“If I’m a picky eater, Mom, it’s mostly your fault. You didn’t make me eat different things when I was little.” This from my 24 year old son, as I bemoan my even-more-limited-than-usual cooking palette when planning dinner. Sam is at home with us for awhile as he finishes his clinicals in his last year of physical therapy school. I know that he is basically pulling my chain to get a reaction out of me, but I can’t help taking the bait.
“Hold on there, Chief”, I reply. “There were plenty of things that I liked and served to you, but you refused to even try just because your dad wouldn’t eat them. So don’t go pinning it all on me.” I give my husband Ron a dirty look as I say this, and he just laughs.
So yes, not only did I marry a picky eater, but I also gave birth to one. Lucky me. Now, I do have some profound dislikes myself, which, fortunately, coincide with my spouse and offspring.
Stuff we all hate:
- Peas. Yuck. Nasty little balls of mush. You will never see any of us eating peas, or even worse, pea soup. (Ron and I will do snow peas, but that’s a very different thing).
- Winter squash. Squishy baby diaper stuff.
- Blue, roquefort, feta, and all other very strong cheeses. Stinky.
- Rye or pumpernickel bread. Totally overpowers everything on a sandwich, and not in a good way.
- Fennel, tarragon, anise or anything that involves a black licorice flavor. No, just no and hell no.
Stuff Ron and Sam won’t eat:
- Brussel sprouts
- Lima beans
- Pickles or pickled anything
- Pumpkin pie
Stuff Ron won’t eat:
- Any fruit pie other than apple or key lime
- Scallops (to be fair, he may have had an alergic reaction to these)
- Raw tomatoes or cooked tomato in large chunks (though he is okay with tomato sauce)
- Summer squash
Stuff Sam won’t eat (or won’t try):
- Any soup other than potato or egg drop
- Mexican food
- Creole or Cajun food
- Scalloped potatoes
- Fruit pies
- Pecan pie
- Green salad
- Chicken salad
- Potato salad
- Snow peas
- Corned beef (or the hash derived therefrom)
There lists are not all inclusive, nor are they in any particular order. But, you can see that these preference sheets mean I’m dealing with a fairly limited universe when it comes to getting some variety into the dishes I serve, especially when my son is around.
My world pretty much revolves around beef, pork and chicken for meats, and green beans and corn for vegetables, supplemented at times with fried peppers and onions. Potatoes are well received, with the exception that Sam won’t eat my fantastic from scratch scalloped potatoes. (His loss.)
So, in some ways, I have to be more creative than cooks with more options. I have become a master at different ways to dress up corn and green beans. (Although I can never serve my guys green beans al dente, as current fashion dictates – they have to be cooked through, like a limp dishrag, every time. Sigh.)
And sometimes, when I do try a new dish, despite my careful adherence to said preference lists, it is greeted with suspcious looks and subjected to after-the-fact custom seasonings.
For example, there was the night I proudly presented Chicken Francaise. Sam peered at the chicken breast pounded thin, fried with its crispy egg crust and served with a lemon, butter and wine sauce. “What’s this, and what’s in it?”, he queried, his brow furrowed. I explained. He tasted a bite, then walked into the kitchen, and returned with ketchup. I looked at him incredulously. “It’s a chicken tender”, he announced, and proceeded to eat happily.
I closed my eyes, sighed and thought of that saying about pearls and swine.
I’ve often wondered about this picky eating thing. Nature or nuture and all that. According to flavor scientists, the aversion to certain tastes seems to be inborn, while an aversion to aromas is learned behavior. And sometimes, pickiness is modeled on parental behavior.
So, I would say that our familial hatred of anise flavor is definitely genetic. Ron claims his hate of everything tomato (other than sauce) is linked to being bombarded by non stop fumes as his mother canned tomatoes every summer. (To be fair, the man does have an unusually heightened sense of smell. I didn’t realize how much this can affect how you feel about certain foods until I was pregnant and had a temporarily heightened sense of smell.)
Sam’s refusal to eat mushrooms is definitely because Ron won’t touch them. Not to mention his dad’s commentary about how he won’t eat fungus or anything that reproduces asexually. (My husband thinks he’s clever.)
So, I’m pretty much resigned to the restrictions that picky eating has placed on my cooking. If I want mushrooms or brussel sprouts, I make them for myself. As the saying goes, more for me, then. And if I’m really feeling diabolical, I will sometimes amuse myself by sneaking a taboo item into a dish and quietly contain my glee when it is unwittingly consumed. (Like the chicken liver in the traditional Bolognese sauce that Ron loved. Gotcha, smart guy.)
On the other hand, my son, as he gets older, has started to show flashes of adventurousness. Thanks to some study abroad opportunities he has been able to visit numorous spots in Europe in the past few years. I was stunned to learn that he tried, and liked, things like venison pot pie in London and mussels in Monaco. And he also loves, of all things, calamari.
Also, Sam has shown some interest in cooking beyond heating up convenience foods. When he started grad school, thus moving from dorm life to apartment life, he asked me to teach him how to make some of his favorites from home. So, he is comfortable making stir fry, ribs and even potato bacon soup from scratch. This is an area his dad would never think of venturing into. He’ll even watch cooking shows with me.
So, I hold out hope that perhaps at least my son’s palette will expand a bit. My husband, not so much. I think he would probably be content to eat the exact same things week after week – he’s certainly never been one to seek out a lot of variety. (Come to think of it, this is probably the main reason he’s stuck with me for almost three decades, lol.)
I guess I’ll just have to keep researching green bean recipes and maybe find a way to sneak some mushrooms into something every so often, just to keep things interesting.