Can I make myself like seafood?
April 3, 2007 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way to acquire a taste for seafood after a lifetime of total disgust? Why is this distaste for seafood something I can't seem to get over?

I do not like seafood. At all. For as long as I can remember, I have found the smell, taste, texture, and even concept of eating fish or shellfish repulsive. I've tried forcing myself to eat it, telling myself that everyone else must seem to like it for a reason, and that I just need to keep trying it. Well, I have choked down a lot of seafood, some of which made me gag, some of which I could eat a few bites of, but none that I found even remotely pleasant to eat.

I live in New England and have a family and in-laws and husband who all lust after seafood. I have tried a lot of fish & shellfish. I have tried ahi steaks & swordfish steaks after being told that they aren't fishy in taste or texture. I've tried fish & sticks and popcorn shrimp in the hopes that the deep-frying would make it tolerable. I've tried crab dip and shrimp cocktail and clam chowder. I've tried gorgeous, expensive lobster with butter that I *really* wanted to like (and expected to like) and found that it tasted (to me) kind of how body odor smells. This isn't an isolated case, I've tried lobster a few times and had the same strong, unpleasant taste from it each time, even though everyone else eating the lobster said it was perfect and exactly as lobster should taste.

The only seafood I have found remotely tolerable (and this means I can eat a few bites without gagging or feeling grossed out, not that I actually enjoyed it) is (1) raw salmon sushi rolls when the salmon is very thinly sliced and paired with avocado & rice, (2) california rolls which I know isn't even real crab, and only sometimes I can stand the texture of the fake-crab (3) very specific tuna salads made with white albacore (not the cat-food like pink stuff) and just the right amount of mayo ... I have only found these tuna salads that I can eat at NY delis & bagel shops. I also once had some shrimp at a hibachi restaurant that wasn't too bad, but when I tried it again at the same place I couldn't eat it beyond a single bite.

The thing is that I am trying to eat healthier and I know seafood is an often low-fat, high protein food that a lot of other people seem to enjoy. I wish I liked it and could look forward to some gri. What is blocking me from being a ble to enjoy seafood? Is this just the way I'm wired?

I'm not a picky eater - I will try almost anything at least once and I like a lot of different foods and cuisines.

By the way, I'm 26 years old, and I've disliked fish since I was about 3 or 4. I think it started when my parents bribed me to finish my (breaded flounder) dinner, and I have had serious hatred of seafood ever since.

Also note that I think the concept of eating bugs (like mealworms or crickets) less disgusting than eating a slab of fish. What is wrong with me?
posted by tastybrains to Food & Drink (51 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I have tried, like you, to like salmon - for about 15 years. I have eaten it about 1000 times. I loathe it. I simply do, and I don't think it's going to change no matter how hard I try. I gave up.

(Olives, too, no matter how many I eat I still hate them). Give up.
posted by tristeza at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2007

I like fish when it is a thin, white non-slab-like fish (like tilapia) marinated for a long time and then cooked/broiled till it is what some would consider overdone and burnt and covered in lemon and/or soy sauce. I don't like the fleshy texture otherwise. However, I do enjoy it my way.

I can't stand steak-type fish. No ahi, no swordfish steaks, etc. I also don't like oily fish or "moist tender" fish. I only like lobster tail if it is overdone otherwise it is too mushy and I prefer shrimp to be sort of charred. I know, I'm really strange. Breaded and/or stuffed fish is icky, too.

In summary, if you want to like fish, find some fish you can deal with and cook it your own way. Try tilapia, stay away from slab-like fish and get a marinade and sauce you will enjoy.
posted by necessitas at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2007

Response by poster: I wish I liked it and could look forward to some gri.

What I meant by this was that I wish I liked it and could look forward to some grilled shrimp or salmon the way some people seem to.

Seriously, the reaction of many of my family members to my dislike of seafood is as if I said that I hate rainbows, sunshine, and laughter. (It doesn't help that my in-laws are based on the Cape, either.)
posted by tastybrains at 3:15 PM on April 3, 2007

I loathe the taste of bell peppers, always have, and as a supertaster, can detect even the presence of a tiny fragment of one in family-sized pot of pasta sauce. Gaahh.

Perhaps you just have a lot of tastebuds but given you dislike all aspects of seafood (taste, scent, texture, concept), then yah, maybe it's not worth pursuing.

