When Cheese Tastes Like Dirty Socks and Other Taste Bud Issues

During an evening out with some friends, we were comparing notes on our likes and dislikes of cheese. This branched into a discussion of dirty socks and dirty underwear which had us laughing quite hard, but it was actually all about the variations of taste buds.

My taste buds have been cultivated by the generations that came before me. I definitely have the Mediterranean (Israeli) blood because I love Mediterranean food and olives, and weird fish like sardines. I love ethnic food, in particular, my Jewish ethnic food. Give me a deli that serves these delicacies and I am in heaven.

I also love anything sweet, carbohydrate, and dairy. That includes cheese – which I absolutely am passionate about, with the exception of gross ones like head cheese, Limburger cheese and the like.

I can’t tolerate Bleu Cheese. As I described it to someone, it is so sharp to my tastebuds, it is like a needle going straight up into my skull. Is that a vivid enough picture for you?

Getting back to a double date with friends Liz and Neil, who love to be adventurous with food, they shocked both me and my husband by announcing that they hated goat cheese, perhaps the most bland, benign cheese ever.

Liz matter-of-factly, and with a straight face,  explained that to her, goat cheese smelled and tasted like dirty socks. Her husband concurred that goat cheese tastes like dirty socks. Which is really curious because when have they tasted dirty socks?

I then explained that Bleu Cheese tastes like dirty underwear. And no, I have never sampled that but I was trying to make a point. Bleu Cheese, a very sharp cheese with just as many detractors as lovers, is so awful to some people, that it is worse than dirty socks.

The conversation then turned very silly with a discussion of how brussel sprouts taste like dirt to me. You can see how mature we were during this conversation, but they are two of our most mature and grown-up friends.

We then talked about garlic and agreed that we all love garlic. (I actually know a few people who HATE garlic if you can believe that.) My husband explained that he has to be careful about how much he consumes before hockey because he sweats so much and the smell of garlic comes right out of his sweat glands. I recalled how many times I could tell when the person next to me in Bikram Yoga, where we don’t just sweat, but we become puddles (schvitz to use the Yiddish vernacular) had eaten a big garlicky Italian meal.

There is a point this this though. What tastes awful to one person is delightful to someone else because taste buds are unique for each and every person. And sometimes there’s just no accounting for taste.



  • You don’t have to actually put dirty socks in your mouth to say that something tastes like that. I’m tired of this notion. It VERY OBVIOUSLY means that the taste matches the smell. For me, goat cheese tastes exactly the way the dirty wash rags they wiped my high school cafeteria tables with SMELLED. Exactly. Not a little bit…. EXACTLY. And that’s disgusting.

  • For some reason, melted cheese has a hint of a balloon after the party (dirty rubber). Is this common?

  • I think I’m about the only person who only likes cheese two ways. Melted on a pizza or on a grilled cheese sandwich. I can not stand cold cheese of any kind and I have yet to taste anyone’s Mac’N Cheese and liked it. There is just no flavor to it at all for me. And every time I make that statement, someone swear that I would love theirs. That being said, I had a best friend in high school with very stinky feet. So bad you had to put her shoes outside at night. We would laugh so hard that we were crying because we both thought the bad smell was the same smell as cheese crackers. Needless to say, I don’t eat those either.

  • My husband hates cilantro which I adore. I think it’s exotic and flavorful. His family dislikes it. Sister in law calls it “flys breath” lol.

  • I think when people say “it tastes like” they are referring to what it smells like, and assuming the smell will match the taste. And if you ever sampled the brussels sprouts I make for my cousin’s annual holiday dinner, you’d rethink the vegetable that tastes like candy! (Chop and saute the brussels sprouts in butter after you’ve generously coated them with cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt..saute them for six minutes, and then added a few tablespoons of sugar and cook until carmelized…about a minute longer.They smell and taste divine!

    • You are right!! But I will pass on the sweet brussel sprouts. If you have to doctor them up that much, I would rather indulge in another food!!

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