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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. Or maybe their society was big on convenient nutrition without any sort of flavor. 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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    Anime & Manga 

    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.
  • Rorschach of Watchmen is seen frequently munching on sugar cubes, with the most elaborate food he eats beyond that being uncooked beans right out of the can. Given everything else wrong about him, it paints a clear picture that he's so deep into his vigilantism that he eats simply because it gives him energy; preparing anything fancier is a waste of his precious time.

    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 than eating what he enjoys.

    Fan Works 
  • Empath and the Psyches in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf have developed this since their main meals in Psychelia consisted of nutrient paste, which is described as porridge made with a bag of cement. However, since Empath's first taste of a smurfberry, Empath's palate has broadened, and so eventually has his friend Polaris Psyche's when he was cured of his degenerative disease.
  • 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.
  • In the Divergent series, members of the Abnegation faction don't season their food or otherwise enhance the experience of consuming it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hitman: Enemy Within exposits that Agent 47 has one of these as per his ascetic lifestyle, in turn largely enforced by his profession being not exactly conducive to a "high life". It's stated that he subsists largely on fast food because they're pre-prepared and anonymously-produced, and are thus far less risky than a luxury steak dinner that may be poisoned.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe: 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.

    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".
  • Odd Squad: Keeping in line with her serious and stoic nature, Olive has very different tastes than her Big Eater of a partner and prefers foods that are plain in some manner, such as cupcakes with no frosting.
  • 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.

    Myths & Religion 
  • There is a story about a rich man who proudly describes to Rabbi Israel, the "Maggid of Kosnitz", that he eats only one meal each day: bread with salt, washed down with water. The Maggid sends him home, admonishing him to eat meat and other fine food and to drink fine wine. When the Maggid's disciples wonder why their master gave that advice, he explains that if the rich man was used to eating good food, he would understand that the poor needed food, even if only bread and salt, but that if the rich man continued with his meager diet, he might think that poor people "could live on stones" (in other words, need no food at all).

    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 
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The city-state of Gridania is known for their, to put it gently, lightly-seasoned cuisine. On adventurer complains that water has more flavor than the food itself, despite having culinarians in its marketplace, as well as Mother Miounne's famous eel pies. Conversely, in Endwalker, a Twin Adder soldier comments that the Ala Mhigan stew he was served is too flavorful for his liking, which the other soldiers gently rib him for.
    • Old Sharlayan has this even worse. A nation of scholars and scientists, most of them are so focused on research that food is generally the last thing on their mind. The food that the nation is most known for, Archon Loaf, is a loaf of bread that is jam packed with as many nutrients as possible to the total cost of taste and texture. In fact, there is exactly one (1) proper restaurant in the entire city created by one of the scholars who was so fed up with the lack of any kind of food that he made his own restaurant appropriately named The Last Stand. And the culinarian/alchemist questline involves a feud between a student who wants to create an updated version of Archon Loaf that actually is enjoyable to eat and a professor who is creating an updated version of said loaf that manages to be even worse to eat (when the player character tastes said loaf, the narration states that it is easily the worst thing they have ever eaten).
  • 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 Animation 
  • One Running Gag from Zero Punctuation is that really boring people (e.g protagonists with no interesting character traits or personalities) can be identified by their fondness for crab paste.

    Web Comics 
  • Widdershins: Mal doesn't enjoy eating, explaining in a bonus comic that his complete colour blindness makes all food look unappealing at best. It's no loss; he and his housemates are utterly talentless cooks.
  • Joyce in Dumbing of Age has very particular food preferences, and this trope applies to some of them. Partly because of this, and partly because she believes in following instructions exactly, she is horrified by the idea of adding things to macaroni and cheese. Although sometimes, when she's feeling spicy, she does include a pinch of salt.

    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".
  • Bill Green from Big City Greens claims that his favorite food is water cause it's good enough for his plants. He also remarks shortly after that vanilla ice cream is a bit too spicy for him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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", food critic Zesty Gourmand prefers her food to be bland and served in small portions (despite what her name implies). She refuses to give any other kind of food a chance, so the restaurants on Restaurant Row serve food this way to get a three-hoof rating from her.
  • 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 is enthralled when she has 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.
  • Robin as depicted in Teen Titans Go! is such a wet blanket that his preferred meal is unseasoned boiled potatoes. He considers salt to be unbearably spicy.

    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.note  Spices also make you sweat, especially "hot" ones, which is great in hot climates but not so much in cold ones.
  • 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.
  • The (somewhat eccentric) English-born American political pundit Andrew Sullivan has commented on a few occasions that he's not really that into food and would be happy to take most of his sustenance as relatively flavorless shakes or powders with only occasional actual meals.
  • People with orthorexia, an obsession with eating healthfully, may like plain, bland food because they view food as sustenance for the body and little or nothing else and believe that deriving enjoyment from food is unhealthy and irresponsible.
  • One common trait in autism and Asperger's Syndrome is sensory sensitivity, which can obviously affect taste as much as any other sense. In more extreme taste-related cases, it can manifest as being so sensitive that one can only enjoyably eat plain-tasting foods.


Video Example(s):


Wade's Plain Foods

Wade prefers his food to be room temperature and usually plain.

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Example of:

Main / PlainPalate

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