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Why Some Nations Have Quite Weird Eating Preferences: Rotten Tofu for the Chinese and Other Culinary Delights
Why Some Nations Have Quite Weird Eating Preferences: Rotten Tofu for the Chinese and Other Culinary Delights

It will probably not be a secret to anyone that the gastronomic preferences of most peoples of the world are quite different. And in some cases, the "polarity" of tastes is so pronounced that representatives of one nation, suppressing disgust, will never even taste some dishes. Which are considered a real delicacy for other people. What is the secret of the fact that representatives of one species of living beings - humans, in different parts of the planet have such completely opposite food preferences.

Tastes could not be discussed

This popular expression can rather vaguely explain such different gastronomic preferences, for example, of Europeans and Chinese. It is hard to imagine French or Italian cuisine without one of the most popular products in Europe - hard cheese. Moreover, there are so many types of it that one and the same salad, but with different cheese, will be considered almost a completely different dish. Throughout Europe, this product is as common and ordinary as it is considered unusual in China.

The Chinese don't eat hard cheese

The indigenous people of the Celestial Empire do not cook or eat cheese in the form in which they are accustomed to it in most countries of the world. However, the Chinese use "sour milk" both as independent products and as an ingredient for other dishes. And often those that the European would definitely prefer to refuse. Veronique Greenwood, a journalist for the BBC Future, who worked in Shanghai at one time, described one such dish quite vividly, which she called "rotten tofu."

Queuing up for the foul smell

For a long time, on the way from home to the Shanghai subway, Veronik could not understand why there was a pungent smell on the street, which the journalist compared to the stench from an open sewer manhole. Later, Mrs. Greenwood found out where the source of such a specific “amber” is. It turned out that the smell was coming from a street diner. Or rather, from the signature dish that was prepared there. And behind which the local people lined up in an impressive queue every day.

Chinese people queuing at the counter of a catering establishment

Prepared "rotten tofu" in this institution from a fermented soy product, adding a mixture of various meats, vegetables and sour milk. It is unlikely that even the most inveterate European gourmets would like this dish.

Where does such a difference in tastes come from?

Many researchers are sure that the main influence on the gastronomic preferences of this or that people, first of all, had the products that have been cultivated and eaten for centuries in their region. It is difficult to disagree with this. However, not all cases of people eating very specific foods can be explained in terms of such a theory. After all, whatever one may say, but physiologically all people are the same. And if you can somehow get used to the specific smell of some food, then absolutely all people feel the taste and texture of the dish in the same way.

Everyone feels the same taste and texture of food

Another thing is how they describe it, and how much they like certain sensations on their teeth or tongue.For example, almost all inhabitants of the planet, except for Australians or New Zealanders, will not find the taste of a sandwich with Vegemite pasta (“Vegemite”) even remotely close to appetizing. After all, as one American child described the taste of this product made from barley yeast and malt extracts, niacin, fish flavin, folic acid and salt, “as if someone tried to cook food, but absolutely ruined everything”.

Or maybe it's all about spices

Many novice gourmets agree that an important factor in getting used to a particular exotic dish is the addition of familiar products or spices to it. For example, the same Chinese, who consider hard cheese to be almost a “conditionally edible” dish, eat it with pleasure, adding rice and soy sauce.

Every nation has its own favorite spices

Some gourmets can safely eat more extravagant "dishes", adding to them a huge amount of pronounced spice to taste. For example, known to many (and not only by hearsay) Swedish canned fish surströmming - pickled herring, was eaten by Italian gourmets after adding an abundant amount of herbs, paprika and bitter pepper. Although in its purest form surstroemming did not cause any sensations in the Italians, except for disgust and nausea.

Above the taste of the dish, only its texture

Another factor in the perception of food is its consistency or texture. British writer and chef Fuchsia Dunlop, who studied Chinese cuisine, argued that there are areas in the Middle Kingdom gastronomy that can never be attractive to even the most daring Western gourmets. As an example, the British woman cites properly cooked intestines of geese and sea cucumbers. And one and the other have absolutely no taste, and in their consistency they very much resemble rubber tubes.

A cooked sea cucumber can be over $ 100

That being said, a properly cooked sea cucumber can cost over a hundred US dollars. This is partly explained by the fact that some gourmets find it a very tasty dish. Although in fact the sea cucumber, according to Dunlop, attracts his fans exclusively for its texture. As proof, the writer points to the fact that in the Chinese language there are a huge number of words denoting what Europeans simply call "rubbery" or "jelly-like".

And yet it's a matter of taste

If we rely exclusively on scientific research and the physiology of the human body, it turns out that taste buds still play one of the main roles in addictions to not quite ordinary food. One of the confirmations of this is that by nature, a person is alien to eating bitter food. Indeed, in the world around him, poisonous plants often have such a taste. At the beginning of evolution, this was “recorded” in humans at the genetic level.

Children can eat sour, but cannot eat bitter

For example, some babies may eat sour, spicy, and even slightly spicy foods. However, no child will eat bitter. At the level of instincts and subconsciousness, the infant associates bitterness with poison. And only in the process of growing up and development, other, very non-standard mechanisms are turned on. Biologists are sure that lovers of strong coffee or dark chocolate have developed these preferences due to a person's subconscious desire to learn something new for him, unusual. And maybe even dangerous. The psychologist Paul Rozin even deduced a separate concept for this phenomenon - “benign masochism”. Its algorithm of action is approximately the following: taste buds catch bitterness in food and immediately send a signal of danger to the brain. However, then an interesting mechanism is turned on - a person, realizing that in fact, bitter food will not bring any harm, begins to receive special pleasure.

Bitter foods can be especially enjoyable

As a conclusion, only one thing can be said - the human body is a unique mechanism, and the organs of its perception and taste are truly flexible and elastic.After all, how else to explain the fact that representatives of one and the same species of living beings can eat “Wedgeite”, sea cucumbers, surströmming canned food, “rotten tofu” and even such a product disgusting for the Chinese as hard cheese.

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