet, but may be it is the turn of the reader to reflect about that.

Finally, I will leave you with these wise words from the french author Jean Brillat-Savarin. Even if you are majoring in astronomy, you should somehow agree with him:
“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.”                                                        (Jean Brillat-Savarin, 1755-1826)

Sources

Ventura, A., & Worobey, J. (2013). Early Influences on the Development of Food Preferences. Current Biology , 23 (9), R401-R408. doi: 10.1016 / j.cub.2013.02.037

De Cosmi, V., Scaglioni, S., & Agostoni, C. (2017). Early Taste Experiences and Later Food Choices. Nutrients , 9 (2), 107. doi: 10.3390 / nu9020107

Alaaeldin Elozeiri

4 Comments

  1. That is a nice post, Alaa!
    But in the photo you seem to be the only who is not happy with the dish even before trying:) For me it looks tasty, but I didn’t try.
    Anyway I think you will enjoy Russian borscht when we cook it)

  2. That was a very interesting post and an excellent line up for a Currywurst review next time 🙂

  3. This is a pretty funny written blog post and it is informative, too! I like how you begin with your flight to Berlin, then tell about your past food experience reminded by the food you got on the plane and lastly you present some research. And yes, I think it is possible to increase food preferences by similar strategies even at adulthood.

    1. Thank you Fatma for these words.
      I would just mention that this flight was another one than the one to Berlin, however, I am still searching for an appealing German restaurant here in Berlin. So far, the only one that I found delicious was actually Arabic one.
      I guess it is hard to adapt to new food, but I am trying..

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