A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store just minding my own business and then I spotted it. Long, skinny, with a ton of feathery leaves. Celery. I had to think quickly. How could I navigate around it or maneuver away from it before my husband spotted it. You see, I have this thing about celery. It is possibly the only one food on the planet that I absolutely cannot stand. With due apologies to all celery lovers out there, forgive me this one. But I cannot lie.

It started about 18 years or so ago when I first came to the US. I had never eaten celery before although I vaguely recall hearing about it but I had never seen it or tasted it. I was in college and a fellow student invited a group of us for dinner. A t dinner, I was introduced to this slim, green, fairly innocent looking vegetable.

My friend was chopping ingredients for a salad she was making. I stood there watching and smelling. Something smelled very strange. After a while I couldn’t stand it anymore. “What is that smell?” I asked her. “What smell?” “That strange odor,” I said looking around and then determined it was coming from the ingredient she was chopping. “What is that?” I asked pointing to the long, slender, green stem. My friend looked at me very strangely, “Em… celery….” Well, I informed her, I had never seen or tasted it. She managed a smile but her eyes betrayed her. I must have seemed like the biggest dolt in the world. Her eyes said: who hasn’t tasted celery? But gracious as she was, she offered me a piece and told me how much she loved it. “It has like no calories, it is so good for your system and it goes with anything. I add it to this chicken salad, to sandwiches, and of course, you can add cream cheese to it and eat it.” Sounded good to me and so I bit into it.

Oh, dear.

Have you ever seen those cartoons where a character takes a bite of something so gross that his whole body turns green and he bloats up and is about ready to explode? Well, I looked and felt pretty close to that image. The strange unfamiliar taste did not please my taste buds. I have tasted things before that I have not enjoyed but this was something else. The smell and the taste combination were so unpleasant that I could not imagine anyone would like it. It defied logic. But I was in the minority. All the folks around the table popped a piece in their mouths too and talked about what a nice taste it was. Once man’s food…

I can’t tell you why I react so strongly to celery. But I do. I have researched it and some researchers say that there is a particular component in celery that smells really bad to some people. I have no way to verify that.

I have to admit that even more annoying than celery are the people who try to keep convincing me to try it again and again. “You don’t know what you are missing,” they will say and try to feed it to me in any format they think i will like – soups, salads, in drinks. My dear friends, no offense, but please don’t. I just don’t like it. I eat everything else on the planet so what if I don’t like celery?

These days, there is no escaping the smell. My husband loves to eat it lathered with peanut butter. My kids don’t seem to mind it so clearly the hatred, thankfully, wasn’t passed down. I wrap it in saran wrap and then put it in a bag way at the back of the fridge and yet, I can smell it. It is there, taunting me, asking me, why? Why don’t you love me?

So as my family betrays me, I look to the Internet for camaraderie. And yes, there is a I HATE CELERY group on Facebook.

Perhaps it is time for me to join.


Is there a food you hate? Tell me about it here. Leave a comment, share a rant. One lucky winner will get a signed copy of my book MODERN SPICE. And guess what? It doesn’t have a single recipe that uses celery! The giveaway ends on Friday, July 9th at 3:00 pm and winners will be announced here. Please do participate!

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  1. Parsley. Cannot stand it. Restaurants love me as I ask them to “leave the landscaping off my food.” Ick.

  2. Liverwurst. I cannot stand the texture and the grease. Also, it makes my mouth reek and slimy. Its an induce-vomit. My mother and my boyfriend love liverwurst and they would tease on me by waving it in front of my nose. haha.

  3. Aloha. I had to scour my imagination to come up with a food I can’t stand, probably because I am hungry! Deep thought brings me to American cheese. I am pretty sure it is not actual cheese, but an impostor colored a most improbable orange and usually making its appearance on top of a hamburger patty made partially from a cow who never tasted grass and thoroughly processed soybeans.

  4. Although I really wish I liked them, I hate eggs. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I slept over a friend’s house, and her parents served eggs for breakfast. I had tried eggs before, hated them, and had consistently been refusing to eat them. But on this morning, I gave them another chance. (Really I was just too shy to say I didn’t like eggs.) So I ate them. And this time I liked them. Until I got sick. Now tasting the texture of eggs gives me that same feeling I had after eating them at my friend’s house.

