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It's a very, very strong flavour (like hot chili peppers in potency and ability to linger).

It tastes nothing like any food I know - I've thought of it as kind of "chalky" (not sure why I know what chalk tastes like, maybe I ate some chalk as a child?).

It is very unpleasant and nauseating. I imagine no amount of willpower could keep down a mouthful of a food that has it (only managed to swallow small doses in company where it would be very embarassing to spit out food).

It seems to occur in fats, or maybe dairy products. I imagine it's some kind of contamination, maybe bacteria. I've tasted it in:

  • Blue cheese (don't think it's ever been absent the few times I've tried a bit)
  • The "creme" in little twinkie-style "swiss rolls" (occasionally)
  • Once in a home-made pizza (maybe in the cheese?)
  • Some indian sweets left out for too long (occasionally)

The weird thing is that often, I seem to be the only person that can taste it. This has often got me into trouble (I am not a fussy eater at all, and feel very embarrassed explaining I'm unable to eat something that everyone else thinks is fine).

Anyone have any idea what this flavour could be from?

I've wondered for years...

Edit:
Added some interesting points suggested by answers so far

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as a relatively new user, any ideas why a q like this gets a down-vote? is it not the 'right' kind of question? –  Eric Dec 20 '10 at 16:08
    
Take a look at the FAQ--the first thing is about what is and is not a proper question here. You'll see that this doesn't really fit any of the stated "acceptable" categories. I'm not as particular about that as some, though, so I just answered. –  bikeboy389 Dec 20 '10 at 17:46
    
Interesting - I thought most food-related questions were on-topic, though the current FAQ seems to focus on cooking... –  MGOwen Dec 21 '10 at 5:42
    
It is very narrow. –  Orbling Dec 23 '10 at 0:27
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I'm the only one that I've ever known of, but any heated dairy product (except mozzarella cheese) smells and tastes gag-inducing rotten to me, even if it's back to room temperature or refrigerated. But I love bleu cheese and feta, as long as they've remained cold. Also can't stand any of the cabbage relatives, such as broccoli and cauliflower; they smell and taste bitter and rotten. –  MargeGunderson Oct 18 '12 at 0:26
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2 Answers

Let me start by saying that I'm not familiar with the problem taste you're describing in dairy foods.

I am, however, quite sensitive to bitter tastes in many other foods, which is linked to a phenomenon often studied in genetics classes: The ability or inability to taste PTC, PROP or thiourea, chemical compounds associated with bitter flavors.

The ability to taste them or not, and whether you're a "supertaster" who's very sensitive, is genetic, and appears to have a significant impact on food preferences.

Here's an article that explains it better than I can: Supertaster

I don't know that this is associated with dairy products at all, but it's worth a look in. And for what it's worth as a strong--if not super--taster, I have a hard time dealing with some blue cheeses that my wife who is a weak to non-taster doesn't find strong at all. So maybe there's something in it.

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The supertasters link is fascinating, though not sure if I fit the bill or not - the foods list is not an exact match. I am known for eating a lot of ice-cream, though... –  MGOwen Dec 21 '10 at 5:40
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I don't think there's any dairy in twinkies or similar packaged items -- it's whipped fat, with sugar and flavorings.

But all of the items you mention contain fat, so it's possible that it's a product of rancidity.

I don't know if it's related to the supertasters stuff that bikeboy389 mentioned, but some people experience taste differently -- I can't stand bitter flavors (about 1/2 the items on the list mentioned, especially coffee, artificial sweeteners and all hopped beers), but I love sour; much more so than most other people. People also smell differently (eg, the issue with asparagus, although that one's an issue not just with sensing it), so it's possible that you're just more sensitive to taste/smells in general, or to a specific chemical compound than others.

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This makes sense... seems so unlikely though, that other people can eat a whole mouthful of something, noticing nothing of a flavour so strong that I couldn't force down a couple of grams of it. I'm really not a fussy eater at all, I ate everything in Japan - raw fish, raw beef, raw horse, raw goat; same in Sri Lanka and India; I enjoy pickled squid, vegemite, kimchi, wasabi, pretty much everything... –  MGOwen Dec 22 '10 at 23:41
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@MGOwen: Interesting you mention vegemite, the major brand in the UK is called Marmite, you may have had it. The whole marketing campaign these days for it is "You either love it or hate it", few people sit on the fence with it. To the extent that people actually use the phrase "It's a bit marmite", to imply that it is something you'll either love or hate, or another phrase we use an acquired taste. I cannot go in the same room as strong blue cheese, the mould in it even in the air makes my breathing play up. –  Orbling Dec 23 '10 at 0:31
    
@Orbling : I've never had vegemite or marmite, but what you're describing reminds me of cilantro (green coriander) -- I can't stand the stuff ... it reminds me of soap, and yet, other people love it. –  Joe Dec 23 '10 at 18:38
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@Orbling Yeah, vegemite is the first thing we give to Americans to taste when they visit. "This is Australian food! Go on, try it, it tastes like chocolate!" –  MGOwen Dec 30 '10 at 3:12
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@MGOwen: LOL, that's just mean! –  Orbling Dec 30 '10 at 14:00
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