As a frequent traveler, one of the biggest issues I deal with is what I eat. I am a very picky eater; a confirmed carnivore my love of vegetables is weak at best and most notably, I don’t eat any fish or seafood. My fellow Americans may wonder why I phrase it that way, but I’ll get to that in a second. The point of this post is that even after years of writing about this issue I’m still faced with certain difficulties when I travel, and since I’ve heard from many people around the world who are just like me, I thought I’d write yet another post, this one a little more direct, in order to make my life and those like me a little bit easier when we travel the world.
Yes there are people who don’t like fish or seafood
As I have discovered, many people are shocked to the point that their mouth is literally agape when I tell them that I don’t like fish or seafood. I was just on a food tour and when a fellow participant heard me utter those words, her look made me feel like Quasimodo’s little brother. But we are here, we exist and as many emails from readers have shown me, there are a lot of us. The problem is that we are made to feel so bad about ourselves, that few of us come out as anti-pescatarians until we have to. Even then it’s said with an apology and a downward glance. But if I do anything in my life, I hope it’s to make others like me more accepted by the general fish-loving public.
What we mean when we say we don’t like fish or seafood
It means we don’t like it, and this is where I get to that very specific phrasing “fish or seafood.” I was on a trip once and I had sent along my dietary requirement of No Seafood. Now, to an American that usually includes anything that was ever in the water, ever. Possible exceptions would include ducks or if a cow fell into a lake or something. But when translated, seafood in most other languages means fruits de mer, or delicacies like oysters, clams and so on. Fish is actually an entirely different category for them. I discovered this fun fact while on that aforementioned trip when my host proudly came out and said “So I heard you don’t like seafood – that’s fine!” (My heart jumps for joy) “Instead I have a beautiful whitefish for you!” (Heart sinks and I begin Googling the closest McDonald’s.) I learned a lot from that experience, including the importance of very specific language when speaking to people from other cultures but also to always use the phrasing “fish or seafood” when describing my hatred of all things watery.
Yes I’ve tried that one dish you love more than life itself
The next part of the conversation that always happens after I first tell them I hate fish or seafood is, “But have you tried [insert amazing food you love here]? It’s important to say that my dislike of seafood isn’t out of disdain for you or a way to be a contrarian. I’m not trying to be a jerk; I just don’t like fish or seafood. Believe me, I want to. I see how you normal people all look when you bite into a lobster with clarified butter or a massive platter of fish and chips. I want to be like you, I want to enjoy shrimp, Mahi Mahi, oysters, all of it. I want to be there, believe me life would be far simpler. And indeed I have tried both fish and seafood in nearly every form, just in case there’s one form that it turns out I do like. But there isn’t and I don’t. Our tastes and likes in regards to food are largely dictated by genetics, not always by upbringing or cultural norms. I come from proud Mainer stock, people who love lobster more than there own children – and this is actually true. I was brought up around seafood lovers and yet here I am, hating fish and seafood as much as I do licorice or artichokes.
It’s ok that we exist
All of you fish and chip eating, shrimp buffet loving people need to give those of us who hate all of that a break. It is a constant struggle when I travel dealing with my fish issues. It’s not necessarily the hassle involved with finding something I can actually consume, I’ve been able to eat everywhere from remote towns in Taiwan to fishing villages along the coasts of Scandinavia. No, it’s not my ability to find something for dinner that bothers me, it’s the incessant nagging by other, seemingly well-intentioned, people who all but strap me down and force a Filet-O-Fish sandwich down my throat. We all have our little quirks, our idiosyncrasies in life so when you encounter someone who, like me, counts among them a fierce dislike of both fish and seafood do me a favor. Don’t say anything. And pass the Carpaccio.
122 thoughts on “No I Still Don’t Like Fish or Seafood – What I Wish People Understood”
I understand you don’t like seafood, but that doesn’t make you any less wrong.
