I’m a picky eater.
For years I denied it. But now I’m owning up to my pickiness, breaking the manacles of manners, throwing off the bonds of behavior drilled into me by my mother and grandmother.
If I risk offending friends and family members by passing on the braised alligator knuckles, pickled octopus, or clam and cauliflower casserole, then so be it. I refuse to be shamed into trying “just one bite.”
Never again will I try to sneak food into my napkin or drop it for the dog. Never again will I claim an allergy, insist I’m still full from a late lunch, or pretend I just came from the dentist or have to fast for doctor-ordered blood tests.
Pickiness isn’t a crime. It’s part of who I am and I have reasons for my reservations.
Second, there are things I had to eat as a child that I didn’t like then and don’t intend to eat now unless the only other choice is a lengthy prison term. Beets, ham, and lima beans lead the list.
Third, there are flavors that don’t float my boat. Fennel, for example. I know it’s popular, but not with me.
Fourth, the Constitution grants us freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. I know the Founding Fathers didn’t have stewed okra in mind when they wrote that, but . . .
Fifth, maybe because I’m a Virgo, I like to know what’s in each dish on the menu. What are the distinct ingredients in that soup or casserole? What herbs go into that sauce? I embarrass my husband by grilling (no pun intended) waiters.
Sixth, I’m not a kid anymore. The rules about eating what’s put on my plate no longer apply. I’m old enough to have earned the right—now and then—to skip over sections of the food pyramid. I’ve earned the right to make substitutions, to eat just a salad, or just a side dish, or—hallelujah—just dessert.
Barbara Reed, the accidental sleuth from my cozy mysteries No Substitute for Murder and No Substitute for Money, has the same idea. Barb is younger than I am, but she’s survived a domineering sister, two not-so-great marriages, and immersion in the icy Columbia River. She eats lunch with one teacher whose culinary creations are more frightening than fanciful and another who dines “in character” to prepare to reenact Civil War battles. If Barbara wants to eat cashews and chocolate after dealing with that on top of the drama of 150 teens, I let her go for it.
On a picky-eater scale of 1 to 10—10 being finicky with a capital F, and 1 being willing to at least taste something—where do you rank yourself? If you could pass a law against one particular food or recipe, what would it be?
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