Oysters? No, Thanks!

08.04.14

Brits Are Very Fussy Eaters

Maybe there’s a reason England isn’t known for its food. Turns out, Brits are seriously picky eaters.

When it comes to food, are you an adventurous, nose-to-tail kind of eater? Do mysterious dishes thrill you; do unfamiliar ingredients get your taste-buds going? Or are you, like the majority of Brits, a “fussy eater”?

A recent study conducted by U.K.-based Seven Seas, a company that produces vitamins and food supplements, found that among 2000 study subjects, one in five adults had never tasted sardines or scampi, while one in ten had never had tuna or salmon, and a quarter refuse to try mackerel. Among us Brits, the ten most hated foods are:

1. Oysters
2. Anchovies
3. Goose
4. Lobster
5. Scallops
6. Venison
7. Fennel
8. Mussels
9. Halibut
10. Sea Bass

So far, so understandable: I too would run (swim?) a mile from every one of these marine monstrosities. But I was shocked to see such cheese-aversion among my compatriots: brie, stilton, parmesan, feta, and goat’s cheese rank among the top 40 most hated foods.

As well as cheese and crustaceans, many people apparently loathe vegetables—which I cannot comprehend. How is life worth living without spinach, tender asparagus, or purple-sprouting broccoli? One in ten adults had never tried leek, celery, or kale. Fruit isn’t safe from scorn, either: a quarter of those surveyed never eat avocado and many avoid apricots, blueberries, prunes, and aubergines entirely. A fifth of Brits had never tried asparagus and even fewer had tried figs or prunes.

It’s unsurprising that the study’s conclusions focused on the “serious deficiencies of Omega 3” in the British diet, Seven Seas does produce vitamin supplements. But commercial interests aside, the findings are still fascinating: why are we so opposed to slimy sea-food and exotic vegetables—is it our little-islander mentality?

Food dislikes often stem from childhood, or are linked to unpleasant past experiences. My little brother was highly allergic to eggs as a child. He has long since grown out of the allergy, but he still can’t go near them because of their association with being violently sick. My best friend can’t eat apples ever since he bit into one as a child and a huge maggot crawled out. Many of us still cite cabbage and cauliflower cheese among our top dislikes, because we bear the lifelong scars of vile school dinners.

Even if you weren’t raised on the traumatic British school-food of the 1980s (tapioca and spam, anyone?), we’ve all developed our own levels of pickiness and phobias, whether it’s about the content, color, or placement of our food. And then there’s how we eat—I find that chocolate M&Ms taste better when eaten in handfuls, whereas peanut M&Ms must be savoured singly. My parents will only drink their morning tea out of their favorite fine bone china mugs. Chips (or French Fries, to Americans), on the other hand, must be wrapped in newspaper, doused in salt and vinegar, and eaten with a small wooden fork—preferably on a windy beach, wearing a rain coat… ah, memories of childhood summer holidays.

To be sure, every society has their own food hangup and particularities. But it seems curious, and somewhat illogical, that us Brits should be so suspicious of fish and seafood, living on our tiny island, surrounded by water. Then again, we’re spoiled for choice—most U.K. cities are overflowing with fantastic cuisine: Indian, Thai, Mexican, French, and Lebanese, the options are endless. Surveys may portray us as picky, but in reality our foodie culture is thriving as never before. Just keep those sea creatures away from me…