Over the years, many studies have been done to explain our fear of snakes and spiders; all coming to the conclusion that we are apparently hard-wired by evolution to respond to them with aversion. In 2001 a study at no less prestigious research center than the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, confirmed once again that, “Certainly there are certain stimuli that are pre-wired in the brain because they have been perennially dangerous to our ancestors”.
It wouldn’t require much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that the same may be true of certain colors and shapes, especially within the Gestalt of food.
When I was around 10 years old, my grandmother decided to change her time-worn recipe for keftethakia (meatballs), substituting fresh parsley for her traditional dried oregano (I suppose one day she just didn’t have any oregano and chose the closest thing at hand). I still remember the first bite I took of this favorite food in its new state: Looking into the half-eaten center I saw the green specks of parsley and felt an instant and overwhelming nausea. I could not even finish the first one, even though its taste was indistinguishable from the original. Now, I love parsley, in a salad for example, but the bright green color in the context of the meat (its Gestalt) made me want to vomit. My grandmother must have liked the meatballs because she continued to make them with parsley, and I would have the same reaction each time I tried them over the years.
Last year, our organic egg farmer featured a heritage variety of chicken which produces greenish shelled eggs. They were indistinguishable from white or brown eggs once cracked, but their shells were a very definite light green. Making an omelet one morning, I remember the sense of revulsion that came on me as I prepared to crack one open. I couldn’t eat the wonderful omelet that resulted. The green color of the egg signaled something wrong to my primitive mid-brain.
I remembered these events this week as I started to use AlsoSalt on my food. AlsoSalt is a potassium-based salt substitute, very healthful and a good taste replacement for salt. It has one unfortunate characteristic however: It lacks a crystalline shape and actually comes out as tiny spheres resembling little Styrofoam balls (about the same size as salt crystals). When you put it on a dry food like a corn-cob, salad, or pasta, the little spheres bounce and roll around all over the food. As silly as this may sound, I find this a little repulsive.
I suspect that as in the case with insects and snakes, we are hard-wired to detect inconsistencies in our food that may signal potential danger. Bright green in meat for example may well signal contamination, as may green eggs, and Styrofoam balls on your salad.
Or, maybe it’s just me.