Most people are unaware of a new discovery about people’s varying sensitivities to taste. People assume that things taste the same to everyone, but just as other senses are more or less sensitive, such as hearing , sight or touch our tongues are not created equal. People can have widely varying amounts of taste buds on their tongue. The amount that nature provides is determined by their genetics and DNA which they are born with . In general approximately 25% of people have fewer taste buds and are classified as nontasters. Their is less sensitive and food tastes boring to them unless they put very hot spices on the food. About 75% are the average tasters who would likely enjoy Seafood. Lastly about 25% are termed supertasters where they have many more taste buds on their tongue. They can pickup tastes that other people cannot. They cannot tolerate strong tastes such as bitter or sour foods. Also when they eat seafood their tongues detects other flavors that the average taster cannot detect. These flavors are not appetizing in any way. So when people say they don’t like seafood they are tasting a lot more than the average person and it’s not pleasant at all. A plus for supertasters is they’re far less likely to be poisoned as they can detect subtle chemicals that do not belong in food.
My aversion to seafood is congenital. My mother said I spurned anything from the sea from when I was in a high chair onwards. My family were seafood lovers. Crab, squid, lobster, haddock, clams, you name it. Whether at home or in a restaurant, I, alone, had grilled cheese, spaghetti, a burger, corn flakes – anything but fish. I also find people being aghast when I tell them I don’t like seafood. They practically become apoplectic when I spurn lobster (I absolutely loathe the critters). I’ve been invited to crab dinners and ate only bread. I’m the rare person who visits Maine without coming close to anything containing lobster meat. So, as with others, I’ll often decline seafood protesting an “allergy.” I do regret this aversion as I recognize the health benefits of seafood. Pass the fish oil supplements, please.
I am in complete agreement. I have never been able to eat fish – or eggs for that matter. My mother tried to feed them to me as a toddler and I would spit them out. I am 60 years old now, so I don’t think that’s going to change.
I am not really a picky eater… I do like most vegetables. I only use meat bc I can’t afford to live healthily as a vegetarian ( which would be for humanitarian reasons.)
The most current research suggests taste is a combination of genetics & environment. I suspect that’s accurate. While lots of kids go through a stage when they won’t eat things that appeal to adults, lifelong aversions seem to be inborn. My family loves eggs! And shellfish was a big deal – a special treat. To me it was gagworthy! While other ki
I agree, I hate all seafood – and fish. This is the second time I read this article over the years. Occasionally I wonder why anyone likes seafood. It’s disgusting to me. Smells bad, tastes bad. All of it. Growing up I just said I was allergic, saved me a lot of hassle.
Give me some beef, chicken, dairy, some form of healthy carbs, and maybe some broccoli and cheese and I’m happy. With seasonings of course :)
I thought I was the only one! To me, there’s something disgusting about the taste of ANYthing that was born, lived, or died submerged. It makes me gag, literally. Dry heaves. And other people just don’t get it. The only excuse that seems to work is “Oh, I drowned and was eaten by sea creatures in a past life.” They will accept that, but not “Shrimp make me barf!”
Kudos to your valid comments about the distaste of seafood to the many of us like you! Seafood has always smelled akin to rotting/decomposing flesh
and it takes all my demeanor
to keep from actually
passing out. I truely believe
the distasteful flavor is
genetic and not aquired.
That’s what I took to doing- lying that it was an allergy! But my family already knows better unfortunately.
I am so repulsed by seafood that I almost gagged – more than once – while reading this thoughtful piece. Like the writer, my relationship with vegetables is weak as well.
I wonder if there is a connection … beyond the predictable disdain my eating habits elicit from others: “You don’t eat fish? You don’t eat vegetables either? What do you eat?”
Apparently a lot. As our other options are fairly endless, when you think about it.
So often my inquisitors are the same folks, who earlier in the conversation might have asked:
“Have you lost weight?”
Or mentioned: “You sure look young for your age.” (I am 67).
