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Tastes Better Than It Looks

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"The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside."
Morbo judging Bender's food, Futurama

We all know not to judge a book by its cover, but what about food? Chances are, if something smells and looks repulsive, it'll taste just as bad. After all, how could that plate of green eggs be anything other than rotten, or that bowl of murky, gray mush be anything other than nauseating? This is especially true if we're expected to taste something that isn't often eaten in our culture, such as a middle-class American being fed a bat—or a normal human being exposed to an Alien Lunch. In many cases, a bad smell, texture, or appearance will be an immediate sign that the food should not be eaten, for our own safety. After all, who really wants to eat a Mess on a Plate?

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And sometimes, our senses will be lying to us. That bowl of bat wings will be the best thing the American has ever tasted, that gray mush will turn out to be a very rare and delicious type of soup, and someone will discover that they really do like green eggs and ham. Characters who decide to be open-minded will be rewarded with a delicious meal and may be pleasantly surprised that someone they thought was a Lethal Chef is actually a skilled chef whose presentation just needs some work. They may learn An Aesop about trying new things while they're at it.

Like I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham (which covers more than just food), the character carries some preconceived notion that they will hate the thing, but they eventually try it and realize they were wrong. In this case, though, the thing genuinely doesn't look appetizing to begin with.

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May overlap with Foreign Queasine and Cordon Bleugh Chef, if the prepared food is gross-looking to someone, but they end up liking it after they try it. The food may Taste Like Chicken. See also If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You, where a character makes assumptions about food based on its taste rather than appearance.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Orihime from Bleach is actually a very good cook, but her tendency to use bizarre ingredients that don't seem to go together at all makes her look like a Cordon Bleugh Chef.
  • Nao Sadatsuka in Food Wars! specialises in these. The curry laksa she makes for the Fall Classic preliminaries has jet-black roux that looks like a bowlful of used engine oil and smells like the contents of a sewer, but once the judges take a bite they can't stop eating.
  • My Girlfriend is Shobitch: Subverted when Akiho is trying to complete a cooking assignment in class to impress Haruka (her boyfriend) and makes a horrific-looking mess. Her friend Misaki volunteers to test it and gushes that it's very good to Akiho's delight. However, as soon as Akiho walks away, a sickly Misaki begs Haruka to never let Akiho know about "her condition", whereupon she keels over and her spirit ascends to the heavens.
  • In Phi Brain: Puzzle of God, Nonoha is normally a great chef, and the only person who hates her food is Kaito. She tries to invoke Lethal Chef in episode 19, hoping doing so will produce food Kaito likes. Despite her dish's very ominous appearance and glowing purple aura, the food still tastes good.
  • One episode of the Pokémon anime in the Advanced Generation series is about this. The main characters come across two competing restaurants whose chefs are Pokémon, a Sneasel and a Mr. Mime. The Sneasel's food looks bland but tastes great, while the food cooked by Mr. Mime is visually appealing but tastes terrible.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Making an effort to sabotage Fuutarou's attempts to tutor her sisters, Nino proposes a cooking competition between herself and Miku after Miku is the last sister still willing to study, stating that the study session will end if she wins. Nino makes a delectable dish that shows she clearly knows her way around a kitchen, while Miku makes a very haphazard and ugly dish made from cooked rice, ketchup, and some kind of sauce. However, when Fuutarou tries both of them, he says that they're both equally good. Ultimately played with though, since Fuutarou had been previously established as someone too poor to be picky about his tastes, so how good Miku's dish actually was is left in question. Still, Miku swoons when Fuutarou compliments her cooking and later makes an effort to improve in order to win him over.
  • In Kill la Kill, Sukuyo Mankanshoku's croquettes are made of weird, unidentifiable ingredients and, in one scene, have something still moving around in them when served. Despite this, her husband, children and Ryuuko find them delicious.
  • In one episode of Sailor Moon R, near the end of the episode, Usagi creates some curry, which looks pretty awful. However, upon her, Mamoru, and Chibiusa tasting the curry, it turns out that it's delicious.

