Have It Your Way
Posted by wendiwendy
Right after Christmas day, Paige left to go to her dad’s and to visit a college friend. She was gone for about 10 days, and she got back on Sunday night. I knew she was coming back and I adjusted our week’s worth of menus accordingly. (I do a meal plan weekly, and I grocery shop based on that.)
Paige is a picky eater, like her brother and her mother before her. However, unlike me and Eric, she is not really at the point where she’s outgrown her picky food preferences. She actually seems to be getting a little worse, because there are a few meals I used to make that she always liked and then after eating them 3 or 4 times she decided she no longer likes them.
She doesn’t like chunks of onion or tomato; no green pepper at all. I can get around this by blending things with the immersion blender so they’re smooth. Certain things she just will not eat, even if I leave out the offending onions and such: chili, sloppy joes and stir fry come to mind. She’ll eat broccoli though, certain pasta dishes, she loves meat loaf and chicken rice burritos (as long as I blend the salsa component first!)
So as we’re talking over the week’s menus, she confesses that she ate chili at her friend’s house. This is not an uncommon occurrence; I can remember Eric doing the same thing when he had dinner at a friend’s house. They will eat something just to be polite, even if they may not be crazy about it. I asked if she liked chili now, because I had some frozen from our last batch (we always make too much for just two people) but nah, she said still wasn’t crazy about it.
Since she’s home so infrequently now I do tend to make sure I’m making something she likes when she’s here. Before she left for school, I’d split it up…maybe 3 or 4 meals I knew she liked, and the rest of the time she was welcome to eat what we were having, but if she didn’t like it she would just make her own meal.
I can remember doing this when I was a kid/teenager/young adult. I hated onions, beans, green peppers, even barbeque sauce. I would eat chili without beans, I never had barbeque sauce on my food (I’d get the plain grilled chicken or whatever), if we we were having stuffed peppers, I’d eat the filling but not the pepper. I would pick out the beans from my vegetable soup.
I never, ever had anything on my hamburgers except ketchup. I hated lettuce, mustard, pickles, all that stuff. (I still do, actually.) Remember the Burger King commercial? “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us, all we ask is that you let us serve it your way.” Well, that was ME, folks. If we were ordering from a fast food place, we would place our order and then have to pull the car over while they cooked my hamburger because it was just so rare (I guess) to have someone who didn’t want it piled with everything on it. My mom and brother still talk with irritation about having to do that! (Nowadays it seems to be no big deal – I still get most things plain and then add my own ketchup later, if I’m eating fast food at all, which is rare.)
I got much better about food as I got older, and especially in the last ten years. I’m still what I consider to be a picky eater, but now I’m willing to try things once or twice before I decide I just don’t like the way they taste. I’ve been trying to add new things – especially vegetables – into our food lineup as a way to broaden my culinary horizons.
I still don’t like raw vegetables, which means I don’t like salad. I hate salad dressings, mayonnaise, vinegar (although I will use it as an ingredient or in a marinade…just don’t like it as a prominent taste). I don’t like anything that smells bad to me, basically, and it boggles my mind that people can eat what I consider to be nasty-smelling things and enjoy them! To me, the smell gets in the way of anything else. I put parmesan/romano/asiago cheese, mayo, vinegar and mustard in this category. I made this frittata a few months ago, and it sounded delicious – caramelized onions, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese. I had never tried Gruyere so I did some internet searching to see what people said it tasted like. It didn’t sound too offensive and nobody mentioned a bad smell, so I got some and made the frittata.
Well, I could tell the cheese had a bit of a smell but it wasn’t as strong as parmesan, so I went ahead and used it. As soon as the cheese hit the frittata and the heat, this horrific smell engulfed the kitchen. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Dave smelled it too, and finally we realized it was the melting cheese. We ate the frittata and the taste of the cheese wasn’t bad – I didn’t hate it – but the smell was just too much. Every time I brought a forkful of food up to my mouth, I just smelled this cheese and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It made me want to gag. I gave the rest of the Gruyere to my mom.
I know most people don’t even think it smells bad, so maybe I just have an extra sensitive sniffer…who knows? But I just do ingredient substitutions…mozzarella is my go-to cheese substitute. Dave hates parmesan/romano/asiago cheese too (and thinks it smells bad) so at least we’re on the same page there. But he likes mayo and mustard and relish, he eats salad and raw vegetables – I just have to be far away from him when he’s eating something ‘smelly’ so I don’t gag.
I do like vegetables, by the way…I just like them cooked. To me, they are completely different in a cooked form – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, greens like kale and spinach. I dislike the taste of lettuce, even after trying it many times. I don’t mind raw tomatoes but they usually tear my stomach up so I have to limit them. But I’ve made progress in the veggie area – I never, ever ate salsa before and now I love it. I never ate mushrooms – in fact, I never even cooked with mushrooms until the past year or so. Same with squash – acorn, butternut – and I love them now. I never even tasted kale, and never cooked with spinach or added it to food, until the past couple of years. And I love barbeque sauce now! I just had to find ones that I liked – I prefer sweet, smoky, spicy BBQ sauces and not ones with a lot of vinegar.
A couple years ago I signed up to test recipes for America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated. They send recipes via email (sometimes once a month, sometimes more frequently) and you complete a survey after you make the recipe. You have to follow it exactly as far as ingredients and instructions/cooking method, obviously – the point is to see if the recipe works as written. You don’t have to test every single recipe (I pass on anything with fish because Dave is highly allergic) but I’ve made myself test recipes I normally would never make, just to keep exposing myself to new foods and cooking methods. It doesn’t pay anything, but in a way it does…it really has helped me learn new cooking techniques, taste things I normally would not taste, and it’s fun too!
As a semi-reformed picky eater, I know what it’s like to have to eat something I find truly offensive. I’ve always been more relaxed with the kids because of this – we used to have them just try the food, and if they hated it then they could make an alternate meal (when they were younger this was usually a PB&J sandwich, fruit and milk to drink). They did realize some things that looked gross to them were actually tasty, so it was successful for us without causing big battles at the dinner table. But it does seem that our palates expand as we get older; Eric eats pretty much anything now, and he’s far less picky than I am. (This is a kid who would not eat SOUP when he was little, much less any food that was ‘touching’ or mixed together like a casserole.)
If your kids are picky eaters…take heart. It (usually) does get better!