  5. There is a long list of foods I hate/don’t like…at the very top are Sardines…i have tried, and I don’t mean just the canned type. I went to a cooking class in Palermo Sicily where we cooked and bought the freshest sardines, beautifully cleaned…cooked them in a popular Palermitano dish with breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, raisin, pignoli, olive oil, parsley…one taste, that’s all it took to ruin the entire meal for me…just can’t eat oily fish and sardines are at the top…

  6. For as long as I can remember, I have hated jello. That jiggly texture is too much for me – yuck!

    When I was 11, I spent a weekend visiting a friend. I had just gotten braces a few days earlier and my friend’s Mom very graciously prepared foods that would be easy for me to eat with my new mouth of metal. So she made jello for dessert and I just could not get it down. I made up some excuse about it bothering my braces, but I’m sure she saw through this. It was not one of my finer etiquette moments!

  7. Wow. You really, really don’t like celery, do you? Well, to each his (or her) own 🙂 This makes me think of how some people taste soap when they eat cilantro.

    I do understand. My personal dislike is liver. Calves’ liver to be precise. My mother used to try to make me and my sisters eat it when we were children and I could never even get past the smell. She fried it up with onions, seasoned it nicely, but that smell just got me every time.

  8. I hate broccoli. It is the devil. I cannot be in the room with broccoli. I have always disliked it, but when I was in college, students in the dining hall would take broccoli from the salad bar, put it in the microwave with water to steam it and then put ranch and cheese on it. Very creative, but the smell was horrific. It put me off broccoli forever. I left a friend’s house once when she was steaming a huge batch of broccoli for her kids. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. The devil I tell you!!

  9. Cilantro. It looks beautiful but has always tasted like soap to me. People will ruin perfectly good guacamole or rice or salad with handfuls of this stuff. Yuck.

    I also hate mushrooms (people always ask, ‘how can you be a vegetarian who hates mushrooms?’ and I answer, ‘I don’t know but I’ve been one for 22 yrs.’) Maybe it’s the “meaty” texture. Ew.

  10. I love food and I’ll try just about anything (except horse meat–sorry I love horses too much so I could never eat one)but there is one food item that hates me. I would like to eat it, but it won’t let me. So I hate cantaloupe because it hates me. I have a horrific reaction to it. It causes my lips and tongue to itch like crazy and the back of my throat completely swells up. It can’t even be on the same plate as the rest of my food.

  11. Peanut butter. Hate the smell. Hate the texture. Hate the memory of adults who insisted I really would like it if I tried it.

  12. Can’t. Eat. Mushrooms. It’s fungus! It’s not a fruit, it’s not a vegetable, it’s not animal. It’s FUNGUS. What’s hilarious about my dislike of mushrooms is that my Italian-American family loves them and cooks them a LOT. There are always mushrooms at holidays. And everyone always forgets that I don’t eat them. I get this, from my MOTHER: “You don’t like mushrooms? Really?” To be fair, it’s not the taste necessarily (sauces or soups made with mushrooms? Fine, if made well). It’s the texture against my teeth. Ewwwww. I’ll say again, it’s fungus.

  13. Hmph. I looked at this wanting to say I HATE CELERY but you have already said it all. I stand with you, sister. Begone foul celery of doom.

  14. I hate peas. They’re mushy, their color is awful, they shrink up and pucker when you cook them and they remind me of rancid baby food. Uck!!

  15. Lettuce (particularly of the iceberg variety)- this makes me an outcast at almost every dinner party I ever get invited to because Americans think salad (no matter how limp and pitiful) is a nice, healthy appetizer. Most lettuce I’ve tried has zero flavor and there’s something about the texture that I just can’t stand. Shredded iceberg lettuce on a sandwich is just a nightmare- once it’s on, you can’t EVER get all of it off. I adore vegetables, but when I tell anyone I don’t eat lettuce, they immediately assume I must be an incredibly picky eater. Well, I guess I am. I don’t like wasting my energy chewing something that tastes like nothing.

  16. My One Hated Food: water chestnuts…for some reason, I cannot stand this one simple item. I think it might be texture related. For me there’s just something off about crunching into one, almost like an invasion upon my teeth. It’s akin to fingernails scraping across a blackboard. Yeah, it’s that bad.

