Are Your Taste Buds Male or Female?

ice creamHere's a pretty common scenario when my husband and I head out for a date night that includes a cocktail: The waitress arrives at our table with a Cosmopolitan and a Manhattan. She sets the Cosmo down in front of me and the Manhattan in front of my husband. We smile resignedly ... and switch the drinks back to their rightful owners.

I can see why she'd assume the Cosmo is mine, because it's pink, fruity, and strongly identified with Sex and the City. (Not mocking you, honey! Okay, maybe just a little teensy bit.) But food is gendered in all sorts of ways. If I write, "Chris is totally jonesing for some chocolate" you're picturing a female, right? If I substituted "nice bloody rare steak" for "chocolate," you'd most likely think Chris is a guy.


According to this fascinating Salon story, some scientists believe that such gendering of food is biological, that women are hardwired to prefer sweet tastes while men prefer things with a bitter bite. (Again, I apparently have the taste buds of a guy, since both my husband and I enjoy a nice hoppy India Pale Ale and I take half a packet or less of Splenda in my coffee, while his is so sweetened I can't even swallow it if I accidentally sip from his cup.) Some point to evolution; men, as the hunters, find the taste of meat a reflection of a successful hunt. Others say hormones play a role, pointing to pregnancy and PMS cravings as evidence.

Certainly, ads for chocolate aimed at women treat it as almost a sexual experience ("Brownie Husband," anyone?) while any advertising having to do with grilling meat over an open flame is aimed right at the guys. As writer Riddhi Shah notes, however, gendering food preferences seems to be strictly an American concept born out of our abundance of food. She and her husband both grew up in India and there's no such gendering there, where food is seen as more sacred because it's less available. She loves dairy and whisky, her husband chocolate and fruit, and in her quick study of most cultures, she finds that men are just as likely to crave sweets as women are.

And of course, there is the pressure for women to be calorie-conscious, which plays a huge role here. I'd be willing to bet almost no women have been seen eating the Double Down in public, for example, and how often do you hear a woman say, "Oh, I shouldn't" when offered dessert? Men feel no such pressure, at least not the ones I hang out with. They don't trifle with beers whose primary selling point is their lack of calories and happily compare their favorite ways to use bacon. Meanwhile, my girlfriends and I are munching fat-free brownies and making plans to meet up at the gym.

Are your food preferences stereotypically female? Do you think it's nature or nurture?

Image via Kaitie64/CafeMom

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