THE YUK FACTOR

A chemical company claims it has created the world’s worst tasting concoction. Their non-toxic mixture, they say, is guaranteed to discourage horses from chewing on their wooden stalls.

While their vile brew may be effective in keeping Dobbin from devouring his living room, that’s a very audacious boast about it having the most uninviting flavor on the planet.

First of all, how many stables have they rendered inedible and how many horses have they interviewed? Also, some scientific outfit must have, by now, invented a way to measure the degree of untastiness of food products and medicines. We all have our own personally nominated candidates for this shameful championship, the one we believe has achieved the highest Yuk Factor.

Mine would be Milk of Magnesia which I first gagged on at the age of five when there were no mint or cherry flavored versions. I got it neat, undiluted and without a chaser. I didn’t feel that unwell at the time, but my mother decided I needed medication. “This will make you feel better,” she said. “It’s Milk of Magnesia.”

I was a great fan of milk back then so I fell for it and opened wide as the big spoon approached. “Aaaagh!” If this is milk, I thought, it must have come from a very sick cow or maybe even a dead one, and who would name a cow Magnesia anyway? I noticed that the ugly blue bottle had a warning: “Keep out of reach of children” and I understood the logic. The first chance I got I tossed it into the trash can.

Mom used the get-it-over-quick dosing method. Today there are more scientific approaches. One website explains most of our taste buds are in the front and sides of our tongues, so foul-tasting medicines should be introduced toward the rear of the tongue, but forward of the gagging line. Holding the subject’s nose helps since 80 percent of our “taste” is actually smell. Also, clamping the nose encourages the victim to keep his mouth open if he wants to continue breathing.

“There’s no accounting for taste” is an accurate statement. There are people who are nauseated by a single sip of sour milk who, on the other hand, are entusiastic eaters of bleu cheese, sour pickles, sour cream and saurkraut. Then there’s the “If it tastes bad it must be good for us” school of thought also known as the “Broccoli Principle” I don’t agree. Any food that makes us queasy or unhappy cannot be beneficial.

My second-place nominee for the Yuk Factor Award is liver. Over the years I’ve given liver a dozen chances and was repulsed each time. A liver lover will say, “Oh, you probably didn’t have it prepared properly. It has to be gently sauteed.” But the results are always yukable. It continues to taste like an organ removed from a very sick cow named Magnesia.

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