  17. I don’t really care for celery either, but my hatred does not run that deep. I’m ashamed to admit that I cannot stand raw tomatoes. They look beautiful, everyone loves them, but I cringe whenever I bite it. I try every couple of years just to make sure that I haven’t maybe “grown out of it”. I’m 34 and I still do not like them.

  18. I haven’t eaten red meat in more than twenty years and have been thinking about trying it again. But there’s one meat I’ll continue to avoid: lamb. Hate the smell of it cooking, hate the taste, hate the texture. Not even the spicy Indian sauces I adore can dress up lamb enough for me.

  19. Squid cooked in its own ink. I am an omnivore. I will try just about anything if others eat and enjoy it. I love calamare (first cousin of squid) fried or cooked just about any method. But imagine eating anything stewed in the water that you have used to clean out the ash in the bottom of your charcoal grill. THAT is the taste and that is the texture of the dish. Why would you? Why would anyone choose to eat that? Beats me when there are so many other wonderful things to eat in this world. Once was enough. Never again.

  20. Squid, octopus, tofu, okra. There simply isn’t anything you can do to these ‘things’ that’ll make them taste good to me. Believe me, many have tried.

  21. I know that I sound like a brat, but I REALLY hate eggplant, okra, and raw cilantro. With all three, something about the texture grosses me out. My family is from India and my parents love making bharta, okra, and using cilantro to garnish everything. It is a sore of tension between us!

  22. Bindu nair varma

    It’s organ meats,dried fish & bitter gourd for me.Can’t stand the texture & aftertaste of offal meat.Dried fish,on account of the smell & because I was force fed on it once as a child & bitter gourd because I can’t stand any thing bitter.Also have never been able to accept people eating snails,alligator paws,frog legs,fried crickets,curried squirrels & other exotica.

  23. Monica… the answer is instant… probably the one food I do not like… cannot stand and that is Liver. When I was a child of about 7 or 8 a friend invited me over for dinner. She said, “We are having steak!” And little me loved steak and did not get it very often. I begged and begged my mom to let me go and so I sat down to the families table and the 1960’s mom in her frilly apron sat a huge platter of “steaks” on the table. At my house, steaks were always thick and grilled, but here they were very thin and smothered in some kind of a sauce. Still, I knew I loved steak… and so I dug in and carved off a nice chunk and put it in my mouth and started to chew. I got through maybe two chews and heaved all over the table. I was both humiliated and sick at the same time. I thought that the *steak* was the worst thing I ever tasted. While the mother cleaned up my mess and everyone was totally grossed out, she said,”Some people just don’t like liver.” Count me in on that group! There were many things I did not like as a kid that I have grown to like as an adult, but liver is not one of them!

  24. Bananas and anything flavored with rosewater or orange water. The funny thing is I will eat banana bread, and banana cream pie but banana as a fruit-Ewwwww!

  25. Peanut butter. I love it in spicy sauces but plain? There’s nothing worse! I think it’s the texture, it makes me feel sick even thinking about it!

    Re celery… I think this is a very powerful vegetable that has undiscovered properties. Did you know there is such a thing as celery-induced asthma? Bizarre and interesting.

  26. Figs. No matter how hard I tried to like them (either dried or fresh), the cloying sweetness and the texture just doesn’t sit well with me. Also, it didn’t help while growing up, my mom would keep trying to chase me around the house and stuff one in my mouth, as she thinks I would miraculously start liking it.

  27. Licorice. Anything even vaguely licorice-y, like fennel. The taste lingers in the back of my throat, even after I’ve brushed my teeth. My parents, Dad in particular, loved the stuff, and couldn’t understand why none of his kids could tolerate it, but we can’t. Yeucch.

  28. This makes sense actually, I have a similar reaction to celery as you and I believe it’s similar to licorice. Some years ago there was a study on tastes, one of it’s conclusions is that people can only like or dislike licorice, with no real in-between. This was determined to be a chemical composition that just doesn’t sit with some people’s pallets.
    Personally, I can’t stand either.

