What The Pho?

It never ceases to amaze me how two otherwise perfectly compatible people can have such diametrically opposed palates. This thought popped into my head yesterday during lunch. There I was, hunched over a steaming bowl of pho, slurping up every last ounce of aromatic, beefy broth, when I glanced across the table and saw Tara wrinkle her nose after taking a tentative spoonful from her bowl of pho.

This was the first time Tara had tried not just pho, but Vietnamese cuisine of any sort. I’d been craving it for awhile and swore up and down that this place called Green Papaya down the street from where we work had the best pho in town. She was curious, and agreed to give it a chance. I will give my fiance props for that – she is always willing to try new things! Liking them is another matter, but at least she gives them a shot. And while I maintain that Green Papaya’s pho is, in fact, the best in town, that doesn’t matter a bit if you aren’t crazy about pho in the first place, as Tara apparently is not. I blame the Thai basil, which gave the broth a sweet flavor.

Mmm. I'm a pho for you!
Mmm. I’m a pho for you!

The whole experience just made me wonder how two people that eat the same exact thing can have completely different reactions to it. Why do I like the flavors of pho, while Tara does not? Hell, she hasn’t been crazy about half the dishes we’ve tried on our food blog, while I’ve enjoyed 99% of them. I’ve always had a very adventurous palate, and there are few things I don’t like, whereas Tara – and she will be the first to admit this – is picky. I have been astounded when I’m eating something I find delicious, like bagels and lox, and I glance over to see not a mirrored expression of bliss but one more closely approaching disgust. And to be fair, there are a few things I don’t like that would surprise other people. Like watermelon. I despise it, even though it’s pretty much universally revered by others. Go figure!

I know our palates evolve over the years. When I was a kid I hated broccoli. Absolutely loathed the stuff. Now, I find it delicious. Whoa, what happened there? The opposite has occurred, too. There have been foods I loved when I was younger, and can’t stand now. Actually, it’s amazing that anybody can stand these – and yet they are all still readily available and, one can only surmise, still pretty popular. Lucky for you, I made a list!

5 Things I Used To Eat – and Enjoy – But Can’t Stand Now

  1. Hot Pockets. Not that long ago, Hot Pockets were – I hate to admit – a staple of my diet. In fact, I was recently reading over my old blog, and was amazed by how often I mentioned eating a Hot Pocket for lunch. What was I thinking?! Not only do they taste like cardboard, but they are dangerous: I once burned a finger (yes, a finger) on a Hot Pocket. It had slipped from my grasp while I was removing it from the microwave, but I caught it before it hit the floor, only to have my index finger tear a hole through the dough. Hot, scalding pain ensued. And, I’m not kidding, it takes a rocket scientist to assemble the carton you are supposed to cook them in. Bend here, fold there, tuck flap A into slot C, yadda yadda. I rarely got it right. I guess I ate them because they were convenient, but then one day I glanced at the list of ingredients – which is about a mile long and chalk full of chemicals, preservatives, and things I can’t even pronounce – and haven’t had a bite since.
  2. Bagel-fuls. A few years ago, Kraft came out with Bagel-fuls, a frozen bagel that was stuffed with cream cheese and an assortment of fruit fillings and folded together. Great concept, I thought, even if they weren’t round and didn’t contain a hole. Like, umm, every other bagel in the world. That should have tipped me off in the first place! The problem with Bagel-fuls is, they can go from frozen solid to scorching hot in the space of a single second. I’m not exaggerating. The instructions say to microwave them for twenty seconds, but in my experience that was always too long, so I’d put them in for ten. Only that was never long enough. So I’d go back and forth, adding a second or two at a time, and still end up burning the roof of my mouth every freakin’ time. Plus, they didn’t taste at all like a bagel, but rather, microwaved dough. Which is exactly what they are. Once again, I chalk my fondness for them up to convenience.
  3. Go-Gurt. It’s yogurt. In a tube. Made for eating on the go, or whenever you can’t find a spoon. Clever name aside, Go-Gurt is just weird. It doesn’t have the same consistency as regular yogurt, probably because it’s meant to be squeezed like a tube of toothpaste and is, therefore, thinner. And in other countries, it doesn’t even have the clever name. In Canada it’s called Yoplait Tubes, and in England, Frubes. Food for rubes?? Perhaps, but I fell sucker to this product when it first came out. Until I tasted it. Blech…it’s overly sweet, for one thing. And overly colorful. To make matters worse, it’s got a ton of ingredients no self-respecting real yogurt (which is nothing more than milk and live  bacteria cultures) would ever have. Like high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, tricalcium phosphate, potassium sorbate, carrageenan, and carmine. And it contains 1/3 more sugar than a can of Coca-Cola. It’s not even remotely healthy!
  4. Pop-Tarts. It’s interesting how so many of the “foods” on my list contain unnecessary hyphens. As if we are to believe the “hype,” I suppose. Now, Pop-Tarts have been around forever (well, since 1963, anyway) and are Kellogg’s top-selling brand…but that doesn’t make them good. They are cloyingly sweet on the inside, which is bad enough, but then at some point Kellogg decided to slap frosting on the outside, making them – in my opinion, anyway – pretty much inedible. To add insult to injury, now they’re available in flavors like S’mores and Chocolate Fudge. No, no, no! At least with the fruit versions we could pretend they were possibly just a tiny bit healthy for you. Now, even that is gone.
  5. Spaghetti Os. More like “O, the shame I ever actually liked these.” I did…but then again, doesn’t every kid? I’m pretty sure I even fed them to my own offspring when they were little. It’s a rite of passage, like learning how to ride a bike and tucking your first baby tooth under the pillow. But they are just plain nasty and not even remotely Italian. I actually tried Spaghetti Os for the first time in at least twenty years last month, to see if they were at all like I remembered. Answer: they were. Which, in this case, was not a good thing. I’m pretty sure my palate outgrew these when I was roughly six years old.

