Most kids grow up exposed to only black, canned olives, which tend to have a very bracing, acrid flavor and are usually found on pizza and in salads, or those funny little green ones with pimentos stuffed inside. When we get older, we discover that whole, artisanal olives come in dozens of varieties, and while the flavor might be strong, there’s nothing else quite like a perfect olive.
Raw tomatoes, especially ones that aren’t perfectly ripe, can have both a mealy texture and an overpoweringly off-putting flavor. Tomatoes are one of the most polarizing foods in existence, and those who grow up hating them often still aren’t fans of them when they get older. In the right application, however, bruschetta for example, even the most ardent tomato-hater can learn to love them.
What is it about fish that’s so off-putting to a lot of kids? The smell, most likely, along with a texture that can be a little on the soft and mushy side. A bad experience with canned tuna can also turn off a kid for a long time. But as we get older we realize that there are plenty of different types of fish in the sea, and even if someone isn’t a fan of salmon they can still find a lot to love in a nicely cooked filet of halibut.
Mushrooms are another love-it-or-hate-it food. Just the fact that they’re a fungus is enough to turn off a lot of kids, and like olives, our first interactions with mushrooms tend to be the insipid, slimy canned variety, or ruining a perfectly good slice of pizza. The texture of a lot of mushrooms still leaves something to be desired, but like fish there are hundreds of different varieties and not all of them are appealing to everybody. When we get older we realize that there’s a big difference between canned button mushrooms and fresh morels sautéed in butter.
Another member of the “very strong flavor” family, raw onions are usually first encountered in salads, another food that takes some getting used to for kids. This really isn’t the right application for them at all, as they tend to overpower the salad’s other elements. It’s not until we get older that we realize that when put to the right use—i.e. on a burger—a raw onion can be a thing of beauty.
One of the most maligned-by-kids vegetables is actually one of the most delicious out there, but it all comes down to how it’s cooked. When we’re growing up, Brussels sprouts are usually boiled to death, and end up not only mushy but smelly. The ideal way to cook Brussels sprouts is by roasting, and if tossed with some garlic and bacon afterwards it’s a perfect accompaniment to just about any meal.
Another vegetable that gets an inordinately bad rap, broccoli is another one of those vegetables that even adults find themselves needing choke down. When improperly cooked, the florets get mushy and mealy while the stalks stay tough and fibrous, and it’s easy to see why lots of kids shun it (unless they’re convinced that they’re actually eating baby trees). It might take some practice but there are actually plenty of great broccoli recipes out there, and you’d be amazed at what some red pepper flakes and garlic powder can do to this much-maligned veggie.
Poor spinach is hated by so many kids that it took a cartoon character eating it by the can-full to give it even an ounce of popularity. The problem here is in the preparation as well as the texture. When a box of frozen spinach is thawed and served, the resulting dish can be a tasteless, soggy mess. If strained and sautéed with some olive oil, garlic, and red pepper, however, it becomes something altogether different, and sometimes it takes an adult to realize that spinach can actually be delicious if treated properly.
Even though it’s one of the world’s great delicacies, caviar has a few things going against it that turn off a lot of kids: One, it’s intensely briny, with a very strong smell and flavor that’s nearly overpowering. Two, it’s a precious commodity that needs to be eaten with delicacy. Three, it’s fish eggs, which is enough to make even the most curious child eater a bit grossed out. When we get older, though, we begin to appreciate the finer things in life, and caviar, delicately spooned onto a blini and chased with a shot of ice cold vodka, is right up there near the top of the list.
Poor, poor peas. Nearly impossible to find fresh at most supermarkets, these usually made it onto our plates sad, mushy, and impossible to avoid due to the fact that they roll around like ball bearings. Even after being tossed in some butter (or mixed with equally mushy carrots), they’ve got a strong flavor and are such a downer that “eat your peas” has become an expression meaning “do something you don’t want to do.” While plenty of adults are still not exactly fans of the stuff, we don’t virulently hate them. And if you can find a restaurant that’s actually serving fresh peas, you might just end up finding them downright delicious.