Just in case seafood doesn't gross you out enough, here's a pic of an ugly-ass sea bug.
posted by jamaro at 3:19 PM on April 3, 2007

Some people just don't like some things. That's okay. I find mustard totally repulsive. My mother refuses to eat strawberries because of the texture of the seeds on the outside. I think you have done more than most people, and that is commendable. Now your family should have the decency to shut up.
posted by dame at 3:21 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yes. I hated fish all my life and my mom used to make me eat hamur (which I think is a kind of grouper) when she bought it from the fish guy, and I would gag and scream and throw a fit.

When I was nineteen, I thought to myself that I was sick of hating something that everyone else seemed to love so much, so screw it, I acquired a taste for alcohol, I can certainly acquire a taste for seafood.

Seafood is so varied in its flavors that there is surely something out there that solely tastewise, you won't hate. Mentally, it's a whole different ballgame.

It was a lot harder for me to throw out my psychological aversion to shellfish and seafood than it was for me to find something that I thought tasted good. I kind of decided that I was going to jump in it head-first, so I started eating sushi and oysters on the half-shell, crab, shrimp, all of the things that really freaked me out the most.

I started taking a perverse pleasure in shocking myself, and I kind of trained myself out of the "ew, gross, seafood" thing.

Don't get me wrong. I just don't like salmon very much unless it's the fatty kind and it's nigiri. I am not generally a huge fan of cooked fish, unless it's a firm white fish, like tilapia or sea bass or mahi mahi. Salmon and other types of fish are all...fishy, and the specific fishiness of it totally sicks me out. Clams also, I can't take, as well as peel and eat shrimp, but that's more a poop aversion than a seafood aversion.

I love, and I mean, love with an unholy passion, sushi. It doesn't taste so much like fish to me (except for mackerel and salmon which are gross) as it does the ocean, which is not gross. To me, at least. I am sure at one point I would have thought so, but after working through it, starting light, and forcing myself to abandon my hang-ups, I'm in a good place with seafood and I don't feel like I'm missing out.
posted by mckenney at 3:26 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with dame. I think you did your due diligence to try to eat this stuff. Everything you mentioned is what I love to eat, I'd walk a mile for a good big slab of delicious fish, so if you don't agree, why force it? Eat what pleases you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:26 PM on April 3, 2007

You've definitely given it a shot. (Me? I gag at raw tomatoes.) When out with your in-laws, I would inform them that you consider caviar a seafood and then order the most expensive kind. (It's also delicious.)
posted by meerkatty at 3:30 PM on April 3, 2007

No I don't think you can change your taste short of undergoing a head injury. People's taste (really sense of smell) does differ innately - I don't think I will ever be able to eat liver.

Maybe you just have an aversion - years ago you may have been exposed to not overly fresh fish and current seafood gives you a slight taste that reminds you of the awful taste. For example, I used to have an aversion to sherry because of a bad experience I had as a teenager. Slightly differently, for a while during my off-campus life we kept not very refined soy-bean oil in our kitchen that I grew to hate. To this day I can still identify any salad dressing made with soy-oil.

I am no longer averse to sherry but I still find soy-bean oil unpleasant though I can eat it.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 3:33 PM on April 3, 2007

Tastybrains, I feel your pain. Grown up on both coasts, parents have retired to a house on the water with clams, oysters, crabs, salmon, mussels etc. None of which I can stand in the least.

Tried over and over again, fried, breaded, souped, stewed, grilled, seared, blackened - no go. I know I SHOULD like it, 'cause it's all magically delicious and everything, but I just don't. I have no idea why, but for some unexplainable reason seafood turns me right the fark OFF.

These days the reaction from family is a shrug and a "well, that's more for me" attitude.

Ironically, sunshine, rainbows and laughter give me the same reaction. I wonder if they're related somehow?...
posted by Aquaman at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2007

Best answer: I'm a fellow seafood-hater, so I feel your pain. My first wife, when she became a professonal chef (and thus had to be able to eat everything), learned to like fish and decided she'd prove to me that I could too. "Your problem is that you haven't gotten fish that's fresh enough," she said. "If you can smell fish when you walk by a seafood store, don't buy there—it's been sitting out too long." Fortunately, we lived in Astoria, where there were lots of picky, seafood-eating Greeks and other Mediterranean types [NOT ETHNICIST], and she found a store that met with her approval and bought a fish that was practically still flopping (I forget the species, but it had white flesh without a strong flavor) and cooked it very simply and squeezed a little lemon on it and served it up. (I opened a really nice white Burgundy for the occasion.) It was beautiful and I was impressed. I tasted it. It was... OK. It wasn't "fishy" and didn't gross me out. I finished my portion. But there was nothing about it that made me want to ever repeat the experience. She sighed, thanked me for being willing to try, and said "You just don't like fish."