    Comic Strips 
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    Film — Live-Action 

    Light Novels 
  • Date A Live: "The Seventh Spirit", the first episode of season 3, starts with all the girls of Shido's harem making a stew consisting of all of their favorite foods, such as fried chicken, an ice cream cone, and a lollipop. The result is a grotesque, bubbling blob radiating a sickeningly purple color. To almost everyone's surprise, though, when Shido tastes it... it's actually pretty good. Disbelievingly, some of the girls try it and find that the taste is surprisingly pleasant.

    Literature 
  • In Green Eggs and Ham, the unnamed target of the titular dish refuses to try the Palette-Swapped Alien Food, but he eventually gives in. He takes a bite and realizes that he really, really likes green eggs and ham.
  • In James Herriot's autobiography, The Lord God Made Them All, he recounts a voyage on a Danish ship to Russia, when he was disgusted by seeing the preparation of a traditional dish involving uncooked beef and eggs, tried to hold his breath when forcing it down but accidentally inhaled, and found it was actually delicious.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In Death or Glory, the breakfast Jurgen makes one day is described as "gray and lumpy". It smells appetizing, and Cain comments that after eating the whatever-it-was, he felt ready for anything the day might hold, so it must have tasted good.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A few episodes of Iron Chef featured chefs who made some questionable-looking but delicious dishes. The Japanese series featured an ice cream episode with the crab ice cream described as "not at all fishy and surprisingly good". Chefs had, over a number of episodes, attempted some kind of fish ice cream, which the tasting panel hated. Finally, Stephanie Izard, challenged with yellowfin tuna, dared make an ice cream with it, and she finally pulled off a fish ice cream that worked. The American show had beer sherbet in the Battle Oktoberfest (featuring Bavarian ingredients). The caramelized bacon on top of the ice cream threw people off, but the judges loved it.
  • M*A*S*H: In "Too Many Cooks", the recuperating Private Paul Conway spends his time at the 4077th cooking for the personnel, using what little ingredients he has to work with, but applying his ingenuity; at first, his dishes (such as Spam Parmesan) may sound and look awful, but they turn out to smell and taste so wonderful that the camp practically lines up outside the Mess Tent for his culinary delights.
  • In Red Dwarf, this is a (drunken) Rimmer's opinion of Lister's triple-decker fried eggs with chili sauce and chutney sandwich. He's at first appalled, but then he realizes he actually likes it; although he likens it to a cross between food and bowel surgery, he also notes it somehow works, and goes on a drunken ramble about how this sandwich suits Lister's personality to a T, since Lister should annoy and disgust people, but somehow he's charismatic and likable.
    Rimmer: I feel like I'm having a baby!
    Lister: The trick is, you've got to eat it before the bread dissolves...
    • Hardcore fans who have been bold enough to replicate the dish in reality report that the trope holds true in real life; you wouldn't think it from the description, but it's actually quite tasty. They do usually recommend a sweet chutney.
  • The Golden Girls has multiple episodes in which Rose, having come from St. Olaf, Minnesota (a strange but charming small farm town with cultural roots in Scandinavia) cooks bizarre cuisines that have some kind of quirk to them. One notable one is Sperheoven Krispies, which, according to Rose, are done cooking when the smell of them makes you want to vomit, but taste like cheesecake, chocolate ice cream, and strawberries - to eat one, she, Blanche, and Dorothy plug their noses with one hand and eat with the other.

    Video Games 
  • In Ensemble Stars!, this is Ritsu's specialty: all of his cooking ends up looking very strange and incredibly unappetising, but anyone who eats it admits that the taste is pretty good. One suggests that if people could eat it without opening their eyes his cooking would be really popular.
  • In Stella Glow, Lisette's cooking turns all her food purple, but it tastes perfectly fine. The main character notes that he's eaten her cooking so often that he's not even bothered by the color anymore.
  • In The World Ends with You, During week 2, Joshua and Neku go to a ramen shop struggling to keep up with its competitor on the same street. The shop owner offers them a special ramen he created, which Neku thinks looks disgusting. Before he can say anything, Joshua orders two of them and after being pressured into eating it, Neku realizes that it tastes great.

