Picky eaters drive me nuts. There’re few things more frustrating than dining with a picky eater. Some restaurants don’t have food that they’ll eat, and that usually means one person will dictate where a group eats because they ‘don’t like’ whatever it is the group wants. Any shared dishes must be chosen to appease their picky palate. They don’t like broccoli, so this dish it out, or they don’t like tomatoes, so we’re not ordering that appetizer. There’s no telling the weird restrictions picky eaters will enforce. I’ve met people who don’t like potatoes of all things.
Cooking at home is the same. Picky eaters enforce lowest-common-denominator cooking and dictate what is made. Sometimes two separate meals need to be prepared, one for people that will eat whatever you put in front of them, and one for the picky eater. I find it to be unfair, and I understand it’s not intentionally so, but it’s selfish.
To be clear, I’m talking about those who “don’t like” and choose not to eat certain foods. Allergies are a different issue; dietary restrictions due to allergy are not made by choice.
There’s a great irony here. I was a picky eater.
I never tasted ketchup until I was 27, and the same goes for any common condiment—mustard, mayo, etc., I refused to eat them. I ate most everything plain. I ate plain, dry sandwiches, just bread, meat, and cheese. I loved cheeseburgers, but only if it were just a burger patty, American cheese, and the bun. Any funky buns were out, only plain buns allowed. Raw veggies were a no-no. I didn’t eat a salad until I was almost 30. Anything pungent, tart, or acidic, I hated—no raw onions, no pickles, no lemon, no olives. Herbs or spices were gross to me. Simple and plain is all that I’d eat.
The list of things I refused to eat could fill a 100-page book. I hated everything. I was 27 years old but had the palate of a six-year-old.
Today, that’s all changed. I’ll eat anything and everything. That’s not to say I love everything I eat, and sometimes I don’t even like it, but I’ll eat it anyway. I’m no longer afraid to eat things that are unfamiliar, or that I don’t like. Picky eaters fear many foods; I fear nothing.
And that’s the difference—fear. When I was picky, I feared food, and flat-out refused to try things I thought I didn’t like. When I got over it and started eating things I didn’t like I gradually lost my fear of food and embraced an “It’s all good” attitude.
You’d think as a reformed picky eater, I’d have sympathy for picky eaters, but the opposite is true. If I can overcome my pickiness, you can too. All it takes is a desire to do so, and a willingness to eat things you don’t ‘like.’ It’s a bit difficult at first, but like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Notice the tagline at the top of this blog? I live by it. “If you don’t like something, eat it.” That’s an important rule to follow because you can train your palate to enjoy things that you currently refuse to eat.
A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to train my palate to like very, very, spicy foods. I began eating things that were hotter and hotter. Today, only the most insanely spicy food is too much for me. As a result, I’ve fallen in love with spicy food. Spicy heat improves far more dishes than it doesn’t.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s an acquired taste.” That’s shorthand for “I used to hate this thing, but I kept eating it anyway, and now I love it.” You can train your palate to love things you currently hate or don’t care for, all you have to do is start eating those things. The more you eat it, the less you’ll dislike it. Eventually, you’ll enjoy it, and you’ll wonder why you deprived yourself of that delicious thing all those years.
Why does all this matter? If you’re a picky eater, it matters to your family and friends. You are inconveniencing them, sometimes seriously. As a former picky eater, I can attest that many situations where food is served are a landmine of “I can’t eat that.” Life is richer when one truly enjoys eating (everything). Instead of fearing foods, unfamiliar foods are a chance to experience something new and different, and not having to be ‘that guy’ that put restrictions on what’s served, is liberating.