So I'm with dame, ikkyu2, and my ex-wife. You just don't like fish. If anyone complains, tell them MeFi said they should STFU.
posted by languagehat at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal, because I am at work and can't immediately remember any of the appropriate terms in order to do a quick search, but...

I hate all seafood, and to me it's because there's a particular flavor in all of it that is overpowering and makes me gag (and, unfortunately, has been how I've discovered what it is I'm eating in the past). I'm with the others in this thread in that my response has been simply not to eat seafood anymore. As a child, my gag response was relatively mild; now that I pretty much never eat fish/shellfish/etc. it's quite serious/hard to control.

In high school/college, when I began articulating this dislike, people challenged my assertion that "it all tastes the same" by saying that I just hadn't had good fish, or the right fish, or the right preparation, etc. When I continued to find it all hateful, I did some research, and discovered that there is some chemical found in (all? almost all?) seafood that some people have a pronounced sensitivity to. It's my theory that I am one of these people, and I'm tasting that chemical, and it makes me barf.

Now, when people offer me seafood and I don't feel like choking down barf or lying ("I'm allergic" or "I'm vegetarian"), or if I know them well enough, I explain that I can eat it (because I'm not allergic to it, it won't hurt/kill me) but I will throw it up right after I do (which, yes, sort of hurts. And is gross besides). Even people who think that seafood is the best thing ever probably don't want to see you get sick.

Another thought -- if it's the endless conversations that get to you, try not liking something even more scandalous -- I hate chocolate, and that's apparently far more shocking than hating fish. Changes the subject right up.
posted by obliquicity at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

i'm with dame, ikkyu2 and meerkatty. your relatives can and should be able to cope with this - you've done your best and it's just something you can't live with.

in regards to seafood, I crave *most* types of seafood, but there's certainly stuff I dislike to the point of loathing -- mackerel sushi, raw oysters and anchovies being at the top of that list.

and i don't think you can blame yourself for your aversions, and it has no bearing on your relatives, really.

as an anecdote: despite being a highly adventuresome and not-picky eater all my life, i have a completely illogical and very strong aversion to raw tomatoes. i have tried, many, many times to 'cure' myself of this and it's just not going to go away. i can handle (and love) spicy salsas and most italian / tomato based sauces and even tomato soup and (some) sundried tomatoes, but any attempt to eat them raw on the hoof or stewed or in V8 type juice makes me gag.

and both my mom and my dad were the sort who'd go out into the garden and eat them straight off the vines like candy. and yes, it's become a family joke that i'm the mailman's baby owing to this one odd food aversion.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2007

Aquaman: Well naturally you don't like to eat seafood. Seafood are your friends.

Thanks for the query, tastybrains. I had no idea so many other people shared the affliction which, in my case, includes salmon, crab, tuna, trout, etc, unless it's sushi. Then I can manage.

I think it's because sushi = exotic and all the rest = stuff my dad forced me to eat.
posted by notyou at 3:47 PM on April 3, 2007

Yeah, give it up. Take omega-3 pills if it makes you feel better.

You may have some sort of reaction to the iodine found in seafood, or you may have a weird allergy. I developed an allergy to shellfish in my 20s - no more lobster for me. :::sob::: I love fish, and can eat it, so I take some comfort in that. To people who tell you you just haven't had the right kind/had it cooked the right way/whatever, smile politely and say, Thank you for the advice; I'll take into consideration. Then order the steak.
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on April 3, 2007

You people are all babies. It's all in your heads. You're letting the six year old you once were, who decided that fish (or raw tomatoes, whatever) was yucky (or is still rebelling against your parents), dictate what you as a grownup should like. Tell that six year old to shut up and eat their fish. There are a lot of foods that one must 'decide' to like.