  29. Lisa Waterman Gray

    Canned spinach. Until I tasted fresh leaves I never thought I’d get anywhere near to this vegetable, but I adore the fresh stuff. Just don’t serve it to me from a can with sliced egg or vinegar!

  30. I am so with you on the celery, but there is one food item higher on the list for me. Cooked bell peppers – of any color. And it is so odd because I like raw bell peppers and cooked chile peppers. Guess there is no accounting for taste buds, but then I am in the cilantro soap camp too. I can still eat around cikantro but not cooked bell peppers I can smell them a mile away.

  31. The Runaway Spoon wins Modern Spice!! Email me your address and I will get you a copy asap!

  32. Very strong stinky scary cheeses!

  33. I hate celery too! And I love most vegetables. But celery? Vile.

  34. That is so funny, Monica–I’ve never heard of anyone despising celery before! You really made me laugh.

  35. Black licorice. I didn’t even hesitate to write this. I hate it, hate the smell, hate the thought of it!

  36. Can’t think of any food I hate to that extent, which makes me lucky I guess.
    But Monica – I’m wondering if you’ve ever had Chinese celery (it’s usually cooked)? I’m not trying to sway your aversion, but it’s so different to American celery. I never really cared for celery — or rather, I never knew celery really had much flavor — till I tried the Chinese stuff.

  37. Interestingly, it’s said that celery is among the foods that can cause spontaneous abortion. So maybe there’s a subliminal self-preservation instinct at play.

    I have a childhood memory of disliking it, but have outgrown that distaste, along with others.

    Food I hate? Goat cheese (except for feta). As you say: Why? Bleh! ;-P

  38. Celery. I hate everything about it. EVERYTHING. I can be eating something, like tonight, and not even know that they’ve hidden celery in it. But once I find it…I’ve lost my appetite. No, actually, I feel like I need to throw up.

  39. I am still averse to lima beans. It’s the texture and flavor that throw me off.

  40. OKRA & Taro, actually, its the glutinous slime that throws me off,

    1. Okra? Really? I love, love, love okra. 🙂

  41. Fresh coriander or cilantro! Hate it!

  42. Wow, is this “admit which food you hate above all others” week? I just came clean with my disgust for bananas today on GFS. I completely understand how you feel about celery. I only just started to like it – more than tolerate it, I mean – this year.

  43. I know what your talking about, but funny enough, I find that it’s only the older, more bitter outside stalks that I don’t like. The tender and sweeter, inside stalks don’t seem to have that certain “disagreeable” quality. So, sometime if you’re feeling brave, try the real heart of the celery….the tiny, pale ones and see if you like it a bit better.

  44. Like many others here, I hate cilantro. I also despise green olives stuffed with pimentos. but the martinis are good, dirty!

    1. And of course you can’t have a Bloody Mary without celery.

  45. My ex boyfriend hated cilantro. His whole family detested it. We could never decided if it was nature or nurture. I loved him very much, but I love Cilantro too.

  46. I don’t know that there’s any food I HATE though there are some I’m not terribly fond of and given a choice wouldn’t choose in a restaurant or wouldn’t choose to make myself. And really there’s no need to eat food one doesn’t care for as there are so many other foods to choose from and their number happily is increasing as the exposure of Americans to the cuisines of other countries continues to increase.

    As for your husband, Monica — I have a suggestion for his next birthday. Buy him one of those small, dorm or office-sized refrigerators of his very own. They can be purchased for under $100 and he can keep his stash of his celery in it. If you have a garage, you can insist that he keep this refrigerator in it and you’ll never have to even LOOK at celery in your home again – that is, if you can extract a promise from him that henceforth, from this birthday forward, he will only eat his celery in the garage or outside.

  47. There are a few foods I’m picky about (mayo, ketchup, too-sweet desserts, canned seafood) but celery is the only thing I really hate.

  48. I’ve always considered broccoli my arch-nemesis, although I’m now willing to eat it raw with hummus or something. I’ll eat it cooked ONLY in very saucy Asian dishes. But my overall I-will-not-eat-it-in-any-form food is avocado. Apart from the flavor, which I do not like, nothing should have the texture of hard-boiled eggs except hard-boiled eggs. Avocado weirds me out.