“Well, for one thing,” I tell them, “I don’t eat fish, seafood or many vegetables.”
And, “Yes,” I do believe there is a connection.”
Seafood and fish makes me gag. Just reading and seeing the pictures reminded me of every time I have to walk by the deli section in the grocery store and the smell of the fish/seafood hits me. I start gagging and feel like a complete fool.
I am trying to save so I can travel to different countries, but just about all of the ones I want to go to mainly eat fish. I was told that I cannot just travels somewhere and not eat fish.
When I was little, my parents forced me to eat salmon, white fish, shrimp and others. To this day, I get nauseous, cramps, hot-flash and itchy when I try to eat fish or seafood. Even the smell is enough to make me throw up!
My mom made me eat fish as a kid too and I threw up. I’ve not been a fan since. I will eat it….I like shrimp in some dishes and crab, scallops but if I was never given any of these again, I would not miss them (I feel the same about wine). My husband loves all seafood (and wine).I wish I liked them both. I knew fish is healthy food, but I really don’t like it. I hate preparing it, smelling it raw, smelling it cook…It’s not quite as bad if prepared by someone else.
I have traveled all over the world, including places like Scandinavia that are fish centric. But I have never had a problem finding non-fishy things to eat. I am not allergic to any fish, I just don’t care for it. Not the smell (even if it was just caught), not the taste. There is something that underlies the flavor of all seafood that I just don’t like, and I have tried many kinds prepared many ways. But don’t let your dislike of seafood deter you from world travel. You can always find something tasty to eat wherever you go.
I’m happy I came across this. I am constantly the odd one out who doesn’t like seafood and made to feel like its wrong. I am a picky eater, I like what I like. I just find it irritating when people comment about it. I don’t go around commenting on their love of whatever is they like or don’t like or how much alcohol they do/do not consume, their love of sugar/salt, etc. I’ve tried various types of fish and seafood and it is just not my cup of tea.
I am a very picky eater, I don’t like fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, lamb, quinoa, kale, Mexican food, the list goes on and on. I’m 57 years old and have had aversions to food since I was about 5 years old. I too feel like I have to apologize for my picky palate and get looks of disbelief from people when I say I don’t care for a particular food. And yes, I too have tried to eat all of the above but just can’t tolerate the taste (a polite way of saying I absolutely hate the things I hate). I wish I did like more things, it would certainly make my life easier when dining out and probably more interesting. I’ve always been jealous of people that like everything on the menu when out to dinner. My parents loved seafood and fish but I never inherited their love of it. I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone in my “pickiness”. It gets exhausting having to explain it over and over again. Maybe I’ll start turning the tables and say “I can’t believe you would like [insert food]….”, maybe then people would be a little more understanding.
I don’t have a dislike as strongly as you do when it comes to avoiding seafood but at the same time it’s close. The only type I actually enjoy and eat willingly is fish and chips. Outside of that if there’s alternatives I’ll take them every time.
Actually, my wife is an American and she doesn’t consider fish to be ‘seafood’ — she finds Australia’s clumping of “anything that was in the water, ever” to be odd.
I was with you on the seafood — I hate it too.
But licorice and artichokes!
Have you tried licorice and artichoke surprise?
Actually — I am OK with licorice and I LOVE artichokes — but I get not liking them. I came to them late in life.
I’ll eat most things but I’ve always hated anything to do with fish. There is a certain tang to it that I just can’t stand. I even hate looking at fish and can’t eat anything that has anything to do with fish like gummy Swedish fish or chocolate in seashell shapes.
I get really weird looks as I love sushi but won’t eat any other type of “fish or seafood” as you put it. I think I could also stand fish and chips if I really tried but I don’t enjoy fried food.
The smell, texture and fishy taste is what puts me off. Mostly the texture.
I don’t get a lot of pressure to eat seafood even though I live by the beach, surprisingly. I caught more flak for not liking spicy food while in India/married to an Indian.