OK now where is that Anonymous Coward posting button?

seriously though, life is too short, just eat what you like. On the other hand variety is the spice of life. Learning to like a new food is fun.
posted by jockc at 4:11 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Another "me too" here. I hate seaweed as well, and I can't even eat things that aren't fish if I'm facing the restaurant aquarium. Except for some reason I can eat Japanese ramen soups made with dashi broth. Can you eat these?

In the meantime, I take orange-flavored fish oil supplements. I had tried unflavored capsules, but found that a few hours later I'd taste fish anyhow. The orange oil, though I take it straight, doesn't do that.

I've been trying to overcome my distastes, however, because I really want to go to Japan and be able to eat some of the seafood there. So I'm trying to slowly acclimate. If I'm with someone who swears up and down that the seafood they're eating is well-prepared, I take a bite. I know it's working because I used to gag on nori, and then I acclimated myself to smelling it (by eating just the rice from onigiri), and now I can eat at least half of the nori strip, or two pieces of vegetable sushi.
posted by xo at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2007

yeah, i think you've done what you can. i don't really like seafood either, although i've gotten to where it doesn't gross me out.

you might want to change the way you think about food. no, really. forget the pleasure/displeasure aspect. instead, go at it as a critic--not whether it's good, but whether it's well executed for what it is. try some shrimp cocktail and examine it on your tongue. try to taste the tomato, lemon, sugar, and horseradish in the sauce. see how it complements the rich, protein-y flavor of the shrimp. maybe this will help quell your aversion, kind of like how picking up a tarantula and looking closely at it can help someone with arachnophobia.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Except for some reason I can eat Japanese ramen soups made with dashi broth. Can you eat these?

No, I can't. I can eat some Thai food that is cooked with fish sauce but not if they use enough to make it taste fishy at all.

I have orange-flavor cod liver oil, and that's fine ... I'm not even worried about Omega-3's though, since I eat eggs and flax seed and nuts and crap.

I hate all seafood, and to me it's because there's a particular flavor in all of it that is overpowering and makes me gag (and, unfortunately, has been how I've discovered what it is I'm eating in the past).

See, that's what's so interesting to me ... it isn't always the flavor that puts me off. But usually it is. Especially with fish. But I also really hate that slightly flaky texture of most fish, or the dense steaky fish (it's not steak! don't be steaky!) texture, or the chewiness of a lot of shellfish.

It seems like the overwhelming response is to just accept my dislike of seafood. I probably will have to ... I just wish there was some magic switch I could flip so I could not always be the ass ordering a burger or chicken at famous seafood restaurants.
posted by tastybrains at 4:20 PM on April 3, 2007

Aww. I'm a major seafood lover; my boyfriend can't stand the stuff. Honestly I don't understand him there. Then again, my boyfriend loves Vegemite and olives and I can't stand either, so it's a fair trade.

One last try: steamed fish? While I love seafood, fish is a bit hit-and-miss for me depending on the style. Steamed fish is yummy though. Go Chinese-style, they know how to cook.
posted by divabat at 4:21 PM on April 3, 2007

I really have to tell you, that you don't have to accept it. Who says you have to dislike something your entire life? Who says you have to give up if it's something you want to experience? You say. I don't want to get all Tony Robbins on you, but you have control over what you do, and you can teach yourself how to like things you don't like. It's not going to be immediate, because nothing in an acquired taste is immediate. I have been trying to think wine isn't digusting for years. It's coming, slowly but surely, but I'm not at a point where I'm like "yum, delicious" but I sure as shit am not giving up what a whole bunch of people around me widely regard as an incredibly enjoyable life experience. Fuck that. I am going to learn to like it, and then I am going to learn to love it, because life's too fucking short to give up.
posted by mckenney at 4:25 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've disliked fish since I was about 3 or 4. I think it started when my parents bribed me to finish my (breaded flounder) dinner

That event may have contributed to your enduring dislike. However, I think we all have inherent likes and dislikes when it comes to foods -- and for various reasons. As a kid, I would gag and couldn't eat mashed potatoes (still hate 'em), potato salad (like it now), whipped cream (okay now) baked beans (eh -- take it or leave it), lima beans (I'm gagging now thinking about them), brussel sprouts (ahk, ahk, puke), lemon curd (let's not go there), lemon meringue pie (ibid.) etc. What I later learned from a nutritionist is that I likely had an aversion to the 'textures' of some foods (i.e. soft, mushy), as well as memories of being forced to eating certain items with the threat of punishment ("Young man, you will not leave this dining room until all of your baked beans have been eaten.")

