The curious case of the changing tastebuds

The average person is born with about 9,000 tastebuds. Our tastebud cells have the lovely ability to replacate themselves every one-to-two weeks. Which is pretty handy when we gulp down that hot coffee or scalding pizza cheese and burn the little guys.

However, as we age, those cells do not repair themselves as easily and our tastebuds die off. On top of that, our ability to taste all foods – sweet, sour, bitter, and salty – declines after 60.

That might not be a bad thing. If you recall from when you were a child, onions and garlic and peppers and mustard made us weep and cry out for our mommies. Today, though, they make us smile.


I grew up hating Brussel sprouts, but was delightfully amazed at how good they could be.

Sometimes, we don’t like certain foods because of past bad reactions. Take Brussel sprouts, for example. I have always shunned that wee cabbage.

“Can’t stand them,” I said, when my sweetie pie pointed out a pile at the grocery store, identifying them as a nice vegetable for dinner.

“How can you hate Brussel sprouts?”

“I always have.”

And yet, he purchased them anyway. Note that Ryan is a fabulous cook, still I had no desire to eat even one Brussel sprout, let alone an entire serving.

Imagine my surprise then when he coaxed one into my mouth. He’d sautéed them in butter and herbs, allowing  a little bit of char to form on each tiny cabbage. My eyes widened. “That’s very good,” I said, after gulping it down.

“So you hate them, why?”  he plated me a spoonful.

I had to think. While I understood that our tastebuds change as we age, I didn’t believe that was the reason. “My mom’s Brussel sprouts didn’t taste that way. Hers were gray and mushy.”

After some discussion, we determined that mothers of a certain era cooked the crap out of everything. Meat was in the oven until it attained a shoe-leather texture. Vegetables were cooked into beige slurry. The thinking, back then, might have been to avoid any possible food poisoning, so no amount of cooking was considered too much.

Note that I am far from a picky eater. I’ve consumed rattle snake and chicken feet and the strangely named thousand-year-old egg in China. I’ve eaten wild boar, and Vegemite, and grasshoppers. Kangaroo burgers and crocodile sausage. I’ve eaten things I can’t even name, in the interest of being polite.


If you’re serving pickled beets and olive salad, I promise I’ll eat it.

Lately, I’ve attempted to eat the few foods I’ve shied away from over the years. Today, only two things still make me wince: olives and pickled beets. Not sure why, since mom’s cooking had nothing to do with either one.

But I will promise you this. Since my momma raised me right, whenever you invite me to dinner, I will eat whatever you serve, without question. Even if the family specialty is pickled beets and olive salad.

All I ask is that you have plenty of wine on hand to go along with it.



Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at and wherever books are sold. 




4 thoughts on “The curious case of the changing tastebuds

  1. sharonledwith says:

    My tastebuds have changed too, Anne. I’m leaning to healthier now! LOL! But I’m with you on the wine! Pour me a glass, will ya? Cheers!


  2. chrispavesic says:

    I think our tastes do change as we get older and “refine” our pallets. But it is also the way the food is cooked/prepared. I eat more fruit these days than I did when I was young and would actually choose it over a highly sweetened dessert for a regular meal. I still believe in “feast days” though–birthdays, Thanksgiving, holidays–and indulge my sweet tooth then.
    My grandfather used to steam Brussel Sprouts and other veggies like broccoli. He got my brother and me to eat them by calling them “tiny cabbages” and “tiny trees.” This really appealed to our young imaginations!


  3. annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

    I remember the “tiny trees” for broccoli, though my mother over cooked everything and all taste was lost. I’m trying to get better about trying new vegetables. And, like you, I love fruit. 😉


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