I’m with you on this one. I’m a VERY picky eater. I’m so picky that the only vegetables I eat is lettuce and maybe cucumbers. I love potatoes and corn but they are considered more of a starch. I hate salad too. I used to eat fish when I was alot younger because my mother made me eat it. But these days, I remember how that fish tasted and I wouldnt try it again today. I think it just looks gross and smells horrible. Just the stench of it makes me sick anymore. Then I look at the other seafoods, and I dont like the way they look. I especially hate it when lobsters are boiled alive and they expect you to cook it like that. I’m sorry but I dont like to look my food in the eyes right before I eat it. It doesn’t even look the slightest bit appetizing to me at all.
Thank you for coming out as an anti-pescatarian! What we eat or don’t eat is no one’s business but our own…if I’m “missing something” by not eating fish/seafood, it just means more for everyone else. There are plenty of foods I do like. I’m too polite to tell anyone why I don’t like this category of food, but it’s because it smells off or spoiled to me, not like food and distressingly like some unmentionable things.
I’m so glad to finally find like-minded fish and seafood haters. I too, was brought up around a family of London fishmongers and lovers of everything shelled, scaled and slimy. But I’m not like them, I’m not an overly fussy eater – I love vegetables (except raw onion) and meat (except Lamb, don’t get me started on Lamb – it smells and tastes like armpit) but have yet to find ANY fish or seafood that doesn’t taste as disgusting as it smells. And the smell really does bother me, I can tell if anyone’s cooked fish in their house for a like a week afterwards. It lingers, like the clawed/finned spectre of death. So I’m not a fish eater. It shouldn’t be a big deal, and yet I get scorn and disapproval heaped upon me by strangers and loved ones alike. I was actually dumped by a Spanish guy once, for not consuming the ocean-dwelling, taste-bud assaulting demons of the deep. But I persist in my not eating of fish and seafood and proudly screw up my face in disgust whenever anyone offers me a shrimp and tell me that I’d eat it if I was starving. No, thank you enthusiastic Fish-eater. I’d survive on my own scorn.
Oh I relate to this. Especially: “But have you tried…??” Even had people say this about, of all things, SUSHI, yikes! I did try tuna steak one and gagged. Then I tried to try salmon but I couldn’t get that nasty stuff even near my lips. Sorry, not going to happen… (Confession:There 3 types of shellfish that is the prep is right, it’s JUST been caught, and the moon aligns just so, I can eat, but only a teeny bit.)
I tell people “I don’t eat things that come from the water.” I tag on “seaweed” specifically too since many people consider that a vegetable. It’s a good catch all. If they ask more questions, I tell them I grew up in a trailer park (even though that’s not really the case). If I go to an Asian restaurant, I ask if they put fish sauce on anything, or seaweed in the “vegetable broth” because sometimes they do. Otherwise, I usually avoid Asian restaurants altogether because I hate the smell of fish as well. Even if there’s no seafood in my food, I feel ill from smelling the smell of it in the restaurant.
I used to live near the sea for many years. I lived near the Wharf in the Monterey area. Everyone loved clam chowder and such. I just say: “Hey, more for you.” I just don’t know why it bothers people so much. I’d like these people to imagine eating a very pungent, ripe smelling expired piece of meat. That’s probably the best analogy for what it smells/tastes like to me. If I try to eat it, to test to see if my taste buds have changed over the years so maybe people will stop bugging me about it, my brain reacts violently (WTF are you doing?!). I may get one chew then my mouth just spits it out. This is beyond my control. If I was on an island and there was only fish to eat, I would die from starvation pretty quickly. No doubt I’d try to eat it, but I’d barf so many times I’d just die of dehydration before starvation.