I'm with others -- while you are situated in a region that prides itself on seafood, don't force yourself to eat that which you don't prefer.

Mmmm, boy did I enjoy my lunch of baked scrod at Legal Seafoods at the Prudential today.
posted by ericb at 4:39 PM on April 3, 2007

posted by fire&wings at 4:40 PM on April 3, 2007

My mother refuses to eat strawberries because of the texture of the seeds on the outside.

Oh -- that's me with peaches. The fuzz ... oh, God ... the fuzz on the lips, the skin on the teeth makes me react just as others do to fingernails scratching a schoolroom blackboard. Oh...oh...oh...
posted by ericb at 4:41 PM on April 3, 2007

To people who tell you you just haven't had the right kind/had it cooked the right way/whatever, smile politely and say, Thank you for the advice; I'll take into consideration. Then order the steak.

Except, of course, that people here in this thread have admitted to not liking seafood yet liking sushi - which is simply "the right kind, 'cooked' in the right way"

I'm not saying there isn't such thing as someone who for biological reasons cant enjoy fish. I am saying that its not always easy to determine whether they are that person or simply the rebellious six-year old who was "made" to eat fish.

I do know I used to loathe oysters. Sometime in my 20's I decided to like them. I pretended that I liked them and learned to enjoy their fatty slimey taste. Now they're one of my favorite foods! I'm sure others have similar stories to tell. I used to think dark chocolate was too bitter. Now I crave it. Having a food aversion doesn't mean it can't be overcome.

I do admit some may be tougher than others. I do have the same aversion to raw tomatoes that someone else mentioned even though I will lick the last bit of tomato sauce off my plate. But its not something I'm giving up on. Do I like cooked tomatos? stewed tomatoes? Where is that boundary exactly between aversion and desire? It's food. And unless you have an allergy, its not going to kill you. At best (like I did with oysters) you'll discover a previously unknown way of enjoying food, a new and specific craving and therefore an entirely different shape to satisfaction. I think thats something worth pursuing.
posted by vacapinta at 4:41 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've heard it said that if you don't like a flavor you have to try it at least 15 times before your brain gets over the strangeness. It sounds like you've already tried lots of different seafood, but maybe you should focus on one of the more palatable varieties and try it a few more times. I have had mixed success with this technique (for other foods). Maybe you really don't like fish, but then again, maybe your brain is just interpreting this strange new taste as bad.
posted by SBMike at 4:48 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

You mention being able to stand the fake crab from california rolls - what happens when you try scallops? Especially the large kind, I never remember whether those are sea or bay scallops. To me they seem to have almost the same texture and taste as fake crab (and I've seen reports that some places simply cut really large chunks of fake crab and call those "scallops") so maybe that might work for you?
posted by casarkos at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2007

V8 type juice makes me gag

posted by ericb at 4:50 PM on April 3, 2007

Fried cod. If you don't like fish and chips you won't like any kind of seafood. It's about as mild a fish flavor as it gets.

I HATED all seafood until about the age of twenty, then I ate an amazing cod and it clicked. Really intense fish still turns my stomach a little, but any white fish grilled, with lemon and garlic I adore.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:07 PM on April 3, 2007

Best answer: I can't think of anything off the top of my head that absolutely turns my stomach... Well, maybe head-cheese and similar things. But that's more of a conceptual hurdle ("Meat Jello?!? That's just wrong.")

Have you tried treating seafood as something like a side-dish? If you're not faced with the (for you) daunting task of a main-course seafood dinner, maybe you won't psych yourself out. Perhaps a scallop, or a couple large shrimp, along side something you positively love (steak and baked potato, for example).

The thing is that I am trying to eat healthier and I know seafood is an often low-fat, high protein food ... Also note that I think the concept of eating bugs (like mealworms or crickets) less disgusting

Well... If you're looking for low-fat, high-protein... There's one of your options.
posted by CKmtl at 5:13 PM on April 3, 2007

glah!! CKmtl! I cannot eat PANCAKES because my mother (when I was four) told her funny (not) story about how she once ate chocolate-covered ants somewhere and this was WHILE I was eating one of her pancakes and (as she later said) because she was a grad student and mom at the same time there was a LUMP in it and that lump to me (at four) OBVIOUSLY an ant and I puked and now (at 40-ish) I still can't even smell maple syrup or even toast without gagging. That's how powerful childhood memories can be. Why fight... And this from someone who will eat any raw fish of any kind, sight unseen.
posted by kitmandu at 5:21 PM on April 3, 2007

Best answer: I could have written the original post. Lifelong seafood hater. Tried everything offered, it all has that "seafood taste" that I just can't go over. Taste, texture, smell, concept -- I hate it all equally.