  49. I thought I had already left a comment on this, but turns out I haven’t yet. Here goes: CILANTRO. LIke you, I can’t explain it. I’ve been cooking for ages, but I can’t force myself to like it. If a recipe calls for it, I work around it. BUT if I’m not the cook and I taste it in my food, then I politely say nothing, do nothing, but just shove it to the side of the plate. Some things are better left unsaid.

  50. I don’t love celery, but I don’t hate it either – just wondering how you feel about celeriac..which for some reason I love even though I am not huge celery fan
    For me, I hate avocados…hate the mushy texture..I just want to gag if it gets on my plate by mistake…and I am Caribbean where they eat it a sister used to say I was adopted because there was no way I could be Caribbean and not like avocadoes 🙂

  51. This is funny. But I, too, am one who doesn’t like celery although obviously without the horror and disgust of your own dislike. I like the crunch and will happily eat it slathered with either cream cheese or peanut butter although each bite does find me recoiling at the taste of the celery before my tastebuds pick up the lovely flavor of the cheese or peanut butter. So maybe I like the vehicle of celery, the perfect edible vehicle for those two ingredients I love so well. On the other hand, my husband loves it and tries to add it to every dish he can. I grin and bear it and try to leave most of the celery bits in the bowl when I serve myself. Eel. Eel is another food I truly hate while he absolutely adores it. Go figure.

  52. Yes, I have the same reaction to celery! Raw celery anyway. If I eat it, I start getting a gag reflex. I heard that there is some chemical in celery that certain people are sensitive to and others just can’t detect at all.

    Yes, I also got the “you should try it with peanut butter” line. Tried it, and it was still terrible. Though the peanut butter was good.

  53. I am similar! I hate celery with a passion. The smell is enough to make me nauseous and the taste is more horrid than anything else. Interesting thing is none of my three brothers or parents have the same reaction but 5 of my mothers 6 brothers react the same or worse than I do.

  54. How fun to read your post! I do find an increasing number of Indians disliking it, including myself. I wonder if the taste of celery is in contrast with the flavors we are taught to like growing up. I am not a stickler for Indian food. In fact, I love trying out new dishes. But I just can’t put a finger on why I hate celery. My only other dislike is papaya, though I can bear it to a certain extent- compared to celery.

  55. Celery. I’m with you. It is foul!
    I also hate peppers. Red, green, yellow, orange, I don’t care. They’re all disgusting. And so strong flavoured they ruin a whole meal. There’s plenty of things I don’t like but will eat everything else in the dish but if there’s peppers in it, it’s ruined.

  56. Seaweed. It is absolutely the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. I had it once at a Japanese restaurant, and I could not get the taste out of my mouth for an entire day. I can’t exactly remember the taste today, but I know I tried a little bite of some a year or two ago—it was a little bit different in color from the previous time, and a friend promised me it was good—and YUCK. It was just as horrible, although since I only took a little taste this time and not a whole mouthful, it didn’t take as long to get the taste out of my mouth. And it’s not just the taste—the texture is horrible, too. Slimy. Nasty-tasting. I don’t like tofu, either, although a vegetarian friend took me to a restaurant once that made a chocolate cake with tofu, and it was good! But tofu by itself—ugh. It’s like eating slimy styrofoam.

  57. Eugh, yes, down with Celery! I especially hate how people ruin perfectly good dishes with it! Just now – my “snack” is a chicken salad we get at Costco – nice rotisserie chicken, some light seasonings, and mayonnaise. It’s heavenly… except they also add Celery to it! ECK! Why in the world would you want something CRUNCHY in a creamy chicken salad?

  58. I too tried celery for the first time today. Had always heard about it and was pretty excited to try it in a chicken salad. As soon as i opened the wrapping, i got the horrid strong smell. I thought may be the leaves are the reason. I immediately cut it off and took the stalks and started scrapping thinking let the smell go but it didnt. Even washed it vigorously with ice water. Somehow i cut it into small pieces and hesitatingly threw bits of it into my salad. Boy it was the smell and taste of it in my mouth that spoilt the salad for me. Never ever am i going to try it again. Needless to say that the rest of it went to the dustbin. Adios celery!
    P.S I stumbled here as i googled for how to avoid the smell of celery if any tricks 🙂 and am pleased to find a like minded person..

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