I never really liked tomato juice growing up. Of course, I'm not sure I ever even tried it. I think the closest I came was sipping a Bloody Mary in my 20s and almost vomiting.
The idea of tomato juice turned my stomach enough that I never had the urge to try it. I'd see those commercials for V8 and laugh: "It looks like a soda; it comes in a soda can; but it's gross tomato juice. What an evil deception! Who'd drink that swill?"
Then, one day last year, I woke up and, boom, I suddenly had a desire to drink tomato juice. And it wasn't like I was having the least rebellious moment ever -- "Dude, I feel like experimenting. ... I know, tomato juice!" I wasn't looking for a new "high." No, it was a physical desire. And along with it came an almost certain idea of what tomato juice tasted like.
It's like my body, after 34 years of study, finally did the math and said, "You like tomatoes; you like juice; here is my best estimation of what they will taste like together. A + B = delicious." The cynic in me, though, wonders if I had recently watched a movie where the main characters enjoyed some "delicious, refreshing tomato juice," and the 34 years of resistance came crashing down because of product placement. We'll never know.
I went out, bought some tomato juice (V8 -- my nemesis!) and loved it. I've had it stocked in my refrigerator ever since. I have one every day.
Spicy food is another thing I used to hate. When I was a kid, I wouldn't eat onions, because I thought they were too hot. Barbecue potato chips were a bit too tangy for my taste. Furthermore, I didn't even understand the desire. "Why would anyone want to eat something that made your mouth burn, even the slightest?"
Then, one day, I was in the grocery store, saw a bottle of pepperoncini peppers and had an overwhelming urge to buy and devour them. It was as if we're supposed to eat a certain amount of spicy foods every day and my body wanted to consume all 30 years' worth in one afternoon.
Now, well, I'm not one of those crazy guys who dip habanero peppers in hot sauce and eat them as between-meal snacks, but I finally have an appreciation for a little spice in my diet. It was a sudden realization that changed my palate forever.
Our bodies are weird things. They remind me of that 1980s TV show "The Greatest American Hero." It was about this guy who is given -- by aliens -- a super hero suit that grants him all sorts of awesome powers, but before he can even use it, he immediately loses the instruction manual. So he was to figure it all out on the fly, each week, in between commercial breaks. (Seriously, wasn't the '80s just the greatest decade ever?)
We're stuck in these lumpy flesh suits with no idea how to use them, what they mean, what they can do and how to make everything work properly. Part of it is just growing up -- there's a whole list of foods I'd never eat when I was a kid that are part of my diet now: asparagus, squash, broccoli, bourbon. But experimentation and adaptation is a natural step in the slow trial-and-error process.
But it doesn't explain how I lived 34 years and, one day, woke up with a hankering for tomato juice. Even moreso, I already knew I'd love it. That might not sound odd, but if you think about it, it's very, very odd. It's the taste equivalent to ESP.
I was with my 15-year-old nephew this weekend, trying to explain to him that even though he didn't like a particular food now, some day he might, just like his ol' Uncle Tim. This column isn't about how stomach-punching sad it is to realize you are suddenly that old guy who is saying, "back in my day ..." to a glassy-eyed, bored teenager, but remind me to use this anecdote when I write that one.
I tried to explain to him how things just, one day, change. I even used the tomato juice story, but for some reason, he wasn't as amazed at hearing it as I was in telling it. I guess he'll just have to have his own "V8" moment.