Like some posters, I've found people's reaction to my disdain almost as unappetizing as the seafood itself. When I inevitably have to tell people I don't want to go to the sushi restaurant, or otherwise out myself as a fish hater, the other people--without fail--host an immediate intervention on my behalf in order to convince me how wrong I am.

"Well you don't like seafood, but you like shrimp, right?"
"You just have to try some salmon with butter, then you'll change your mind."
"Lobster is the finest food in the world! Try some, and you'll find out you've been mistaken all this time."

I don't know of any other type of food that drives people so passionately to convince other people that they're really, really supposed to like it.

I got so frustrated that I've developed an explanation that seems to work for most people. I admit I don't like seafood, out loud. Intervention ensues, suggestions of seafood options are put forth:

"Okay, listen, let me put it to you this way... I don't like to get kicked in the nuts. I just don't like it. It's happened to me before and it's not an enjoyable experience. I know some people are into that sort of thing, but it's just not for me. So, if I told you that, and your response to me was, 'Well. You should let my mom kick you in the nuts, because she does it a real special way. First she coats your nuts in bread crumbs, and then bakes them for an hour and sprinkles fresh lemon juice on them. Then she kicks you in the nuts... and you'll love it!'

Would that make sense to you? No? Good. Then s.t.f.u. and bring me my steak."
posted by wubbie at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2007 [12 favorites]

Just an observation- I've known women who've done total one eighties on previously violent distastes after having become pregnant.

No guarantees, of course, but you never know....

Anyway, given the way fish is over fished these days, it may soon be a moot point.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:30 PM on April 3, 2007

Tell them there is a global fish shortage and you're doing your part. You don't need to learn to like something that has disgusted you your entire life.
posted by salvia at 5:37 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was 19, I made a decision that I would train myself to like food that I hate. I did this by trying each food in a different way from how I'd had it in the past. Over time, I've learned to like broccoli, cauliflower, black olives, and several other foods. I still cannot abide coffee, green olives, or Brussels sprouts.

I mourn the coffee - and that might be akin to your seafood. I used to try it once or twice a year. I would challenge people to get me the best tasting coffee (in their opinion) and I would try it. Still can't get past it. It's a shame because it is a social libation and my distaste is exclusionary.

So your in-laws are on the cape. Mine are too, but as it turns out, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law can't stand fish in any form so they never have it and those who do want it can get it somewhere else instead. It doesn't bother me that they don't care for fish, but I do need a reminder once in a while so I don't commit a faux pas and make it for dinner for the family, the same way that they need to be reminded that I won't be having coffee.

So keep trying things - kudos to you for the effort - but I wouldn't give you grief if you gave up. Tilapia and catfish are reasonably good choices as they don't have a whole heck of a lot of flavor on their own and you can get them disguised as other flavors that you do like. That might be a reasonable gateway, but again, no harm in giving up.
posted by plinth at 5:43 PM on April 3, 2007

Tell them there is a global fish shortage and you're doing your part.

Yes -- tell them that you are a passionate supporter of the Stop Overfishing in New England movement.
posted by ericb at 5:46 PM on April 3, 2007

Ha! I thought this was not as frequent. I've really worked at it for decades with different techniques. I gave up. No fishies for me, and really I do get tired of everyone saying "oh, you just haven't tried _____". And why eat it, if to eat it you have to HIDE the taste? Now I just say, that I don't eat seafood. Period. No negotiation. No discussion. Perhaps after another decade of no pressure to eat seafood, something will change and I will. But I'm not counting on it.
posted by kch at 5:57 PM on April 3, 2007

Response by poster: omg wubbie, that is the best response ever and for the first time in my life makes me almost wish I had nuts so I could use that explaination!
posted by tastybrains at 6:10 PM on April 3, 2007

Response by poster: what happens when you try scallops?

