The ability to taste bitter flavors probably didn't evolve as a self-defense mechanism

Culture took over… Once we were able to communicate the danger beyond the current generation, the adaptation wasn’t as important – we were standing on the shoulders of our bitter-tasting forebears.

One of my friends in high school actually ate an entire houseplant without ever questioning whether it might be toxic (I do believe drugs were involved here). Luckily for her it was Chlorophytum Comosum, and apparently those aren’t poisonous.

(And no, friend here really is not a stand in for “me” I swear. I ate the rhubarb leaf, but not the spider plant. I did so of seemingly sound mind, and while sober… which may actually be more stupid. It wasn’t very good.)

It’s also not as simple as “can you taste bitterness, yes/no.” People have a range of sensitivity to bitter tastes. And there are different taste receptors for different bitter compounds.

Myself, I tried the PTC test recently, and tasted nothing, meaning I don’t taste that particular bitter compound at all. The person administering the test informed me that people without the PTC receptor usually like IPAs, and people with the receptor usually don’t. I do enjoy IPAs, but they’re not my favorite beer and were definitely an acquired taste for me. I thought I didn’t like beer at all until I tried a stout, which is a much sweeter, less bitter style; I worked up in bitterness from there. And I don’t like black coffee or olives.

Moreover, I once applied bitter apple spray to keep my cat from chewing on something, and then forgot to wash my hands before making myself a snack. It tasted so incredibly bitter and awful, I felt like I’d just been unexpectedly punched. So clearly I don’t have low sensitivity to whatever bitter compound is in that stuff.

I wonder if there might be something related to the specific bitter compounds sensed by the various receptors, maybe combined with the plants that existed in various regions during the first human migration to those regions. But maybe it’s something completely different. Evolution is weird that way.

Also, geraniums and poinsettias kill cats, and chocolate kills dogs. Practically from the next room, they’re so toxic. I heard it from my sister’s cousin’s uncle’s brother, so it has to be true.

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Pretentious? Really? Is that your smug put-down for anyone whose tastes differ from your own? Or just those of us who can tell the difference between beer and Budweiser? Really, Ms. M, you overstepped your bounds there.

She was talking about India Pale Ale, not real beer.

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As a reminder: Something may be selected for because it provides a benefit, but unless it has a significant cost (in terms of metabolic demands, or preventing the animal from doing something) it’s unlikely to be actively selected against. So “evolving as” is often a somewhat misleading phrase.

(Oversimplifying slightly, but I think the point needed to be made.)

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I kinda recall an article I read, a couple of decades ago, about jungle primates using certain bitter leaves to swab (that is, medicate) the inside of their mouths.

Given that birds will lie back on boiling hot black roofs to rid themselves of parasites, it’s possible that some animals may have found that some bitter foods made them feel a little better. Or that it was interesting.

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Now it’s personal.

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Not really related to the article, but I don’t seem to have normal bitter receptors, except for when I was hiking in Scotland several years ago I bought a cheap bag of pine-nut based trail mix and for about a month thereafter everything tasted bitter. It was really confusing going from normally bitter things not tasting bitter, to water and sugar tasting vile and bitter. After a while I went back to liking things other people think are bitter, but the whole experience was eye opening. It makes me curious if that’s what other people taste all the time? I mean, if that horrible taste is what eggplant tastes like for my kids?

Duh - but the implication is that people buy IPA because it’s hipper than horsepiss^W Bud.

Hey, don’t be such a snob, Budweiser is a perfectly good beer.

As long as you don’t want to drink it, anyway. It’s great for drowning slugs, putting out small fires, cleaning paint brushes, etc.

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Am I the only person out there who loves IPAs and also likes to slum it once in a while with Bud Diesel (translation: Bud Non-light)?

THIS is Budweiser:

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If it works for you, more power to you. De gustibus.

My reaction to most American beer remains “Pour it back into the horse.”

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