    Web Original 
  • This Neopian Times article on Neopets talks about how some of the foods listed as "gross foods" may actually taste OK.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius:
    • In the short, "Hyper Corn", Jimmy's parents serve creamed corn for dinner. Jimmy refuses to eat it because, in his words, "It looks like somebody already digested it", and he tries to get rid of it by stuffing it into his hypercube. Unfortunately, Hugh mistakes the hypercube for a Rubik's cube and causes the creamed corn stored inside to fly everywhere. Some of it lands in Jimmy's mouth, and it's at this point that Jimmy finds out it actually tastes delicious.
    • In the movie "Win, Lose and Kaboom", the characters compete on an alien game show. During an eating challenge, Carl tries the disgusting-looking alien dish of brown spongy balls and finds it quite tasty. Conversely, the alien contestant finds a banana cream pie so repulsive that it causes his head to explode.
  • Arthur:
    • In "Opposites Distract", Bitzi offers Arthur and Buster a dish of spaghetti and marshmallow balls, which appears to be a plate of spaghetti with meatballs topped with giant marshmallows. Arthur even admits that it's surprisingly good.
    • In "Dad's Dessert Dilemma," Mr. Read sends a honey cake baked in the shape of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to school for a party honoring Galileo. Arthur thinks the cake looks ridiculous and assumes that everyone will find it disgusting, so he tries to hide it - that is until Mr. Ratburn finds and samples it. He exclaims it's delicious, prompting the other kids to try it as well, and they love it, too, to Arthur's dismay.
  • On an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy wishes his mother were a great chef so he wouldn't have to eat her nasty-looking food. She enters a cooking competition and loses this gift (due to fairy rules forbidding magic being used to win competitions) and cooks up one of her disgusting looking meals. Timmy volunteers to eat it to save his mother from humiliation... only to find that the meal is absolutely delicious, so much so that it wins the competition.
  • The page quote comes from the Futurama episode "The 30% Iron Chef", in which Bender enters a cooking contest. His dish looks disgusting, but the judges love it and he's declared the winner. Then it turns out it tastes better because it was laced with LSD.
  • In the Little Princess episode "I Want Baked Beans", Princess sees a plate of baked beans and exclaims, "They look like rabbit poos!" before eating them and deciding she likes them.
  • Downplayed in The Loud House episode "Friend or Faux?". Lisa invents some "kelp leather" which looks like a greyish-green, slimy lump but it doesn't taste bad. However, it doesn't taste good either; it actually has no taste at all.
  • In an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the buffalo served Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie bowls of vile-looking green mush, perhaps a stew. Dash is revulsed at the look of it. Pinkie, however, gobbles hers quickly and asks for more, so presumably, it was better than it looked. Or she's just nuts.
    • Traditional Pie family Hearth's Warming Eve dinner is rock soup, which is a green broth with an actual rock (the size of a hoof) per serving. Applejack, not wanting to offend Pie family tradition, reluctantly eats it, and immediately regurgitates the rock. Igneous Rock Pie (Pinkie's father) is seen taking a bite out of his rock, and Pinkie herself gladly gobbles everything in her bowl and asks for seconds.
      Pinkie Pie: More rock, please!
  • The Quack Pack episode "Tasty Paste" centers around Huey, Dewey and Louie making money off a substance that looks like green slop, but tastes very delicious.
  • Recess:
    • In "Don't Ask Me", Spinelli feel she's hit on an improvement to the school cafeteria's cornbread: layering lime gelatin on it, as it works as a lubricating agent to the dry cornbread. The other kids are disgusted by this, but Gus eventually tries it out for himself, and he agrees that it actually tastes good.
    • In "Chez Vince", Vince is wrangled into improving the cafeteria food. To vat of gray mush the lunch ladies identify as, "Meat... mostly", Vince adds various different ingredients, ranging from different spices and other additives like eggs and onions. The meat still looks exactly the same, but the added ingredients to go over really well with both the students and the lunch ladies.
  • The Rocko's Modern Life episode “Bedfellows” has Heffer make his specialty, the “Heffer Deluxe”, for dinner. It looks terrible and has all manner of disgusting ingredients, but it actually tastes very good. Rocko loved it before Heffer told him what was in it.
  • In the What A Cartoon! Show cartoon "The Kitchen Casanova", a man attempts to cook a lovely dinner for his visiting girlfriend; however, a series of different comical mishaps in the kitchen result in every dish he tries to prepare getting ruined. Even attempting a salad ends in failure. Finally, he presents her with a gross-looking mound of mush consisting of various different animal parts (and presumably human as well). The man finally has an emotional breakdown, so the woman samples the dish out of sympathy, but she finds it to be tasty, much to his surprise. The more they eat, the more animalistic they become. They finish the dish and eat up the plates, silverware, and even the table.

