I love pepper because of my mom. I love salt because of my dad. She always used to say that pepper makes it better and "You just have to add pepper!" He always added the salt silently, practically sneaking it underneath her nose so as to avoid confrontation, another trait I've inherited, incidentally. He did too many shakes until the plate looked snowed upon at times. Still, the taste popped then and I'm always seeking that effect to this day. She had Mrs. Dash, but that was a relatively poor substitute for the Earth's most abundant flavor enhancer, not to mention, as my dad was fond of pointing out, salt is a necessay mineral for the functioning of the human system. The spicy justifications abound!
Accounting for taste is near impossible, however some of mine do seem to have distinct origins. I'm very fond of the calming wave following a good bout of chile-induced fervor. Somehow the endorphin release after a deep burn is something I've grown accustomed to and something I crave, even in the wrong culinary contexts. No, there's no habanero dice going on the lemon-merengue pie, although the peaceful resolution tailing after the heat would still be welcome.
More to the point, this need for fire surely originated in the very vivid childhood memories I have of my Grandpa Tank downing entire jalapeno peppers in one gulp at the table of a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. He seemed to be wholly unaffected, essentially immune to the capsacin in the pepper, that chemical that yields the pseudo-pain and subsequent endorphin response in the brain. The trick had to be in the method of swallowing the peppers whole; without chewing them up, the tongue never actually came in contact with characteristically volatile checmical compound in the wonder fruit itself. All in all, it was a dandy of a stunt that stuck with me along with my love of hot peppers!
I wonder if this would be condsidered a MEEM? Is this the right context for such inheritance of culturally and socially influenced traits? Maybe an expert will weigh in and help out here.