Thursday, March 22, 2012

Picky Eaters

My parents will be the first to tell you how I grew up being the poster child for a picky eater. I spent many evenings alone at the dinner table scraping green beans back and forth hoping they would disappear and I would finally be granted permission to leave the table without having to eat them (which were my household rules). I remember how frustrated and discouraged I felt being forced to eat everything, but that was also part of growing up in the South. Using my personal experiences, I would instead advise parents to forget the "clean plate award club" and to encourage your picky eater to just try one bite of each item on the plate. That way, they're less discouraged and they will most likely find out they like items, and will be more willing to eat them in the future. Also, I was skeptical of my parents plate. I imagined their food must be drastically better than mine since they were making me eat a pile of green mush that smelled funny. Then one day my mother had me try something off her plate, and instead of slowly analyzing it I just ate it. And liked it. So when I saw the green mush on my own plate later, I just ate it because I remember I liked the taste, just smells funny. (An early memory of eating collard greens and cabbage).
People's tastes change over the years; mine certainly did. I wouldn't touch an onion with a ten foot pole when I was nine years old, but I love them now. Breaking a picky eater's habits should be focused on championing over small victories, one at a time. Things will become gradually easier. Though it's particularly difficult with adult picky eaters, like my boyfriend. Yes, I am a culinary arts student who has the challenge of feeding one of the most picky eaters I've ever known to exist. The picture below is a post-it of the things I am not allowed to cook with for our dinners. In his defense, he knows what he likes and he's confident in those items. And he is slowly branching out and trying new things. Mainly because I just cook casseroles or other items of the like with ingredients I know he doesn't enjoy by themselves. Then once he tries it and says he likes it, I'll add a "oh, there's ricotta cheese in that." It's a bit funny to watch him cringe, but he continues eating. So angles I would suggest to help adult picky eaters are to incorporate skeptical ingredients into something else and not to showcase them on their own until they are no longer taboo. Also, if a person is involved in the cooking or production process, they are more proud of the end result and will be more willing to try the food.
We all know some, or maybe we are the picky eater ourselves and know we need to branch out and eat a more well-balanced diet. Try some of these short tips to break through those barriers and to ditch the post-it on the fridge with what you're not allowed to cook with...