Gary Farber explains our family’s eating habits

Not mine—the weirder and more peculiar the food, the more likely I am to snarf it down—but those of certain other members of the Myers clan whose identities I will abstain from mentioning, lest they decide to add some really interesting ingredients to my next meal. Anyway, it’s an interesting study that explains why some people get queasy at the thought of food “touching”—it’s a common response to fear of contamination. It’s basically documenting the psychological reality of cooties.

Now if only he had provided an explanation for how to overcome it — the prohibition on mixing too many flavors in our meals is constraining the menu too much around here.


  1. Fernando Magyar says

    I know that most people have been brainwashed to eat ground cows and potatoes in the form of freedom fries washed down with carbonated sugarwater but there is a lot of perfectly good protein out there.


    Man Eating Bugs
    The Art and Science of Eating Insects
    by Peter Menzel & Faith D’Aluisio
    Forward by Tim Cahill

    Creepy Crawly Cuisine
    The Gourmet Guide to Edible Insects
    by Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, Ph.D.
    with photography by Peter Menzel

  2. Sampo Rassi says

    Excellent! Once more science pushes back the boundaries of knowledge. Next up, the scientific fact behind the heebie-jeebies.

  3. Graculus says

    Just in case anyone hasn’t seen this…

    Steve, Don’t Eat It

    canned silkworm pupae: “The silkworm pupas gave off a subtle, nutty aroma. Not strong like my nuts after a weekend with no shower, just more like their usual, end-of-the-day twang.”

  4. speedwell says

    Mexican groceries, hooray. Real Coke with the sugar in it. Apple soda. Serious tomato sauce with the onions, garlic, and jalapenos in it. Fun, weird vegetables. Decent garlic for a change. Brown sugar in cones. Beans that actually have a shelf turnover more then once every eighteen months. Cheaper olive oil. Even cheaper saffron. And the piece de resistance, dulce de leche. Mmmmm.

  5. speedwell says

    Oh, sorry, got sidetracked….

    My mom’s successful answer to “it’s touching” was to serve us meal-in-a-dish type recipes. The idea was that all the food came touching already. She made stew, soup, casserole, bourguinon, pot roast with vegetables, New England boiled dinner, cassoulet, lasagne, and Hungarian goulash made by Dad’s mother’s recipe. Bread on a board on the table so it didn’t accidentaly get dipped into the meal (ewww) was her only concession.

  6. Caledonian says

    Ah, the Law of Contagation strikes again.

    It’s interesting that the medieval rules of magic do a pretty good job of summing up unconscious associational processes, isn’t it.

  7. speedwell says

    From someone who eats (or who descends from those who eat) the ultimate medieval mixed food, i.e. haggis, that’s pretty hilarious. :) (For the record, the Scottish perversion of meatloaf soes not actually sound that inedible to me, but see above for how I was raised.)

  8. Crudely Wrott says

    Never a problem for me. One of my earliest gustatory memories is graham crackers and orange juice. The crackers dipped in the juice or the juice poured on the crackers or just mixed wantonly in my mouth. Mm mmm good!

    See, it’s not the taste of the thing itself, but its flavor seasoned by whatever else is concurrent. Kinda like a new dish every day. You know, like your daily experience. But, yeah. Some people are as weird about food as they are about other body functions. Never bothered me.

    Long time ago I wrote this poem:

    “Death in the morning
    Rebirth at night.
    Eat your life slowly,
    Every bite.”

    Pity those who cannot.

  9. says

    My brother was a sequential eater as a kid, but I’ve always mixed everything together on the fork. A single-scoop meat/potato/vegetable combination is particularly satisfying, no matter how they’re arranged on the plate. That explains my deep, abiding love for a good shepherd’s pie, too.

    My one major food-related weirdness as a kid still grosses everyone out, though: Whenever we were out of milk, I’d eat my cereal with apple juice instead. It didn’t work for sugary cereals, but with Cheerios, Chex, or shredded wheat, it was great. I haven’t done that since I was 10 or so, though.

    I was really picky up until my early teens, though. Wouldn’t even eat soup.

  10. Rich says

    As a kid I rather liked popcorn dipped in grape juice. My mother drew the line at me eating live ants though.

  11. says

    I’m a sequential eater, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Mixed food tastes different mixed together. Don’t like many casseroles, either. So what?

    I’m also a picky eater, though. It’s always easier to hide or ‘sneak through’ objectionable-tasting foods when they’re in a group. That’s probably why I’m anti-casserole.

    So, good. Contamination-woo, whatever. I still don’t like certain foods, and I resent them being snuck into my diet.

  12. windy says

    Sorry for throwing cold water on all you cootie enthusiasts, but how does this study explain why different kinds of food can’t touch? They tested products like toilet paper, diapers, kitty litter, and tampons. I don’t think those would add much flavor to Myers family dinners even if you were allowed to mix them with food!

  13. Caledonian says

    If combinations of food are perceived to be disgusting, then when food touches, it all becomes ‘unclean’, even if the food is later moved apart.

  14. windy says

    Right, but I don’t see how toilet paper is a good model for the emergence of “uncleanness” in perfectly edible foods that happen to touch each other in the wrong way?

  15. Coragyps says

    Hmm. I seem to remember, in my grocery-sacking days, having been trained to always segregate paper goods as well as stuff like detergent or bleach from edibles. The latter makes good sense, where the former doesn’t, really, except in light of factors like this paper. And a package of napkins or a four-pack of TP (the biggest package they had back then) would have been such a good stuffer to fill that 1/6 bag up to the top, too…

  16. JohnW says


    A+B= yummy AND A+C= yummy
    does not imply B+C= yummy

    test it…. but for godsake be careful

  17. says

    Put my cookies with the tampons? Sure. Just don’t put anything near the raw meat (no, not even my tampons, toilet paper or kitty litter). Personally, I have always considered this to be a completely rational contamination concern – if there is a good chance of Salmonella or toxic E. Coli *in* the package, there is a good chance that there may be some *on* the package too.

  18. itchy says

    Yuck. Not the tampon cookies, not the bugs, but the mixed food concoctions! Yuck, yuck, yuck.

    Some foods just are not supposed to touch. Don’t you people know that?

    To this day, I do not dip bread, crackers, cookies or doughnuts, I do not mix separate foods in one mouthful. I even eat my rice separately when I get Chinese food.

    OK, so I’m the weird one, but … yuck. You people.

  19. says

    My one major food-related weirdness as a kid still grosses everyone out, though: Whenever we were out of milk, I’d eat my cereal with apple juice instead. It didn’t work for sugary cereals, but with Cheerios, Chex, or shredded wheat, it was great.

    I grew up allergic to milk, and so juice, whatever juice was available was all that I could put on cereal. I could never figure out why it freaks people out so extremely.

    Our next door neighbor was an old salty guy, and he teased me about it quite a bit. But due to some health problems, his doctor told him to stop drinking milk. So, he started putting juice on his cereal. He actually apologized to me for all the teasing cause he liked it so much.

    I never grew out of it, it is still how I eat my cereal.