As Paul Bloom explains in his book – ‘How Pleasure Works’ – Taste, contrary to what many believe, does not all arise from
physiology and evolutionary biology, from the anatomy of senses and what our body most needs, and the environments in which our species has evolved. To some extent, this is right, we do have some hard-wired preferences. We like sweet things because most times, bitterness is a cue to toxicity. Some foods, such as chilli peppers, cause an unpleasant ‘burn’. We also learn food habits from what we see people around us, especially in our family, eat.
But that is about it for human universals. We are omnivores and can just about eat anything we can digest and are not genetically intolerant to. However we each do have our own taste preferences and nobody can yet explain why. Culture explains why some people enjoy Kimchee, others PopTarts and yet others Tortillas, or why some people enjoy eating bugs, rats, horses, dogs or cats and why others don’t. Such tastes are best explained by where they come from and how they were raised. The Chinese, they say, eat anything that moves with its back to the Sun. But this still does not explain individual taste preferences. Such individual preferences seem to arise more from associated personal experiences and memory thereof.