I Am Not a Picky Eater!


I Am a Super Taster!!!!!!!  

When I was growing up, I was what is known as a “picky eater.” Said with a derisive tone, of course. There were many foods I did not like, chief among them fat and gristle. I would spend five minutes or more cutting off all, and I mean ALL, even the most miniscule piece, of the fat from a piece of meat before I would even eat one bite. And there was a whole list of vegetables I did not like. 

I also did not like a lot of pepper on my food, and I did not like horseradish. Even today I cannot eat spicy hot foods. Although today I can and do use both pepper and horseradish. 

What was/is going on? Was I just being stubborn? Was I looking for attention? Or did I just not like certain foods? 

Picky Eaters of the World Unite 

Well now science has some answers. 

Long story short – it is genetic. Infants are born with a genetically predetermined number of taste buds. Some people have more, way more. And some people have fewer taste buds. Tasting, it seems, is just another variation of the human species like hair, skin, or eye color.  

According to Linda Bartoshuk, a psychophysicist at the Yale School of Medicine, tasting-wise humans can be divided into three distinct categories. 

There are your non-tasters.  Then there are your medium tasters. And then, tah-dah, there are supertasters.  

I am, and most picky eaters are probably, in the supertaster category. 

Bartoshuk often speaks of these three types of tasters as inhabiting totally and completely different taste worlds. 

What Are SuperTasters???

For supertasters, taste is much stronger, more vivid, and way more intense. Salt is saltier; sweet is sweeter; bitter is bitterer; and spicy is way, way hotter and sometimes even downright painful.  

Most people are born with about 10,000 taste buds.  Supertasters can have as many as 20,000 to 25,000 taste buds. About 25% of the population are supertasters. More women than men are supertasters.  

About 25% of the population are non-tasters, with the majority of the population being medium tasters.

And it all comes back to the number of taste buds a person has on their tongue. 

I am going to let Jan Henderson of The Health Culture blog take it from here. This is reprinted here with written permission from Ms Henderson. I have also added The Health Culture blog to the list of My Favorite Sites that you see on the right side of this page.

This is a super great site with much good information on health matters.  I encourage you to take a look-see. Ms Henderson majored in mathematics at Harvard and received a PhD in the history of science and medicine from Yale. 

From The Health Culture blog:
The enhanced tongue of a supertaster

There’s more to being a supertaster than inheriting the ability to taste PROP. [NOTE: A bitter substance used in research.] The tongues of supertasters are different from those of nontasters.

Supertaster and nontaster tongues from PBS.

In a recent post , I wrote about taste buds on the tongue. Taste buds are located on the sides of papillae, those little projections that cover the surface of the tongue. When it comes to supertasters, we’re interested in the papillae at the front of the tongue. They happen to be called fungiform papillae because, when you magnify them, they look like little fungi or mushrooms.

What makes a supertaster’s tongue different is that their fungiform papillae are smaller and more densely packed, as you can see in the illustration. More papillae mean more taste buds. Supertasters have as many as 1,100 taste buds per square centimeter, compared to nontasters, who can have as few as 11. That by itself makes supertasters more sensitive to taste. [Emphasis mine.]

Can you imagine the taste difference? 1100 taste buds per square centimeter compared to only 11? WOW!!! That is a huge, HUGE  difference.

Back to Jan Henderson’s explanation.

There’s another thing that makes the tongue of a supertaster different: Sensitivity to physical stimulation. Taste buds send information to the brain through two types of nerves. One type sends the taste signals – sweet, sour, etc. The other sends information about pain, temperature, and touch. Since supertasters have more taste buds, they not only detect more bitterness, they’re also more sensitive to peppers and spices in general, heat, cold, and anything painful. [Again, emphasis mine.]

What About Those Spicy Hot Foods?

It bears repeating, each and every taste bud has its own pain receptor literally wrapped around it. So along with the extra taste buds comes extra pain receptors. As a result supertasters have the capacity to feel up to 50% more pain from capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilies their heat.

I can actually tell when the knife that cuts my pizza has recently cut a pizza with hot peppers on it. I can taste and feel some of the heat. My tongue has so many taste buds and they are so sensitive I can even taste just a trace of the capsaicin.

What About Fat?

From Yale Scientific:

A similar anatomical association affects the perception of fat. Taste buds are buried in tongue tissue within fungiform papillae — mushroom-like structures equipped with touch fibers. Fatty food enters the mouth, pushes [the] touch fibers, and triggers touch responses. Because supertasters can sense more “touch” than the rest of the population, fat produces more sensation in supertasters.

 And I can tell you from personal experience, it is not a sensation I like.