Scallops, to me, are the grossest of all shellfish. Their smell and appearance are just terrible. I've tasted them and they taste the way they look & smell.

I don't actually *like* the fake crab in california rolls, it's just that it's usually so unobtrusive that it doesn't detract enough from the delicious avocado and cucumber and rice to gross me out. I do get grossed out when the piece of fake crab stick is very large though. Sometimes I just poke it out with a chopstick and eat the rest.

I want to like sushi, but I really only like vegetarian sushi, I think.

I have to say that I'm kind of pleasantly surprised to hear from so many people who share my dislike of seafood. It really makes me feel like such a freak - I have been teased endlessly about this since I was a child (it's my parents' and brother's favorite stuff to eat EVER) and I just continue to hear that I just haven't tried the *right* seafood.

I will continue to try it but as was mentioned, probably as a side dish. I have ordered seafood entrees in the hope of making myself eat an entire plate of it to get over my dislike, but it just winds up making me very unhappy (and often, hungry, when I can't finish it).

I have had a couple experiences where I was able to eat the seafood, kind of like languagehat's experience eating his wife's perfectly cooked fish, and while it wasn't terrible, it still wasn't something I would ever choose to eat when given the option of eating almost anything else.

So, we'll see. There is a part of me that is still tempted to keep trying stuff, because I do believe in trying any (within reason) food a try, and part of me wants to get all excited at lobster like...oh, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD, but at least I feel a little more normal in my dislike of teh fishes.
posted by tastybrains at 6:19 PM on April 3, 2007

Response by poster: I cannot eat PANCAKES because my mother (when I was four) told her funny (not) story about how she once ate chocolate-covered ants

See, I would totally eat a chocolate covered ant. This is why I feel like such a freak for being so grossed out by seafood.
posted by tastybrains at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2007

oh, do I know where you are coming from.
I can't stand any kind of seafood, shellfish, or sushi. And it's not for lack of trying. I try some every single time I can, and considering my husband's affinity for seafood, that's pretty often. Still, ick. And nausea.

And it's not because I haven't the freshist fish possible, or the best preparations available. even the fried and drenched in butter types are ick to me--and dude! Butter! I love butter! I'll eat paper drenched with butter! But not lobster, or fish. Ew.

once, I did enjoy a scallop amuse bouche at Nob Hill once, but it was smaller than a quarter, and a single bite that tasted mostly of the cantelope soup/sauce. Same with the uber fresh high end preparations. even the "meaty" fishes that are supposed to be appealing to non-fish eaters make me nauseous.

I can deal with limited amounts of fish sauce, provided it's more of a salty umami taste and less fishy. In the past, I've been able to taste when something I've ordered in a resturant has been cooked in the same oil as fish, it's that bad.

Interestingly, I've never had a problem going fishing or cleaning fish. But then I've never had a problem dealing with raw meat either. So I don't think it's squickiness of that level.

It really sucks, because I love food, I love trying new stuff, and I love higher end resturants and always have to explain that I need a substitution for anything seafoody. I wish it were just an aversion that I could get over, the same way I learned to love cheese (yum!) and mushrooms (yum!) after disliking them as a child. But even the smell makes me feel ill.

Oh, and obliquicity, I don't like chocolate either! It's just too much. And not too rich--I could easily eat butter straight. Gravy too.

I suspect I'm a supertaster, although one who is quite fond of some of the stronger flavors that I know often set off supertasters (like olives, peppers). And with the exception of seafood, chocolate, and spicy food (which physically HURTS me--like pain, hurts. I cannot tolerate it at all), I'm not a picky eater.
posted by kumquatmay at 6:43 PM on April 3, 2007

Scallops, to me, are the grossest of all shellfish. Their smell and appearance are just terrible.

Wow. I fucking love scallops, and think they're actually about the most mild shellfish out there, in terms of fishiness. If you can't do scallops, or some light, flaky, mild whitefish, you just can't do seafood. It only gets fishier from there. Concentrate on getting your low fat protein from poultry, I guess...?
posted by rkent at 7:14 PM on April 3, 2007

I hated seafood for about 25 years. All I could stomach was that grey, denatured tuna you find in cans, ad only if it was mixed with enough mayo. So I understand how you feel. Now, however, I'm a seafood-eating machine. No fish can withstand the might of my ravenous seafood lust.