I am embarrassed I don’t like fish. It seriously makes me seem like Whitey McWhiterson from Whiteville. I’ll admit, I’m pretty white, but I try not to be an asshole about it. I don’t judge other culture’s food based on my aversion to seafood. I can’t help but react repulsively to what MOST OF THE WORLD EATS. It’s annoying AF. I’d love to enjoy all this food everyone brags about. I’d love to travel the world and have no dietary limitations. It’s a goddamn burden to hate an entire food group. There’s a gazillion Asian restaurants (did I mention I hate curry, too?) in my area I can’t enjoy.
With that said, I also don’t eat pork or beef for other reasons (I know it tastes good). So that leaves chicken…and my taste for that is also waning. But even if I go vegan, there’s still the seaweed problem. Ug, is there a chemical in the water that we’re allergic to or something? Why do I think it’s poison? ARG!
I understand your dilemma. In fact, you and I have many things in common. I can’t stand the look or smell of anything seafood. I have tried everything, and I don’t like it. I grew up in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and my Father had a lobster boat. Every year, my Father and uncles would throw his traps out, and have a huge lobster feast at my grandmothers house. I would, of course, ask my grandmother to make her delicious Maine style homemade Mac and cheese, so I didn’t have to starve. People think I am weird because I don’t like seafood, and they look at me like I have three heads, when I tell them the horrible fact that I loathe it. I wish I liked it, but I can’t stomach any of it. I will simply live as an outcast with the rest of the world that doesn’t eat seafood.
I agree with your dilemma, seafood is worse, smell, etc. When I was a child, my mom said for me; ”Eat seafood, especially fish, they do you smart and I believed…
I hate anything that swims.
I have had gourmet prepared seafood/fish offered and cannot get it past my nose. Even tried specially prepared fish in Hawaii and had to spit it out and nearly vomited. Never ever been able to eat it, even smell in resturant that serves a fish on menu makes me gag.
I’m 81 years old and in pretty good health, so no fish hasn’t hurt me.
It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in my distaste of any sort of seafood. Yes, I’ve tried this and that and have even had family members try to trick me in to eating it -jokes on them I can smell it a mile away! Why are we embarrassed? I have always been made to feel inferior for not loving crabs, lobster, fish, shrimp, oysters or anything else that swims. Why? Maybe we need to start an organization and host a month when we can celebrate ourselves #noseafoodmonth! LOL!
All the great fish dishes I see on tv and how bad I wish I could eat it. Think to myself maybe I’ll like that. then smell it in person and almost gage. I use to love crabs. And yes Maryland blue crabs caught fresh right off our own boat but now when I look at crab meat it makes me sick. I often get that look as well like WHAT YOU DONT LIKE SEAFOOD???? Blasphemy
Food generally tastes like it smells..right? Therein begins the great divide. Have I ever smelled a fish or seafood that did not smell like what it is? I absolutely have not. Oh I’ve heard it all, “this fish is fresh and doesn’t smell or taste fishy at all”…except to me, it does. Big time. Fish to me is gross, makes me gag, and at 60 years old I’m quite at peace having lived my life in the absence of fish..the only thing more vexing than fish are the people who look at me as if there is some kind if deep trauma brewing in my soul that has caused this affliction. Go in peace ye fish lovers, and let me off the hook!
Thank you so much for this! I hate fish and everyone is always telling me its cause I haven’t had it fresh or I haven’t had it this way or that. No, I’ve had it all those ways and I hate it. I don’t understand why they are that way.
I remember being about 9 yrs. old & my mom giving us (me , my brother & sister) a fried shrimp to try. My siblings loved it and wanted more. Me? I never made past the first bite. It was the smell in conjunction with the texture. Both give me that horrible sensations when you know you are about to vomit. For me it’s shellfish specifically. I won’t touch it or anything it’s been added to or anything that’s been cooked in it’s proximity. Folks always assume I’m allergic because they can’t wrap their brains around someone just not liking seafood. Then they say, ” You just haven’t had it prepared right”. I wouldn’t give a rats ass if Emeril or Wolfgang made it. I DON’T LIKE IT!!!!!
