how picky of an eater are you?


[Paris, 2001: my first escargot]

Mr. M often calls me a picky eater. I giggle inside whenever he does. Oh wait, no, I usually giggle on the outside too and try to correct him with examples of the culinary delights that I will inhale. But he still doesn’t buy it. That’s because he goes to restaurants without menus in English, asks for the best thing there, and even if he declares it icky, he continues to eat whatever he bought. I’m not a super food adventurer… but I’m far from the picky girl I used to be!

I grew up being extremely picky… so much so that I’m sure that dining out with me was an absolute chore for my parents. I can recall perusing menus in Maui once and refusing to go to any of them. I bet they didn’t have chicken nuggets on the menu? Who knows. I’d often go hungry at slumber parties because I wouldn’t eat the meal of the night. And even into college, my food preferences were a constant source of dorm cafeteria conversation. Why? I don’t eat salad. I loathe condiments. I don’t like my food touching. Casseroles gross me out. And I don’t eat sandwiches unless the two ingredients are peanut butter and jelly (panini aren’t “sandwiches”).

But college did change me, and all for the better of course. I ate sushi for the first time thanks to it being on the dorm food menu, and I ate Indian food for the first time as well thanks to my next-dorm neighbor Mandeep. Escaping the hill and going somewhere new for dinner was an expensive ($15?!) but fun weekend hobby for us, so my friends and I would take time to pick out new things to try out and explore. My culinary explorations died for a bit when I moved into the sorority house, since our menu lacked the dorm’s variety, but then something big happened…

I spent the summer of 2001 studying and traveling throughout Western Europe. And even though I prepped myself for it, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to skimp on food and survive the lectures, reading, and touring. So, I ate. And ate. And ate some more.

I think it’s really easy to be picky on a week-long vacation to a new locale. You just have to survive for a bit and then you can return to your normal routine. And when you travel with friends/family, it’s easy for them to protect you from jumping outside your food boundaries. But on this trip, I was free to try whatever I wanted. No one I travelled with had mocked my non-salad eating habits before. There weren’t condiment jars on tables to make me skittish or weird. I could try something and see if I liked it, and if I didn’t, there was something else around the corner I could manage to eat as well.

I never would have known how much I loved mussels if I hadn’t ordered a whole bucket of them in Belgium for lunch on a whim. Or that really stinky cheese can taste incredibly good with the right bread, wine and park bench. And no matter the language or translation, most sausages are pretty darn yummy.

My summer eroded my fear of food and I started to really enjoy it instead from that point on. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t get a wee bit frightened at times, but just this week I willingly dove into a Brussels sprouts appetizer and went back for more. I won’t admit that it was the bacon that was the real enticing culprit…

Heck, you’ll even see me diving into a salad every now and then… probably not as often as I should, but I do eat it!

Are you a recovering picky eater? What was your moment of truth?


  • Cathleya

    Oh my gosh you look so young in that picture!

    The majority of “picky” eaters I know were reformed going abroad. My friend used to smell everything (pick every piece of food up she wasn’t 100 percent sure of and sniff it before putting it in her mouth)…until she spent a month in Egypt. It was eat, or starve there. There was NO mac and cheese.

    My husband also calls me picky…I can eat practically any cuisine but I adhere to a few strict rules that sometimes don’t work in my favor (like, no “savory and sweet together” [I don’t like sweet and sour, most fruit paired with savories, etc] no fennel, typically no corn [again—too sweet for me to be a food], no lamb unless it’s Mediterranean. Once we went to Ad Hoc in Yountville and…surprise…the pre fixe menu was Fennel salad and lamb and corn for dinner. BLAHHHHH!!!! I pouted the whole time and he never let me live it down.

