The Supertaster — Hero or Handicapped

Dan does not like to eat certain things, things that contain flavors, or as he calls them “tongue scorching flavonoids of misery and possible death.” (He has never actually said that with his lips. It’s more in the facial region of expressivity.)

I grew up having jalapeno-eating contests with my dad and drinking Tabasco sauce by the spoonful, like any normal child. Dan, on the other hand, shies away from many of the simple culinary pleasures of life.

Besides bypassing “cranky” foods (Laylee’s word for anything from Altoids to salsa), he also gives the thumbs down on squash, mushrooms, several sea-foods, pig’s feet and anything low-fat.

Until recently I have thought he was a bit of a wimp in the eating department, a strange departure from his usual manly, Rambo-like nature. Then I heard about supertasterSupertasters.

Supertasters are people with an unusually large number of taste buds on their tongue. They truly, physiologically “can’t take the heat.” He has not been officially diagnosed with this… disorder?… but I feel confident that if I blew up that picture and a picture of my tongue, he’d have a veritable gold-mine of the little buds in comparison to me.

The word Supertaster sounds like a heroic power, like he should be able to taste and enjoy food more fully than the average citizen. But in reality, it causes him to miss out on so much of life. He is literally crippled by his over-active taste buds, unable to perform even the most basic nutritional tasks, such as feeding himself Brussels sprouts. We weep for him.

But now the question arises — is he a super hero or just a poor handicapped guy forever doomed to eat bland versions of Thai food that could have been scrumptious, given the proper peppers and spices?

If he’s a super hero, hooray! Having a plethora of extra body parts beats the ability to eat scores of malted milk balls any day (until now, he considered this to be his only claim to super-herodom).

If he’s simply handicapped, then we should get one of those blue stickers for our car so that my super-power will grow to the point that parking spaces really can become the complete focus of this blog. How nice it would be if I never had to think of anything to write again. Every day I’d just post a picture of Vinny, parked in the special wife-to-the-severely-tongue-impaired parking spot at Fred Meyer and call it good.

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25 Responses to The Supertaster — Hero or Handicapped

  1. Whoa, Kathryn- is that Dan’s tongue? How do you do it? 😉
    I am finding as I get older I can take more zippiness to my food- I think you lose some tast buds as you start to age… maybe Dan will start liking jalapenos once he hits 40!

  2. owlhaven says:

    It kinda helps to have the supertaster explanation, doesn’t it? Most of my kids will eat almost anything, but one of mine, raised the same way, is soooo picky.

    I was able to extend a lot more grace to him when I found out about supertasters– though I still wish he wouldn’t pick through his stir-fry leaving half of it in a neat pile on the side of his plate!

    Mary, mom to many

  3. kfk says:

    So, I wonder what the opposite of Supertaster syndrome is then. You know, like my husband has, after years of eating hot sauce on his food that he can no longer taste the “hot” unless either the whole jar is dumped on his plate or he takes it up a notch with Dave’s Insanity Sauce or something similar.
    Poor Dan, he is missing out on sooooo much. Couldn’t he just scrape a few buds off during brushing?

  4. Tigersue says:

    For me it is the burn, not the flavor. I just can’t do the burn of hot peppers it hurts too much. I have a sensitive taste, I can taste all kinds of chemicals, my younger sister can’t. She eats lots of things, but there are lots of things she doesn’t like as well. I on the other had like many of the things she doesn’t, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, salmon, a few other odds and ends. Is it really being a super taster, or is it just that we learn to not like something that tastes different? Good question isn’t it.

  5. Karen says:

    Maybe that’s the deal with my son’s inability to eat anything that doesn’t taste like macaroni, cold cereal, cheese, or chicken nuggets.

  6. Tess says:

    Supertasters are a rare breed, hold on to the one you have…

  7. Heather says:

    You know, I remember something about this in psychology 101. What it had to do with psychology, I really don’t know, but I remember the professor giving us each little pieces of paper to put in our mouths. Special pieces of paper. It just tasted like paper to me, but there were a few people in the class who cringed and complained. Apparently, they were the supertasters. On that day, I felt like maybe I was a bit defective. After all, I was missing whatever tastebuds were necessary to turn putting a simple piece of paper in your mouth into an “experience”.

    But, after reading this post, maybe I’m glad. I like my Thai food, thank you very much.

