Taste buds

What shapes our tastebuds? Is it the environment we grow up in? Does geography play into it? Is it genetic?

For example, wouldn’t someone from Asia be more inclined to eat foods that are on the sweet/sour part of the palate as opposed to someone from India who might like more spicy type foods?

You mean take an infant from Asian or India, raise them somewhere else, and they will naturally crave sweet/sour or spicy foods? Absolutely not, and that is a genuinely racist concept. The spices used in foods in any particular food have been in use for thousands of years on the outside and some for only a handful of centuries or even decades. Any selective pressure over that time frame would need to be extreme to cause taste preference to be widely “set” in a population–and there is likely very little to no selective pressure from taste preferences (and by “selective pressure” I mean that people who don’t like flavor x tend to have fewer children than people who do, and that trend continues over many, many generations.)

Not specifically taste, but one way in which genetics does affect food preference is lactose intolerance. Rates of lactose intolerance vary widely among different populations, and that in turn has an effect on preferred diet and production of dairy products. Wikipedia has a nice map showing the worldwide variation.

I suspect it’s slightly nature, but mostly nurture:

-“mostly nurture” in that toddlers can be exposed to all sorts of flavors and find most of them to be appealing (or at least tolerable). Take a Caucasian baby from rural North Dakota and raise him in Japan, and he’ll probably grow up to enjoy most of the things in Japanese cuisine that make the average American teenager recoil in disgust; take a Japanese baby and raise him in rural North Dakota and he will become that American teenager, backing away slowly when presented with something like kani miso.

-“slightly nature” in that toddlers will find some flavors to be repellent regardless of exposure. Example, 30% of people in Japan dislike natto.

I suppose the latter must be genetic, but not necessarily in a race-specific way. Example, my parents and siblings like mushrooms, but I can’t stand them; presumably I was exposed to them in a manner similar to my siblings (and I’m pretty sure we’re all blood relatives), but something in my nature just finds mushrooms repellent.


Preferences can be learned but they have no relation to taste buds. Strong spices may temporarily deaden receptors, but they’re constantly regenerated.

Not sure what you mean by “sweet/sour part of the palate” but if you mean the common theory where different parts of your tongue work better for different tastes that simply isn’t true and is a result of a poor translation from German. There is no systematic pattern of sweet, sour, bitter, or salty receptors (or umami) on the tongue. All are present everywhere.

By the real definition of racism–that races of people have specific innate personality, intellectual, skill, etc. traits, not the modern, watered-down “prejudice with power” definition. Saying that Asians inherently like certain foods is not one whit different than saying that all Asians are bad drivers, all Asians are highly intelligent, etc. I’m not claiming that the OP was intentionally being racist, but the implication itself was very much racism.

Heh, funny. I literally heard about this the first time late last night. From the same link, too!

And I kind of want to try it. Natto too, though I haven’t yet had the courage.

Preferences are very different than capabilities. Along with lactose intolerance, there is a genetic component in cilantro/coriander aversion, though I’m not sure if it’s more prevalent in certain cultures (would be awful to have in parts of Mexico!)

I suppose it might be racist - in the morally-neutral sense of the word, since one person’s taste preference’s aren’t superior/inferior in any way to those of another person. But whether it’s racist or not has no bearing on whether it’s true or not, and shouldn’t factor into a GQ discussion.