I was out for dinner with a friend last night and she wouldn’t eat the squid in her seafood dish. Nothing wrong with that – we all have things we don’t like – but it, combined with reading through the latest post on Smitten Kitchen in a vain attempt to stave off the cravings induced by StumbleUpon being down today, made be think about the subject.
Which is not to say it made me think coherently about the subject. It is a saturday morning. So the following is more of a brain dump than a well thought out argument. Also it contains no cooking. If you were hoping for a recipe accompanied my fun filled antics and tomfoolery in the kitchen, you might want to give up and go back to bed now.
I think I’m pretty open minded about food. I’ll eat most things, within the restriction that I only eat a restricted subset of meats. I don’t eat Okra if I can avoid it (it’s the devil’s vegetable), and I don’t drink wine or beer, but that’s about it. I also don’t eat bad food, but that’s a separate issue related to me being a snob rather than food related. :-) On the other hand, I used to not eat dairy either, so I’m reasonably familiar with the difficulties of working on a restricted diet.
I know a lot of other people who are very fussy eaters, either by nature, moral choice or medical neccessity. Amongst my friends and family we have nut allergies, dairy intolerance, gluten intolerance. One of my friends can’t eat sweet peppers. Moral choice is more obvious – I know quite a few vegetarians of varying degrees and lived with a vegan friend for somewhat over a year.
Then there are people who have things which they just don’t like to eat (and things who have people whom they just don’t like to eat, but that’s a separate post). Some of my friends basically don’t eat vegetables, or don’t like specific vegetables. Mushrooms seem to be the fungi which everyone loves to hate. My brother’s girlfriend doesn’t eat anything which is purple.
There’s a tendency to roll one’s eyes and tell them to stop being so fussy. I’m certainly guilty of it (but then I’m judgmental and horrible. Ask anyone).
To some extent this is warranted – I can’t imagine not eating most vegetables, and I find it amazingly difficult to accommodate people don’t. But part of that is just me – I’m sure if I stuck a great big slab of bacon on their plate they’d be happy as a pig in… ok, bad metaphor. But you get the point. I’m sure they’d find it similarly difficult to feed me.
On the other hand, maybe we should think of restrictions as opportunities. In my presentation on vegan cooking I mentioned that there are basically two secrets to good vegan cooking: Variety and proper use of spices. Neither of these are particularly vegan centric – they’re just things which happen to be especially important for vegan cooking. Once you’ve learned them you can port them to any other style of cooking you like, and you’ll be a better cook for it.
I’m sure other genres of cooking are the same. In cutting something out of the mix you will expose limitations to your cooking style which its presence has helped to cover up and, in learning to deal with these limitations, you will become a better cook for it.
So. What don’t you eat?
My most irrational food dislike is mashed potatoes. I’m not a huge fan of potatoes in general but enjoy them them roast or fried from time to time. However a plate of mash induces a gag reflex so strong that I cannot even swallow a mouthful. The origins of this lie in a product called Smash (instant mashed potato) that I was forced to eat at primary school. Just the thought of that horrible creamy mess is enough to make me feel ill decades later…
All of which goes to show, it’s not just the raw ingredients that might bother a fussy eater, but also their preparation.