     Real Life 
  • A pomegranate's inside can look slightly visceral and bloody to sensitive people. You ignore the bitter pulp, and pick out and eat or juice the seeds. The seeds are very juicy and very sweet, and the flavor is comparable to red grapes or cherries.
  • Celeriac, a root vegetable in the celery family, won’t win any beauty awards. These roots look like dull brownish lumps covered with a rough barklike inedible skin that must be removed. Yet many people find this veggie to be quite tasty.
  • Mushrooms and truffles aren’t considered all that pretty, but many people think they taste divine and are prized by chefs
  • Fertilized duck eggs note , common in countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam, contains (among other things) a bird embryo. They look like something straight out of a horror movie, but are actually very nutritious and considered a great restorative food for pregnant women in Vietnamese culture. It's not uncommon to find Youtube videos of people looking at these things in utter horror, preparing for the worst before tasting it, only to be pleasantly surprised by the oddly pleasant flavor.
  • The whole point of molecular gastronomy is using science to find ingredient combinations that sound strange but actually taste good together along with unusual presentations.

  • Casseroles don’t look too fancy, but they are tasty and sustaining and regarded as comfort food by many.

  • Bean dip, refried beans and hummus are none too aesthetically pleasing (what’s so pretty about a bowl of earth-toned mushy stuff?) but all three are tasty dishes packed with healthy protein and are considered by many people to be great go-to foods for quick snacks and meals.

  • Pates aren’t very pretty, but considered gourmet fare by many people and a standby for romantic picnics.

  • There is a cultural dissonance apparent where you can look at traditional dishes from different countries and tell which ones emphasize aesthetic appeal along with taste. This can even occur within the same cultures between high class establishments and common food places that emphasize quantity. Regardless most dishes will taste good because they wouldn't be popular enough to become traditional if they weren't.

  • Especially around Halloween time, there are many children’s cookbooks and family/parenting websites featuring recipes where delicious food is purposely styled to resemble something revolting or grotesque — hot dogs styled to look like severed toes, a gelatin dessert molded in the shape of a brain, shortbread cookies made to look like dismembered fingers, a chocolate dessert made to resemble dirt with worms in it (the worms are gummy worm candies), cookie or cracker snacks styled as spiders or bugs, a cake made to look like a pan of kitty litter, you get the idea.

  • In a similar vein, many confectioners offer candies (usually chocolates or gummies) in the shape of spiders, rats, worms, snakes, bugs, or body parts. Such sweets are especially appealing to the grade-school crowd.

  • Gumbo. Many soups and stews get hit with this trope, but gumbo especially, with the broth an often grayish brown hue and spotted by lumps of whatever (vegetables plus any number of different proteins). Doesn't make it any less delicious.

  • There are some cookbooks and some restaurants that have real-life recipes for green eggs and ham, using everything from food coloring to spinach to avocado to herbs such as chives and parsley to give the dish its bizarre color.


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