Just Like Mamma Used To Buy

Two varieties of ginger as sold in Haikou, Hai...
It's not even like there's only one kind of ginger

I had a sudden flash of insight into why some children are such finicky eaters. It’s consistency. Modern food is too consistent.

Kids are dubious about new tastes. For good reason – they are born into a world that consists mostly of things you shouldn’t put in your mouth. The corollary though is that once they’ve tried something a few times and found it to be safe, they become keen on that.

That’s not a problem with home-made food. Even cooked to the same recipe by the same person, even when prepared by an expert chef, flavour varies. Personally I’ve never cooked the same meal twice. Hell, my spaghetti sauce rarely comes out the same colour. Not so with prepared foods. To encourage customer loyalty, the inevitable inconsistencies of the natural flavours are drowned out by simpler artificial ones. The only remarkable change in the taste of branded food for the last few decades was when US bottlers of soft drinks switched from cane to corn syrup, and merely swapping between minor variants on the theme of pure sugar almost caused war.

The upshot is that more and more now kids don’t develop a tolerance for variation, and so a broader flavour palette. Instead they become convinced that only certain tightly-defined tastes are tolerable.

This occurred to me today because I bought a ginger cake. It’s a nice ginger cake. You can really taste ginger, which is good in my book. It’s moist and sweet and very traditional. By most objective criteria, I’d be willing to claim that this was an excellent – even an ideal – ginger cake.

But it ain’t a McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger Cake.

Reader, I was that child.

Just Like Mamma Used To Buy

Two varieties of ginger as sold in Haikou, Hai...
It's not even like there's only one kind of ginger

I had a sudden flash of insight into why some children are such finicky eaters. It’s consistency. Modern food is too consistent.

Kids are dubious about new tastes. For good reason – they are born into a world that consists mostly of things you shouldn’t put in your mouth. The corollary though is that once they’ve tried something a few times and found it to be safe, they become keen on that.

That’s not a problem with home-made food. Even cooked to the same recipe by the same person, even when prepared by an expert chef, flavour varies. Personally I’ve never cooked the same meal twice. Hell, my spaghetti sauce rarely comes out the same colour. Not so with prepared foods. To encourage customer loyalty, the inevitable inconsistencies of the natural flavours are drowned out by simpler artificial ones. The only remarkable change in the taste of branded food for the last few decades was when US bottlers of soft drinks switched from cane to corn syrup, and merely swapping between minor variants on the theme of pure sugar almost caused war.

The upshot is that more and more now kids don’t develop a tolerance for variation, and so a broader flavour palette. Instead they become convinced that only certain tightly-defined tastes are tolerable.

This occurred to me today because I bought a ginger cake. It’s a nice ginger cake. You can really taste ginger, which is good in my book. It’s moist and sweet and very traditional. By most objective criteria, I’d be willing to claim that this was an excellent – even an ideal – ginger cake.

But it ain’t a McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger Cake.

Reader, I was that child.