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Plain Palate

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"I have zero interest in food. If it were feasible, my diet would consist entirely of flavorless beige smoothies containing all the nutrients required by the human animal."
Captain Raymond Holt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

While the primary purpose of eating and drinking is to get nutrients, most of us enjoy the taste of food and drink too, which is why we design foods and drinks specifically to be tasty and why things such as condiments and seasonings were invented to liven up food that isn't normally tasty. These people, on the other hand, actually like their food and drink plain. They may also like non-plain foods or drinks too, but sometimes not.

Maybe they're very pragmatic and view eating and drinking as a means for sustenance only, believing trying to make their food and drink tasty, or eating and drinking solely for fun, to be a waste of time. These types might even go so far as to make their own food designed to be tasteless but have all the right nutrients. You might also occasionally run across a whole culture of people like this. If the pragmatist is an old person, they might talk about how when they were younger, everyone ate plain food/drank plain drink and liked it.


They may also simply not know what real fun is. Expect these people to be general bores and possibly even caricatures of a "normal person" or an elderly person. Both these guys and gals and the pragmatists tend to be Comically Serious.

On a darker side, they might have not had much (if any) experience with tasty food and drink before. Maybe they were raised in poverty or incarcerated or something. As such, they've grown accustomed to plain food and drink and may find tastier food and drink to taste bad due to not being used to it.

They might be a bit neurotic and believe that any food/drink that isn't plain will make them sick or overweight. These people are often, though not always, hippie types who believe tasty foods and drinks, especially sugar, are terrible for you. This might also be partially justified by having them actually more susceptible to food poisoning due to a compromised immune system, have many food allergies, or whatever. If one of these falls into the "partially justified" category and their reason for having a Plain Palate overlaps with the aforementioned pragmatism, they're often a Sickly Neurotic Geek.


Finally, they might just be a Picky Eater. Seeing as preferring plain food and drink is common for young children, it may be a sign that they're either a child or have childish tendencies.

Regardless of the reason, it can overlap with Only One Finds It Fun (if someone serves up something and only this person likes it while the rest find it boring) and Stock "Yuck!" (for the foods and drinks often considered plain, including vanilla ice cream, bread, water, and oatmeal). Sometimes overlaps with The Teetotaler if the character drinks something like water or milk instead of alcohol, but not all teetotalers drink plain drinks. See also Food Pills, which are barely even food.

A sub-trope of Indubitably Uninteresting Individual.


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    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix the Legionary, the squad learns that their daily food is to be wheat, bacon and cheese, all cooked together to save time. Every single soldier (none of which are Roman) finds it disgusting and protests, except, naturally, the Briton.

    Comic Strips 
  • Big Nate: Nate asks Francis what he would eat if he were on a deserted island and could only eat one thing. Francis replies that he would eat veggie burger and drink water, as it is the healthiest choice, which annoys Nate to much that he hits him with a bottle. It's possible that Francis was actually concerned with the idea of surviving on the island, rather then eating what he enjoys.

