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JaneraSolomon's avatar

Are humans conditioned to like "spoiled" food?

Asked by JaneraSolomon (1142 points ) February 2nd, 2012

So many favorite foods are fermented… what some would call spoiled. These include bread, beer, wine, chocolate, cheese, black tea, soy sauce, kim chee. That got me to wondering if we like soda because its CO2 bubbles resemble the bubbles that come with bacterial fermentation. But why would we be driven to eat “spoiled” food?

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8 Answers

Smashley's avatar

“Spoiled” is different than fermentation. Food is spoiled when unwanted and uncontrolled bacteria/fungi start making a home in your food to the point where it becomes largely inedible. In fermentation, the process is controlled and only the organisms that you want to grow are grown. Yogurt is chock-full of bacteria, but first it is pasteurized, removing undesirables, then inoculated with the “right” bacterial strains. The difference between spoiled and regular fermentation is the edibility and digestibility of whatever is growing in your food. We tend to like fermented foods because they actually add nutritional value to the food. We don’t like spoiled foods because to eat them would make us sick.

YoBob's avatar

It’s not a matter of being driven to eat “spoiled” food, but rather that we have been conditioned, in a relatively short period of time, to associate any “food” that is not rendered totally inert to be unhealthy and/or unsafe.

This is simply not the case. In fact, “probiotics” are all the rage now. We are finally coming to terms with the fact that not all bacteria and the like that grows on our food and in our bodies are bad. In fact, many of them are essential to good health. Further, studies seem to be indicating that our social bias towards eating only ultra pasteurized and sterilized foods have left us with depressed immune systems as well as a host of other chronic systemic problems.

So… the real question is not why we are conditioned to like “spoiled” food, but rather why we are conditioned to have an aversion to eating “live” food with healthy micro-biological components that contribute to our overall well being.

janbb's avatar

Funny you should ask this. I was just reading this morning somewhere that it is healthy to have some foods such as those you mentioned that have had biological activity. I guess it is like eating yogurt for the pro-biotics they restore.

6rant6's avatar

@YoBob I like fresh fruit with my wine and cheese. It’s all good.

marinelife's avatar

They occur naturally, and we tried them and liked them. The food is not spoiled. It is edible.

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t think there’s an underlying affinity for fermented foods. In some cases, the fermentation just renders a highly perishable foodstuff relatively stable, as in yoghurt, cheese, wine and sauerkraut. In other cases, it adds flavor to an otherwise insipid product, as in chocolate, tea.

In most of these cases, the flavors produced by fermentation are an acquired taste. Few people prefer the taste of wine to grape juice, or of yoghurt to milk, on the first try. But it eventually grows on you (and in you).

6rant6's avatar

We put grass (which we can’t digest) through that bacterial infested thing with all the stomachs to get milk we can drink. Then we expose it to bacteria and stuff and it’s delicious and nutritious. Go figure.

JaneraSolomon's avatar

Thanks @thorninmud, I think that’s on target. It seems peculiar though. There’s this love-hate thing with bacterial fermentation. I can actually remember hating the smell and taste of cheese when I was young, and now I love it. And I’ve seen people get physically ill at the smell of Kimchi, saying it smells like dead animals, while virtually every Korean swears it’s the food of the gods.

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