Confessions of a Picky Eater

Chuck Thompson, a producer for CNN, has written a terrific piece on the problems of being a traveler and a picky eater. Go here to read it.

We have different issues. He has a long list of foods he just doesn’t like. I am open to most foods but am thrown into digestive uproar by anything with a lot of fat or tricked up with fancy sauces and other gourmet refinements. Roast potatoes with a side of steamed broccoli? Sign me up! Creme de casserole de potatoes a la Michelin etoile avec le chef’s sauce de secret, no thank you.

One of these days you have to ask me about the time I was served a four-course meal made almost entirely of cheese.

What Thompson and I have in common is our ability to fire up the food police. It is astonishing to me how often complete strangers have felt moved to lecture me at the dinner table. Also, their belief that this particular dish is the one that will win me over.  (You remember that great line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “He don’t eat no meat? … That’s OK, I make lamb!”)

A few years ago I reached a Waterloo of sorts. I was being served lunch by a lovely woman who had started out as a cleaning lady, had made her talents known and risen to the position of chef thanks to her talented interpretations of local cuisine. The meal started with cured sausages swimming in olive oil with more olive oil as a sauce. We moved on to some kind of battered and deep-fried … vegetable? Dumplings? Couldn’t quite tell. Whatever it was, it was in the loving embrace of about a quart of olive oil. The beaming cook ladled generous portions directly on to our plates. Could I turn up my nose at her gracious hospitality? I could not. Manfully, I soldiered on. Then she brought out the main course, hunks of roast lamb bigger than my hand (I have big hands) dripping with, you guessed it, olive oil.

We will draw a veil over the bitter harvest reaped by your humble correspondent.

Since then, I have adopted a policy of not eating what I don’t want. Sometimes I get away with that, but often it provokes intense discussion of a distressingly personal nature. I have had grown adults poke spoonfuls of food at my face. Oh and shoutout to the guy who said he would have thought someone who ate as little as I would have been slimmer.

I don’t get it. I love haggis but it doesn’t bother me a bit when I’m around people who loudly declaim how much they despise it—more for me is my thought.  Heck, if you come to my house where I’ve actually cooked the food I don’t take umbrage if you don’t like it. After all, there’s always peanut butter in the cupboard.

Thompson called up a few experts who said the deal is that, for many, rejection of food is about more than food. As he put it:

In other words, politely decline someone’s sweet potato bisque and you’re not just saying no. You’re telling them their nana’s mustache needs waxing.

That is a very brilliant observation and, honestly, I have to say: Get over it, people! I love you, I love your nana, and her mustache is aces. I would even love to love her deep fried olive oil balls with a side of olive oil.

It just wouldn’t love me back.

Cheers, pickily.