In which I spend four years figuring out if I can learn to like olives.

The Olive Experiment

818 words about life — 09:05 · 25th Apr 2020

It all started with a simple question.

“Is it possible to learn to like something?”

That’s why, when—I was working at Squiders—back in December 2015 as Kris, Jo, Gav, and I went to a French restaurant for our company Christmas dinner, I began the unplanned experiment.

As we browsed their menu, figuring out what we wanted to eat, the waiter asked if we wanted any hors d’oeuvres, and because everyone else was excited about their selection of olives, olives are what we got.

As I sat there with indifference, that question returned to my mind.

As far as I was concerned olives where these little opaque and often dull grape-looking-things that some people loved, and I had possibly never tried.

At that moment I wasn’t sure if I had ever tried faux-grapes.

Because I’m such a phenomenal dinner conversationalist, I, of course, told everyone else this by probably exclaiming something like, “I’ve never understood olives! What’s the big idea?”

I can be quite hyperbolic about my ignorance at times.

Two and a half olive-enthusiasts later, they had all given me a brief TED-talk about the magnificent virtues of olives, to the point that I decided to try one.

It was absolutely disgusting.

Like fermenting an actual grape in vinegar and calling it a day.

I’m told the actual process to make olives edible isn’t far off.

Of all the things I’ve put in my mouth over the years, this was easily in the Top-10, don’t it again.

“But could I learn to like them?”

Now at this point, you might be asking yourself, “Why, Carlos? Why would you even try this? You didn’t like them, move on with your life.” To which I say, “clearly, you don’t know me at all, imaginary internet-friend.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese proverb

From there on, I decided, nay, vowed to eat an olive at every opportunity that presented itself.

So I did.

I had them on the occasional pizza—usually someone else’s pizza.

On their own.

In salads.

Most of the times I found them more or less as disgusting as the first time but now and then, one would be bearable-ish.

I never made an effort to have an olive but would instead tell people about my experiment whenever olives were present, which usually ended up with them offering me some—probably simply to watch me eat it—people are wonderfully weird like that.

Disney-style illustration of Carlos Eriksson dressed as an olive.
Is it possible, that I take experiments too far?

I continued to do this at a very leisurely pace—as far as experiments go, this was easily my most relaxed one.

Until, one day, two years—December 2017—and about fifty olives later, I was eating dinner with Katy when I remember putting one in my mouth and finding its salty, savoury and slightly oily texture complementing the pasta well.

“Mmmm, this is nice,” I probably said.

After that time, the olives started tasting better and better.

How to learn to like something you don’t

Have you been thinking about learning to like something you don’t lately?

With my FREE three top tips, you can!*

  1. Be patient and persistent1— try something at least 15 times before giving up
  2. Mix it with stuff you like2—turns out, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” is legit advice
  3. Educate yourself about it3—it’s hard to hate something you know intimately

*Results not guaranteed. We cannot guarantee or promise any results. Nothing in these tips and nothing in what we say or do can be construed as a guarantee about the outcome of your matter. Our past or future comments about the outcome of your matter or opinions are not guarantees. Your mileage, may, in fact, vary.

Now, another two and a bit years later, I’ve been promoted from Opportunistic Olive Eater to Olives are a Valid Snack.

Black ones, green ones, doesn’t matter, they’re all fucking delicious.

Back when I started eating an olive at every opportunity, I didn’t genuinely think it was going to work.

I thought, at best, it would be an entertaining experiment for a year or two, after which I would give up and conclude that olives weren’t for me.

But I was wrong.

It is possible to learn to like something.

Because now, I love olives.

And I love that I love olives.

  1. R.B. Zajonc. 2001. “Mere Exposure: A Gateway to the Subliminal” Sage Journals (2001), Volume: 10 issue: 6, page(s): 224-228 

  2. Remco C. Havermans, Anita Jansen. 2006. “Increasing children’s liking of vegetables through flavour–flavour learning” Appetite 48 (2007), 259–262. 

  3. Taste: Surprising Stories and Science About Why Food Tastes Good by Barb Stuckey 

You’ve just read The Olive Experiment.

In which, 8 months ago, I wrote 818 words about life and I covered topics, such as: psychology, and journeys.