As near as I can tell, the change occurred after five years of being a vegetarian. One day my body said to me, "dude, you need some salmon," and that was that. Now, of course, that's probably a little more effort than you'll be willing to put into it. My point is that I hated seafood until I was about 30. Things change.

But not my absolute loathing for mushrooms. Not that. Never.
posted by lekvar at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2007

Are you all going to finish that seafood/pepper/chocolate/olive? No? Mind if I help myself to it?
posted by melt away at 7:31 PM on April 3, 2007

I'd normally be one of those people trying to help you find the magical fish that you'd like.

I've tried gorgeous, expensive lobster with butter that I *really* wanted to like (and expected to like) and found that it tasted (to me) kind of how body odor smells. This isn't an isolated case, I've tried lobster a few times and had the same strong, unpleasant taste from it each time, even though everyone else eating the lobster said it was perfect and exactly as lobster should taste.

Except for the above, which makes me think that you do have some sort of subtle body chemistry/tasting issue with iodine or some other substance in seafood.

(While we're sharing anedcotes, I cannot eat walnuts. Even the best, freshest, most wonderful walnuts taste rancid to me. I like all other nuts.)
posted by desuetude at 7:55 PM on April 3, 2007

I'll chime in on the "just drop it" side. Much like you, I've tried to like seafood, and I generally can't. It's a textural thing. Biting into most seafood doesn't have the right "feel" to me, and I seriously have to stifle a gag reflex. It's not worth it. I just tell anyone who asks that "my lifetime portion of shrimp is yours - enjoy!" Then I ask for their lifetime portion of olives and smells-like-socks cheese. I consider it a fair trade.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:09 PM on April 3, 2007

Would hypnosis work?
posted by popechunk at 8:37 PM on April 3, 2007

Best answer: You can probably taste a chemical that most other people can't. I, for example, can taste the breakdown products of the omega fatty acids.

...this means that a lot of things taste nasty to me. Fish being one of them. My mother has this condition even worse than I do; she can't stand anything that's been fried in certain oils (canola, for example).

But for me, it means that perfectly fresh fish taste like rotten fish smell.

I spent most of my life thinking I was being a picky eater, and trying repeatedly to like fish, until a biochemist I was dining with happened to remark "oh, you can probably taste [chemical family], you'll never like fish."

There's a whole range of chemicals some people can taste that others can't; it's why some folks can't stand broccoli, for example.
posted by aramaic at 9:04 PM on April 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

Feynman hated fish until he moved to Japan. Then he loved it. Then he went back to the States and expected to love it and he hated it again. It turned out to be a freshness issue.
posted by eritain at 3:41 AM on April 4, 2007

Bananas used to make me retch. Recently, I decided to like them. Over several months, I first smelled them from a distance, then licked them, then took tiny bits into my mouth, etc.
If they're very ripe, I still...have trouble.
Besides the progressive steps, the key I think was developing an attitude of curiosity toward my disgust, trying to let it flow rather than run from it, trying to examine its particular qualities, etc. (Learned this from Buddhism.)
All alcohol makes my face make violent contursions, sending my friends into fits of laughter. I've always wondered what it could be (from wine to beer to shots)--maybe it's the chemical tasting thing someone just mentioned.
So I developed curiosity about that reaction, deciding not to see such a strong reaction as a 'negative' thing or as dislike, but as simply a very strong reaction. Hey, it's more interesting than lots of other things that happen to me!
So maybe try viewing eating seafood not with the goal of liking it, but with having an intense experience and trying to understand what makes it so intense.
posted by Furious Fitness at 7:51 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Within the last six months I have been teaching myself to tolerate some seafood. Growing up in a Catholic household my parents would force horrendous boxed Gordons fish down my throught during lent. I developed such an aversion to seafood from this that I could not even enter a seafood restaurant without retching. This of course had an impact on my social life, I couldn't go to dinner with some friends, or to their house for BBQ's and fish fries. I finally got fed up and decided that seafood would no longer do this to me.

I started out by having one or two california rolls every day. Once I could stomach that, I moved up to sushi once a week, first maki then nigiri. I then moved on to heavily flavored salmon and tuna. Right now I'm working on shrimp. I can finally be around most seafood without gagging. However any fried seafood that I smell still sets my stomach roiling a bit. Hopefully by the end of this year I will have mastered this aversion.
posted by nulledge at 8:19 AM on April 4, 2007

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