Olive Toil: Why I'm Forcing Myself To Eat Something I Loathe

It’s soft. My molars don’t feel much resistance as I chew. My first thought is: “this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be”. But that’s just the garlic, and the hint of chilli it was doused in. That subsides quickly . . . Now I’m left with the overwhelming, unfamiliar, unavoidable taste of the olive I’ve just forced myself to eat.

Picture by Steve Jurvetson

It’s strange; I’ve never thought of myself as a fussy eater. I’ve tried many things most would baulk at: insects, snails, frogs’ legs, lamb brains, tongue. I believe in trying anything once. I think of myself as an open-minded eater. And there’s food I hated as a kid, but have now grown to love: broccoli, spinach.

But not olives. Never olives. My rallying cry whenever anyone raises the (always good) idea of ordering pizza: “no olives!”

This has always been a problem in my household. My wife loves olives. She wants to put them in everything: salads, sandwiches, home-made pizzas. I’ve always felt as though my own selfish, bratty behaviour is preventing my wife from eating the food she loves.

And that’s why I’ve decided to make myself like the food I loathe most in the world — one day at a time. Starting from yesterday, I’ve vowed to eat a single olive every single day for a month, with the expectation that, at the end of it all, I’ll actually enjoy eating olives. I fully believe that I can teach myself to like a food that I absolutely hate, just by forcing myself to eat it regularly.

But, for now, it seems like an impossible task. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I willing placed a whole olive on my tongue and began chewing. It was an act of sheer willpower. My physical being wanted me to reject this strange food. I forced myself to eat slowly. It would have been too easy to simply gulp it down without consequence. I had to properly taste the olive, of my own volition. I had to make that conscious choice and stick by it.

My stomach was literally heaving. I wretched. Somehow I managed to keep the olive down, but the smell, the taste at the back of my throat, hovering around my taste buds like a dense, rancid fart, remained. In my imagination it sank to the pit of my stomach; I could visualise it sitting there, alien, unwanted, like a stick of chewing gum, refusing to digest.

That was my first olive; tonight I eat my second. I’m not looking forward to it, but if I keep on eating, maybe someday, I will.

Kotaku editor Mark will be filling us in on his attempts to overcome his olive aversion every week throughout January. If you’ve got any useful advice to get him through the process, share it in the comments.

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