What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Cereal, eggs, toast? If you live in Japan, it’s likely you ate natto. A.k.a. fermented soy beans.
Natto looks like Rice Krispy treats, but it’s not-o. They are a favorite breakfast food in Japan, often eaten with raw eggs and fish flakes.
And according to author Rachel Herz in her book That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion, they smell a bit like ammonia and tire fire.
Then again, I routinely drink this for a mid-morning snack:
Frozen kale blended with fruit or the latest from Yankee Candle?
Grilled tarantula, octopus ice cream, frog porridge–one person’s meal is another’s poison. When I was a kid it was the crunchy onions in my mom’s beef stroganoff that grossed me out.
But disgust goes further than food. It is related to other emotions like love, laughter and excitement.
Disgust can inspire laughter.
We all have our own personal “ew” factor.
But we are not born with it. Disgust is learned.
Children will play in dirt (even eat it), pick up bugs or dried poop and carry around that “sleeping” bird they found in the corner of the back yard. They don’t know what’s disgusting until they are told.
But why is carrying around road kill disgusting? After all, kids could collect and swap them like trading cards, right? And they’re free, unlike Pokemon cards.
Herz says the fundamental function of disgust is to protect boundaries.
“We are the only creatures who experience emotional disgust and we are the only creature that knows it will die .”
Dead birds make us think of germs, disease and ultimately death. So we develop psychological strategies to defend ourselves from that which we think is a possible threat to our existence.
And it doesn’t stop there. Obesity, homelessness, or disability can bring out a reaction of disgust. In fact, anything that “reminds us that we are squishable creatures with a finite time on this earth” can cause us to reject, shun, deny and even destroy.
Of course not everything that disgusts is actually dangerous.
Anyone want a slice of TOILET CAKE?
It’s too gross to post here, but if you can stomach it, click HERE.
Yuck, but then again it’s just cake, right?
What we find disgusting can be easily manipulated.
How else do we see salmonella carrying geckos as cute and charismatic insurance mascots?
Or get caught up in the kind of disgust that leads to derision or bullying? Suddenly it’s no longer about survival–instead it can lead to missed opportunity or prejudice.
But reasoning can be our tool.
“The more we examine and reflect about the world we live in and the people around us, the more mindfully and compassionately we live.”
So fermented soy beans with a side of compassion? Order up.
What are your thoughts? I would love to know what you think about the things that make you go ew!