    I think if you’re willing to try any type of cuisine, you’re not a picky person. Are you supposed to like everything on the menu? Of course not! But, if you can confidently feel like you’ll find something you like in virtually any genre, you’re officially not a picky person :)

  • Maggie

    I’ve gotten way better about food as I’ve gotten older (and similarly going to college and studying abroad helped with this a lot!), but B still thinks of me as a picky eater. However, I’m now at the point where I will try things that I don’t know, and if I don’t like it, then I won’t eat it. So I don’t think that makes me picky anymore! It just means I have different tastes than he does!

    It’s going to be interesting when we have kids because I think B has a lower tolerance for pickiness then I do… so we’ll have fun with that when we get to that point!

  • Janet

    Loved reading this! I remember refusing to eat at a restaurant once when I was a kid because they were out of baked potatoes. Glad the brussels sprouts/bacon converted you – it’s actually my favorite vegetable now, but I never would have known a few years ago!

    Hey, but what do you mean there wasn’t variety in the sorority house? Betty made at least THREE kinds of desserts. ;)

  • Amanda

    I’m SUCH a picky eater! I won’t eat anything fun. Corey’s been making me try new foods lately, so I’m working on branching out a bit – it’s not easy, but I’m trying!

  • Maria

    I’m going to stop lurking and actually post :) Anyway, love your blog!

    I’m not picky about most things, but I don’t eat lunch meat, mayonnaise, mustard, whole tomatoes, and cheese (I’ll eat melted cheese on pizza and Tex-Mex). I get sooo much crap from nearly everyone I meet for not eating cheese.

  • HamiHarri

    I think growing up I would have been considered a picky eater. I do think it has something to do with the types of foods you were offered early on and that are regularly served at home.

    My parents were def. a meat and potatoes type of people. Mushrooms on pizza were considered “exotic.” My Dad isn’t a picky eater, he’ll eat anything put in front of him and chow down with gusto. He just didn’t often (if ever?) cook these things at home for is 3 kiddos.

    I remember visiting my aunt and uncle and they ate brown bread – the horrors! I was a white bread girl at that time ;)

    Later in high school and throughout university, I became more adventurous (still not a fan of shellfish – eep!), or most meats that bring visions of childhood cuties (lamb is a no, no for me – remember Lamb Chops sing along?!). Although, if someone serves it to me, I will not push my plate away and eat it with grace. I just wouldn’t choose it for myself.

    Hubby on the other hand will eat/try ANYTHING. And I am thankful for this. We both offer Clara a variety of foods (and I don’t make faces or cheer if she pushes it out of her mouth or makes a funny face if it’s a food I also don’t care for). And as a result, she’ll eat just about anything! Although she does prefer crab to lobster ;)

    Neat post, and you do look soooooo young in that photo!

  • Catherine

    I’m not a picky eater though there were definitely things I didn’t eat before my husband because I had only had the bad versions of them. Because my work requires me to travel, I’ve had to eat things I might not have on my own. I do draw the line at most internal organs. It’s usually about texture or smell this those. I am also not beyond lying to prevent an awkward situation. I told my co-work in Ethiopia who graciously had me over for several meals with his family that I could not eat raw meat because of previous stomach infection. There is a dish called Kifto, basically spiced raw meat, which was being served. My problem was that it was 90 degrees and it had been sitting out. No thanks. And I’m also “allergic” to fermented horses milk if anyone asks.

  • craftywife/starfish

    I was such a picky eater growing up. I literally ate about 4 things. My husband completely changed me in college. He has gotten me to eat so many things I never tried. He is amazed at the lack of food I’ve tried before him. I consider myself pretty adventurous now because I’ll at least try something if I never had before. Although like your husband, mine will just ask the waiter what to order and eat it regardless of how good he actually thinks it is. I’m not at that point, but I’ll try a bite of whatever he gets.

  • talda

    i’m not too picky but there are definitely a few things i will refuse to eat regardless, namely coconut and baked fruits. i just don’t like the texture so i won’t eat it. but as i’ve gotten older, i have begun to branch out and have been satisfying general curiosity for new foods. its exciting because it just means there’s more for me to eat, and i love eating. except for coconut and baked fruit. still won’t touch those