    Maybe you could get some of those little papers and test it on Dan. Who knows? And of course, maybe the reason we did that exercise in psychology class is that they were really just regular papers and our instructor just wanted to see which students turned out to be the nutjobs that wanted to get attention by claiming to be SUPER-TASTERS. Huh.

  8. Nantie Meg says:

    Brussel Sprouts?!?! EEEWWWWWW!!

    The reason he can’t eat those is because they are just gross. However I do feel sorry for him about the jalapenos etc.

  9. Leah says:

    Thanks for the tongue.

  10. misha says:

    so funny… my husband thinks he would make a good wine taster “because,” he says, “I have such a sensitive palette.”

    Supertaster, sensitive palette…twenty-three staples on my c-section…cook your own dinner…

  11. M. Lumpkin says:

    Ok, so I’ve never commented here before…but who can resist a good Supertaster post??? They Might Be Giants has a great song on “NO” about supertasters. My husband claims that I am a supertaster, but I couldn’t taste the bitterness on the paper in science class. Maybe there are degrees of supertaster-ness.

  12. Grammy says:

    I always knew that Dan and I had a lot in common. I have never been able to do the hot stuff either. But now that my dr. says that I absolutely must not, I feel somehow vindicated.

  13. Maine Mom says:

    I’m glad I now have a name for my lack of tolerance for hot, spicy foods!

  14. He’s a hero in my book! I’ve never liked spicy food (I prefer the natural taste of the food to the stuff that sears my mouth) and my husband is allergic to the entire nightshade family. (Tomotoes, potatoes, peppers, rhubarb and eggplant.) So my house is pretty much spice-free.

  15. Janet says:

    This reminds me of a post I wrote the other day about spicy food:

    The supertasters thing though is interesting. I would have thought those who liked spice and heat would be the super ones, but apparently not.

  16. Amber says:

    I feel bad for supertasters! Spicy is awesome! I love food… (shameless blog plug) in fact- so much that I started a food column! New recipes every Monday. Check it out!

  17. Sridevi says:

    Red hot peppers and those small green chillies- yummy!
    I can eat green chillies almost raw, my husband absolutely cannot. The first time I liberally used them in cooking, I had hubby dearest in tears, gulping down gallons of water and fruit juice to counter the effect!

    Another time in a New Mexican restaurant, I had the waitress in a mild state of shock when she brought me their hottest chilli, and I said it was “not hot enough”!!

  18. Caryn says:

    “Cranky foods”…what a perfect description! As for Dan and his super tongue, I have to commiserate since I, too, am very picky and I can’t abide much spice.

  19. Lei says:

    Wow – maybe my husband has that too… he won’t eat anything bumpy, mushy, seeded, green, or grainy. Spices – well I guess he’s farily adventuresome there. I don’t know… it’s a mystery!!!

  20. Adam and Lisa says:

    I always knew he was a truly “sensitive” man. But surely I had no idea it was this serious. The key now is to encourage him to use his powers for good instead of evil. He could become a poster child for the immediate necessity of outlawing brussel sprouts. Be strong oh daring spouse!!

  21. Oh, dear. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that special blue sticker? The person who needs it has to be in the car or else you’re breaking the law (gasp). Unfortunately, I have found this out through personal experience with my mom’s special sticker.

    I suppose if DYD’s sensitive tastes are a real and debilitating handicap (and it sounds to me like they are), then perhaps he will have to stop working and go on permanent disability pay, and then he would always be in the car, thus paving your way to constant and unflinching parking success.

    Just a thought.

  22. Lauren Snell says:

    Have you heard the song John Lee Supertaster by They Might Be Giants? It’s on their fantastic kids’ album, “No!”

    That’s where we first heard of the term. My husband also claims those super powers, disliking fish, coffee, tomatoes, and many other reasonable foods.

  23. “Don’t hate me because I’m hilarious!”


    (Okay, so I made up the quote… but she is… so hilarious you could die from it.)

  24. Heather O. says:

    Definitely a handicap. You should totally exercise his rights under the ADA. Not sure what those rights would be, but I’m sure you could get creative…

  25. Just have to say, I love ya, DYM. But. But. BUT. I’m sitting here wasting time instead of packing and I’m going through your links and I keep seeing that picture of the tongue. THE tongue. And it’s almost more than I can take. Save me, DYM.


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