    Fan Works 
  • Oversaturated World: As part of Group Precipitation, Zesty Gourmand's pony counterpart's fondness for blandness is referenced in Family Recipe by FOME, but her human version doesn't make bland food due to intervention from the human version of the Spirit of Chaos:
    "Subtlety of flavor is one sign of culinary mastery," said Zesty [...] "Another is taking seemingly mundane ingredients and elevating them to something sublime." "Also Uncle John dared her to make it work back in the day."
  • Quizzical: Quizzical is noted as a "A Drab Little Pony", and when asked about her favorite flavor, said, "I am partial to vanilla", a flavor usually treated as boring and plain.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Discworld:
    • Lord Vetinari believes that "a glass of boiled water and half a slice of dry bread was an elegant sufficiency." He's the ruler of the city but is famously Married to the Job and has few creature comforts.
    • A throwaway farmer in one book notes that his porridge has too much cream and brown sugar for his liking.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novels suggest this is a common trait of Techpriests. In "The Greater Good", a techpriest can't figure out why Cain would prefer a steak:
    Techpriest: Soylens viridiens is far more convenient, and provides everything necessary for continuing good health.
    Cain: Except flavour and texture.
    Techpriest: [baffled] Oh. Those.
  • Elcenia: Liria Meialek-rimei, one of the Linnipese soldiers occupying Esmaar, likes her food undersalted and near-flavorless. Talyn, who has to impersonate her, seems to view the "terrible onion soup" on the same level of unpleasantness as having to kiss Liria's husband.
  • In The Fall of the House of Usher, Roderick Usher suffers from generalized hyperesthesia (although the narrator believes that he's just a hypochondriac), with one symptom being that his palate is so sensitive that he can only tolerate extremely bland food.
  • In the novel Land of the Headless, the eponymous underclass are all known for this: cybernetic prostheses can provide them with sight and hearing again, but nothing can replace their lost sense of taste, so the Headless don't even bother eating anything other than nutrient pap. It's not unknown for them to drink heavily when they have the chance, though.
  • In Vovka on the Planet Htrae by Vadim Korostylyov, Vovka is told that he has a Good Counterpart on Htrae, an all-around perfect and proper girl called Vika who, in particular, adores fish oil and castor oil, the very medicines Vovka refuses to take.
  • In the Divergent series, members of the Abnegation faction don't season their food or otherwise enhance the experience of consuming it.
  • Emma: Mr. Woodhouse and his elder daughter Isabella both love gruel. Mr. Woodhouse himself can't stomach rich or heavy food, forgets that others aren't like him, and would offer it to guests as a treat if not for his daughter Emma.
  • The Locked Tomb: Courtesy of an aescetic upbringing in a Necromancer cult on a barren world, Harrowhark treats food purely as fuel, drinks only water, and has no tolerance for strong flavours. When she treats herself to water with sugar and a drop of lemon, she needs to savour it slowly.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder: Parodied in "Beer" with Blackadder's fundamentalist Puritan aunt and uncle, who believe that Misery Builds Character and insist on a dinner of raw turnip.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: The Comically Serious Captain Holt has "zero interest in food" beyond fulfilling his dietary needs as efficiently as possible. He dislikes pizza and says he'd prefer to consume only flavorless smoothies. However, he also reminisces fondly about sharing a croque-monsieur with his husband on their first anniversary in Paris.
  • Goodness Gracious Me has its famous "Going for an English" sketch, which is about Asian people going to an "English" restaurant and behaving the way that white British people stereotypically do in Indian restaurants. One gag has them demanding "the blandest thing on the menu".
  • Star Trek:
    • Culturally, Vulcan foods and drinks are very plain with little to no seasonings. This is likely because Vulcans greatly value stoicism and likely do not seek enjoyment out of eating and drinking the way humans do. In addition, they're all vegetarians (they can eat meat but they choose not to), so they don't need to preserve meat.
    • Due to being Borg for most of her life, Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager doesn't value taste when it comes to eating and drinking and often settles for plain food.
    • One species called the Kadi, featuring in a Voyager episode, don't like any spices in their food because they believe it "inflames the senses". The Kobali from another episode eat nothing but a plain gray paste.
    • One species, the Vissians, featuring in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Cogenitor", don't like their food to be very tasty as they prefer to focus on the way the food smells rather than tastes.
    • Even though emergency rations aren't designed to be tasty, there's a special type O'Brien likes.
    • The Vorta from Deep Space Nine have a limited sense of taste, so they're more concerned with the texture, rather than flavor, of their food.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street: Bert likes oatmeal and plain soda water and he hates ice cream sodas. That said, he does enjoy some non-plain foods too, such as chocolate ice cream.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons Eberron setting, the race of kalashtar consider very mild, subtle flavors more pleasant than strong ones. A kettle of soup prepared by kalashtar is basically water with a trickle of broth and a few individual flakes of seasoning added.