And, as a bonus, here’s a food I used to enjoy that didn’t come out of a box, at least – but is still pretty nasty. For a while there, when I was 11 or 12 years old, I loved to make myself a fried bologna sandwich with ketchup. The lunchmeat was always fried in butter, and had to be eaten on white bread. Just thinking of that gut bomb today turns my stomach.

Next time (or soonish), I’ll make a list of foods that I probably shouldn’t like, but inexplicably do. Like SPAM! Stay tuned.

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14 thoughts on “What The Pho?

  1. Ron says:

    Like Tara, I’m a picky (selective) eater. But I gotta tell ya, Mark….that soup sounds and looks DELICIOUS! I love Vietnamese cuisine. In fact, there was a Vietnamese restaurant close to where I lived in Orlando, Florida that I used to frequent often.

    4. Pop-Tarts. Yup…I’m the same way. Loved them when I was kid, but just the thought of eating them now makes me cringe. They remind me of two pieces of cardboard with a fruit filling – HA!

    Have a great day, buddy!

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  2. Tracy says:

    I liked this.

    I never did really care for Hot Pockets or Pop Tarts but I still like Spaghetti O’s. The others I have yet to try so thank you for sparing me the yuckiness.

    Tara is picky. Even as a kid. I don’t think she’ll admit it, but she really does like Spaghetti O’s too.

    Like

  3. benzeknees says:

    I hated carrots when I was growing up, but now I love them. Two foods I hated as a child & continue to hate are cooked cabbage & stewed tomatoes. My parents used to think it was a treat to eat stewed tomatoes with fried sausage floating in them (gagggggggggggg). When I was growing up we were forced to eat at least one spoonful of everything served. My parents gave up on me eating tomatoes & sausage when I threw up after the first bite.

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  4. SarahBeth says:

    I’m a kinda super picky eater and it drives Shawn NUTS. Theres about 5 vegetables that I’ll eat and I don’t cook much…(usually the same 3 or 4 things) and I love pop tarts, pb&J, and mac and cheese. I’m not too much of an adventerous eater because I never was growing up. I eat like a 5 year old. And that’s ok.

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  5. Anna Lea West says:

    You had me at Pho … sooo love it, but you lost me at Spaghetti-O’s. I haven’t had them in ages but I just KNOW I’d still love’em! Or wait, maybe I wouldn’t. Why are you even making me think of this??!!! 😉

    Like

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