Picky Eaters vs. Food Allergies

By Iron Chef Leftovers

There is an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune about picky eaters/food allergies and restaurants. It is worth the read just for the chef comments on the situation, but there are a couple of interesting points in the article beyond that:

According to Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, frequent exposure to unfamiliar foods by parents often determines if a child stays finicky into adulthood.

Thayer says the more a child watches people they love and trust eat new and different foods, the more likely they are to have an adventurous palate as an adult.

More and more, she says, she sees parents inadvertently supporting a child’s pickiness by serving the same foods over and over again.

I was lucky – dinner in my house growing up rarely came from a box, bag or can and was almost always cooked by my parents. We ate a ton of different things (including fruits and vegetables) and their attitude was, “if you don’t want to eat it, fine, but you are not getting anything else.” I see my brother doing the opposite and letting his kids be picky and not telling them what they are eating. BFD – they are eating rabbit or deer; it is no different than chicken or cow. We ate this growing up and knew what it was. Hell, I usually went to the butcher with my dad to pick out the carcass we were going to buy. Heart, tail, cheek and neck are all just muscles, no different than the steak you are eating, so why the hell do people have a hang-up about them but no problem ordering a rib eye?

Fortunately Thayer offers a solution:

For those adult picky eaters, Thayer suggests changing the texture of the offending food through various cooking or preparation methods, adding a sauce or combining it with a favorite food. She also says, “Don’t give up trying.”

Trust me – if you don’t try something, you really can’t say you don’t like it. You need to go into it with an open mind though. I have seen what happens when people have a pre-conceived notion that the unfamiliar means they won’t like it. Ask them why they don’t like it and they struggle for an answer. If you don’t like something, you should be able to articulate that right away, like I did with durian. If you are not familiar with durian, here is some info.

The first time I tried it, it smelled like the feet of a rotting cadaver. Fine, I have smelled worse (I did grow up in New Jersey after all), but that wasn’t going to stop me. I have had things that smelled awful but were delicious (there are several cheeses that come to mind), so I tasted it. I took one small bite and I had a look of horror on my face. My friend asked me what was wrong. I responded that durian tasted like “a cross between an unwashed foot and rotting corpse (not that I would know what either of those tasted like) if you left it out in the sun; other than that it was fine.” It took me 2 seconds to give an accurate description of why I didn’t like it. I didn’t have to think about it. I’ve got lots of stories like those, but I won’t bore you. I will leave you with this – try something new once a month and do it with an open mind. If you don’t like it, come up with real reasons why you don’t like it. If you aren’t sure if you like it, try it again. Either way, you will be a better person for it.

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