    Video Games 
  • Hana from Fire Emblem Fates enjoys eating Ninja ration buns, despite Saizo telling her that they are only meant to be compact and filling and don't have much taste as they are made from ingredients like pounded rice and flaked fish.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: As another symptom of his Ambiguous Disorder, Lemongrab prefers his meals "lovingly boiled of all flavor" until they're "mild as kitten milk".
  • In the first episode of Disenchantment Elfo was shown quite enjoying a meager meal prepared by some poor farmers that was likely very bland. It's possible that to him, since it was his first non-candy meal, he was blown away just because it wasn't sweet. Later episodes don't seem to show him having any particular food preferences, however.
  • Bill Green from Big City Greens claims that his favorite food is water cause it's good enough for his plants, he also remarked shortly after that vanilla ice cream was a bit too spicy for him.
  • The Loud House:
    • Lisa Loud is a stoic Child Prodigy who invented "kelp leather" for her snack at kindergarten in the episode "Friend or Faux?", which has all the essential nutrients but no taste. However, Lisa does also like to have dessert now and again (despite occasionally worrying that it'll affect her blood sugar), and she draws the line at having nutrients injected into her bloodstream like the scientists were doing in "The Mad Scientist". Said scientists also ate tasteless nutrient blobs.
    • In "The Old and the Restless", Sue tries to invoke this trope by trying to get the elderly people to eat plain food, claiming it's easier to digest. When Lincoln reminds Pop-Pop that his digestive system works just fine, though, Pop-Pop eats chili instead.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Spice Up Your Life", the 3-star restaurants, the highest rated by Zesty Gourmand, have small proportions and bland-tasting food.
  • The Horde in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power only supplies its soldiers with ration bars. There is a general consensus that the gray kind is better than the brown kind, and Catra states they're her favor food in a Twitter Q&A. While Adora was enthralled when she had something else to eat, Scorpia is so used to the bars she spits up some vegetables the moment she tastes them.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Father Knows Worst", Homer develops new taste buds after his old ones get burned off, making him extremely sensitive to any kind of flavourful tastes. He later gets a job at the school cafeteria because the food there is so tasteless its the only thing he can eat without having any problems.
    • In the episode "Viva Ned Flanders" Ned makes clear that his favorite meal is plain bread with water to wash it down. The way that his family finishes his sentence, however (heck, the fact that he is so predictable that they can finish it at all, period) is what makes him finally accept that he's done absolutely nothing exciting in his life, which leads him to ask Homer for help.
  • In the first episode of Green Eggs and Ham, Guy-Am-I eats dry oatmush, and gets increasingly irritated at the waitress offering him toppings for it.

    Real Life 
  • The "supertaster" is a person who experiences a sense of taste with much stronger intensity than normal. Many of them prefer plainer foods due to finding their tastes more interesting than a regular taster would and/or finding non-plain foods too strong, however, not all supertasters are like this.
  • Cultures that arise in colder climates (including Britain) tend not to use as much spice as those in warmer climates (like India, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America). This may be because spices help preserve meat in hot weather, which just isn't necessary when the cold can do it for you.
  • Subverted with French Haute Cuisine; while its recipes use few if any spices (due to most spice-producing areas being British or Dutch colonies at the time it was developed), nobody would say that they're bland or flavorless...
  • Babies and very young children have a very sensitive sense of taste, and tastebuds in more places than adults (e.g. the tonsils and back of the throat). That's a large part of the reason they tend to prefer food that is either sweet or on the bland side: strongly flavored food tends to overwhelm them, and even vegetables that don't taste like much to an adult may be unpalatably bitter or pungent to a young child.
  • British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was a man know for his extremely spartan lifestyle. This extended to preferring food that was very plain and not particularly tasty (as military field rations tend to be). When Churchill was informed that Montgomery had dined with some captured German officers, he knew Montgomery well enough to say that his sympathies were entirely with the German officers.


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