Supertasters and Vegetables

Supertasters generally avoid bitter foods which is why they often do not like some vegetables, especially as children. As all children age and get into their teenage years taste buds change and bitterness is not as big an issue.

I once read some where that the taste buds that sense bitter taste the most are one of the last to fully develop. This is why many teens and young adults all of a sudden like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other bitter tasting vegetables. It is not because they have matured; what has matured are their taste buds!!

I am no longer a picky eater. Today there are few foods I do not like and won’t eat or try. But I still can’t eat super hot chilies and other super spicy foods. The burn is just too painful.

So be kind to us picky eaters. After all, we aren’t really picky.   We are supertasters!

In addition to the Health Culture site, information for this blog post was gotten here, here, and here.

Content edited 8/28/2010 ~ PBS graphic link no longer active; deleted. The Health Culture link was updated so that now it works.

Featured Recipe:   Cumberland Glazed Chicken

This is a recipe every type of taster will like. 

You can make this recipe with any chicken pieces you want; such as 3 chicken thighs, or chicken breasts; all wings or drumsticks, or a mixture of the two. You can use 1 or 2 cut up chickens, or you can use 1 or 2 half chickens like I did today. I bought the half-chickens because they were on sale at 99-cents a pound – almost a steal!

The recipe glaze works with any type of bone-in chicken. I have never tried it with boneless chicken so I cannot say how it works. If anyone tries it please let us know how it works out.

You can serve with a salad. Hungarian Cucumber salad posted here at MTTD a while back is a wonderful salad with this entrée. The sweetness of the glaze works well with the sour cream.

I served this with roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes. Observant readers and those who visit MTTD a lot will notice that these are both left over vegetables from pervious recipes posted this week.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

2 half-chickens (that includes 2 breasts, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 2 wings)


Salt and pepper to taste

For the glaze: 

½ cup red currant jelly

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

½ teaspoon orange juice

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon allspice

Here is what you do:

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Rub about 1 tablespoon of oil on the chicken and salt & pepper both sides.

Place chicken skin side down in a baking dish.

Bake 15 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and bake 15 minutes more.

Now it is time to prepare the glaze. Dump everything in a bowl……….

………… and mix well.

Baste the chicken with some of the glaze. Put chicken back in the oven for 15-30 minutes more, basting with the glaze several more times. Do not use up all of the glaze. Save a bit for the gravy.

When an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees at the thickest part of the chicken it is done.

Remove from the oven and tent to keep warm while you make the gravy and to let the juices redistribute.

Skim excess fat from the pan. Now add any remaining glaze to the pan……….. 

…………………and using a spatula scrape up any burnt bits on the bottom of the pan incorporating them into the glaze.

Cut the chicken into pieces. Pour over the chicken and enjoy. I took the chicken breast.


2 half-chickens                                 $2.77

Oil (about 2 tablespoons)                  $0.07

½ cup red currant jelly                      $1.52

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard                  $0.03

1 teaspoon grated orange peel          $0.06

½ teaspoon orange juice                   $0.10

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger               $0.10

1/8 teaspoon allspice                         $0.15

Total cost for 4 people = $4.80
Cost per person = $1.20

This recipe is certainly budget and recession friendly.

Bon Appetit!!!!

Quote of the Day:    If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.  ~  Mark Twain

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5 comments to I Am Not a Picky Eater!

  • […] contacted me about quoting from one of those posts (see Roberta’s take on being a supertaster: I Am not a Picky Eater!), I decided to clean them up (they were written using a different blogging software) and present […]

  • I was a picky eater too, as a child. I can really identify with cutting off the gristle and fat. I still don’t like that texture. I was also obsessive about not letting the different foods on my plate touch each other.

    It’s commonly believed that children have a different sense of taste, but I gather it’s been difficult to study, since taste is very subjective and not just a function of the taste buds.

    Thanks so much for the links to my site. I was inspired to “clean up” those posts (the formatting got messed up when I changed blogging softwares) and, in reading through them, I came across this fact that continues to surprise me: nontasters can barely distinguish between skim milk and cream (it’s mentioned in the second information post you link to). I can’t imagine that. It’s an affliction that would certainly save money and calories, but reduce the quality of one’s life.

    • Roberta

      Jan, You write “….nontasters can barely distinguish between skim milk and cream…” I can’t imagine either. How sad.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Arthur, Roberta. Roberta said: @SoCalFoodDude RE picky eaters~ All picky eaters do not have a disorder. See and here […]

  • […] NOTES: I do not use the ginger, or if I do I only use a fourth to half a teaspoon only. It’s that super taster thingie I wrote about here. […]