Reader Megan submitted the following to Questions for cooks:
When I eat cilantro, it tastes like dish detergent. When my husband eats cilantro, he says it tastes yummy and nothing like soap. I don’t like the acidic taste of raw tomatoes, but my husband loves them. When cooking a meal, I know when things taste good to me, but how do I know if something I make will taste good to a guest? How different is the experience of taste from one person to another? How varied are one person’s taste buds from someone else’s taste buds?
I can confirm that individual food preferences will sometimes highly vary based on personal history, the concentration and quantity of taste buds, and scent memory. Finding common ground between you and your guests can be a challenge.
To avoid disappointed faces, try these approaches:
- Use prior knowledge of your guests to guide your menu. If you can recall a time you’ve seen them enjoy Italian food, then keep that in mind when you step into the kitchen. Do you remember a conversation when they mentioned a hatred of mushrooms? Keep them out of your cooking at all costs.
- If you have zero idea what they have enjoyed in the past, keep your cooking basic, then allow for individual customization. Tacos can be made with a small assortment of base fillings which guests pick during assembly. A plethora of toppings will provide further customization, keeping guests happy no matter what their tastes are.
- While not the most cost effective or timely solution, you could prepare an assortment of options ahead of time and reheat/complete them when guests arrive. With enough time and preparation, you could have four or more meals ready to go in your freezer, ready to be reheated and completed with additional fresh ingredients. This would give your guests a potentially huge number of options at your disposal. Personally, I like to have a few glass Pyrex storage containers full of tasty meals hanging out in my freezer for just such an occasion. They can go into the microwave straight from the freezer, and are a breeze to clean.
Thank you, Megan, for submitting your question for our Questions for cooks column.
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