Nice article but does not get to the answer to a question I have always had and this is it. Why do some people absolutely crave and love fish, especially SALMON when the taste is absolutely repulsive to others. When asked why I do not like salmon I reply that if it tasted to the questioner the way it tastes to me, nobody would eat it.
OMG you hit the nail on the head on this. I hate fish and seafood so much! When I arrived at a fancy resort in Costa Rica, the concierge interviewed me about my food likes and dislikes. I said, “I don’t like fish or seafood.” Aghast, he said, “WHAT??” Then repeated to another staff, “!Leeenda no me gustan los mariscos…NADA de el mar!” I felt like a freak. (I ended up enjoying wonderful food from the land during my stay.) I don’t consider myself (others would disagree) to be an extremely picky eater, as I can sum up items or categories of food I hate! Other than anything from the mar, it’s wild game and odd meat (anything that’s not beef, pork, chicken, turkey), and mustard. I gag when I see, smell, or taste mustard.
I am glad I read this. I have been a bit scared to travel because I’m afraid of not being able to find anything to eat. I loathe fish and seafood. In elementary school they took us on a field trip to a seafood cannery. Why not just take a child to a slaughterhouse? The blood, the guts, the eyeballs and entrails, but above all, the SMELL. I’ll never forget that smell till the day I die. Maybe I’d be a vegan if they took us to an animal slaughterhouse, but this lifetime, it’s no fish or seafood for me. Thank you. I’ve got friends begging me to come visit them in Portugal.
Stumbled across this article. I thought I was alone in the world. I have to tell people I don’t eat anything that ever lived in the water. I always get “not even shrimp”
I cannot stand anything that comes from the sea or rivers or lakes. So when I say seafood and fish, that also includes conch and other shells, sea cucumbers (sea slugs), alligator, turtles, frog legs, crawfish and all that other weird stuff. Some guy was telling me the other day of a delicious red snapper he cooked and covered with crawfish etouffee. Sounds disgusting to me. I am however an avid fisherman and it boggles people’s minds that I don’t eat it. I just like to fish. If I keep any, I give it to the neighbors, who love it.
Good thing I’m not alone when it comes to not eating fish or seafoods. Sadly it’s a bit tough in my situation since our family runs a fish business and all of them loves seafoods, so what i do is cook my own food and eat alone.
I not only can’t eat/smell fish etc., I can’t visit beaches. Gagging/wretching, throat sore from breathing through mouth. Even the thought of it makes my throat feel funny. Miserable. Anyone know of beaches in California or Hawaii that don’t smell fishy from seaweed or whatever?
I thought I was the only one! The amount of times I’ve heard “you don’t like seafood? Oh but you gotta try this!” Sickens me. I have tried fish and cannot stand it. The taste, the smell, the texture. All of it. I am constantly feeling ashamed when people try to force me to try seafood saying “oh but it doesn’t even taste like seafood!” When in fact, yes it does. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one out there.
Thanks for this article. I grew up hating most seafood but did eat fish or shrimp occasionally. As I got older I quit eating fish and avoided the shrimp mostly. I could not ever tolerate oysters clams or scallops – any type of shellfish or more exotic varieties. Living in south Louisiana I was always on the outside of many social occasions because of this and quit going to boils as they’re called. Usually, decades ago, boils were crabs or shrimp. I can still eat fresh boiled shrimp but now crawfish have become the norm which I utterly want to vomit over due to the smell. I can’t remember anyone having a shrimp boil in decades. I’ve been to sushi restaurants and watching in horror as friends eagerly devoured the most disgusting filth I have ever seen but I never criticize them . Of course they would usually psychoanalyze me on some level with some little remark. They almost always respond with some level of shock and derision when they discover I hate their favorite food which I find to be ignorant and immature. Now we’re in lent so crawfish will be everywhere and the idiots go off and leave the remains of their religious meals laying around after they’re through with them. It always leaves me hoping they get sick!!
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