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Best of the Hotline: The Most Polarizing Foods

Some questions on the Hotline have staying power, and for good reason—they cover the questions we ask ourselves time and time again. Join us as we revisit some of the most popular.

Today: Food52ers on foods they love, hate, and love to hate. 

"You like potato and I like potahto. You like tomato and I like tomahto," Ella Fitzgerald sings in her rather food-studded duet, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." While Fitzgerald's song ends in a compromise (there's lobster), it hints at the real divide eating can create. Everyone has their own food aversions, but there are some foods it seems people either love or hate.

Cilantro's a seemingly innocent herb, but it's as polarizing as north and south. Pickles cause quite a conundrum (or, you know, a pickle). Okra's slimy texture is too much for some to bear. The like-dislike balancing act is especially apparent when cooking for guests—it's not just your stomach on the line. Over on the Hotline, SKK wants to know what polarizing foods we all stay away from when entertaining. Whether it's to avoid offending your guests or having to let them go hungry—and, who knows which would be worse. One thing's clear: Eating habits are as tightly held as potatoes and potahtoes.

Vegetables, kind of a big dill

  • Beyondcelery points out that some people dislike briny foods like pickles, capers, and olives. 
  • Em-i-lis defends the often maligned brussels sprouts and okra, but adds: "I do NOT think okra should be in gumbo because of the slime factor. I grew up in Louisiana and always preferred an okra and tomato-free gumbo." 
  • Cilantro divides Sam1148's household: "The partner will only eat the stems because the leaves taste like soap to him." 
  • Anitalectric observes, "People can be weird about bell peppers." Amysarah chimes in, saying she loves all peppers, except for green bell peppers. "They always taste sort of metallic and institutional to me, regardless how fresh or well-prepared."

Surf and turf 

  • MaryMaryCulinary detests anchovies: "I keep trying, and well-meaning folks like to say that you can't taste them, they just add a certain savouriness. Um, is that what you call the foul oily-fishy layer coating my mouth?"
  • Wssmom likes most foods, but isn't a fan of tripe and kidneys.
  • SKK's dad loved Spam and has friends who pair it with pineapple as a pizza topping, but never personally developed a taste for it.
  • Niknud had a traumatic experience with a whole baby octopus.

Some like it plain

Fruit's not always peachy

  • JessicaBakes doesn't like the smell of bananas, while Nutcakes likes bananas, but only in certain forms: either very firm or in banana bread.
  • Healthierkitchen says, "My brother and sister in law do not eat tomatoes. They will eat tomato sauce, ketchup, and other tomato-based products but not raw or even chunks of lightly cooked tomato."
  • Sadassa_Ulna has moved past her childhood hatred of coconut, but as a kid she could never understand why anyone would "ruin" a cake by dredging it in shredded coconut.

Not-so-sweet endings

  • Susan g loves black licorice, Good & Plenty, and black jelly beans. Other commenters, though, find anise-flavored anything unappealing, like fennel and Pernod.
  • Aimless loves peanut butter and the nuts themselves, but says, " I can. not. eat. a peanut butter cookie."
  • Nina Lombardo says people hate rainbow or seven-layer cookies, concluding, "I suspect the haters have had flavorless, dry ones that seem to appear in every deli in NY."

What foods do you absolutely love or hate? Tell us in the comments below!

53 Comments

em2818sh May 21, 2018
I love licorice, olives, and mushrooms, but can’t get my husband to even try them! Good thing I love him, or those could be relationship killers.
 
Rebecca H. September 1, 2016
Corn, peas, beets, lima beans, yams - basically all sweet starchy vegetables. And increasing the sweetness does NOT make it better.
 
amy June 30, 2016
Love black licorice, pickles, chicken livers, anchovies, olives, stinky cheese, lamb and goat. Hate unripe bananas and hoppy beer.
 
Shelley M. June 30, 2016
Tilapia. How'd this tasteless fish ever become so popular?<br />
 
Shelley M. June 30, 2016
Love all kinds of beans except black-eyed peas. Taste like boiled celery.
 
henandchicks June 30, 2016
No Shelley, they are NOT as good as boiled celery. Why do prople eat them?
 
Urubu N. June 30, 2016
Of the many things I hate, sour cream definitely makes my top 10 list. I can smell it and taste it from a mile away.
 
joan June 30, 2016
Cilantro. Yuck. I look like a cat with a fur ball when I unexpectedly taste it in my food!
 
Carol S. May 9, 2016
Love anchovies, olives, blue cheese, dark black coffee.<br />Hate Mayo so much it's embarrassing.
 
Sauertea May 8, 2016
I hate celery and water chestnuts!!!! Both have the same yucky texture!! When forced to use celery in a recipe, I chop it into obscurity!
 
AntoniaJames June 1, 2015
Porcini - many people who have no problem eating milder mushrooms simply cannot stand porcini. <br />My list of personal simply-won't-eat items runs about to about 40. The worst deal breaker of them all for me is star anise. As another Food52er once remarked, it makes everything taste like Good 'n' Plenty. Bleah. ;o)
 
Jan May 27, 2015
I love peanut butter and pickle sandwiches!! MUST be dill pickles,not kosher dill but plain dill pickles chips and crunchy peanut butter. Deeeeeelish!!
 
Linda May 27, 2015
I forgot to mention ~ all organ meats, oysters (cooked or raw), goat cheeses, rare hamburger and eel in sushi or anywhere else.
 
kaslavin9 May 27, 2015
I'm surprised marmite didn't make the list. Here in the UK people use the phrase "it's marmite" meaning either you love it it you hate it. Which is So true!
 
Jan W. May 27, 2015
I am astonished that not a single respondent mentioned broccoli. <br />Broccoli - the most deplorable green thing ever planted by humans. The only flavor it has is that of lawn clippings. No amount of seasoning or butter or dressing can change it. Even kale can be redeemed with proper preparation, but not broccoli. In stark contrast, cauliflower is fantastic in almost every instance ex except raw. <br /><br />I also dislike papaya, maracujá/passion fruit, and walnuts.
 
Leslie May 27, 2015
I can't stand the taste of cows' milk by itself; It tastes like a barnyard smells.
 
Leslie May 27, 2015
I hate anything that tastes fishy; even spinach tastes fishy to my sometimes. But I can eat Nori.
 
Jessica D. May 27, 2015
My list is weird since most people like at least some of these things: Over steeped green tea, cottage cheese, black liquorice flavoured candies in any form, spaghetti squash, champagne, citrus flavoured clear sodas, white chocolate, white grapefruit juice, pork & beans, canned mushroom soup and weak coffee. Huge lover of onions, tomatoes and cilantro!
 
Kali May 27, 2015
Adore fennel and liquorice, can't live without cilantro. Despise peanut butter and Marsala wine.
 
Hazel May 27, 2015
To quote one of my dearest friends, as I get older, I like fewer people and more kinds of food. I used to be very picky. These days I don't like okra, beans, lamb except for lamb chops, honey dew melon, organ meats, and although I'm adventurous and will try different fish and vegetables, I will eat no other meats than beef, poultry and sometimes pork. I'm going to Ecuador where the national delicacy in guinea pig and there is no way I will sample that. I've never had any game meats and don't intent to!
 
Nicholas T. May 27, 2015
I have an incredibly strong aversion to anything sheep or goat related. Lamb, sheep's cheese (even feta), and goat's cheese are so pungent and gamey to me, that even a little bit hidden in a sauce or a salad will spoil my appetite.