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foodcyclist

Dealing with Difficult/Finicky/Fussy/Picky eaters

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One compromise I won't make for anyone: brownies without nuts. I have three nephews (brothers) who all refuse to eat nuts, and only because the older one started it; none are allergic. I don't often make brownies for family gatherings, but on those rare occasions I always put lots of nuts in and take a disgusting amount of pleasure in the fact that these boys all say, "Oh, I don't like nuts." As if I didn't know.

Katie Meadow...you are a brilliant woman. Brilliant!

On the dining front, I generally will make whatever I want when having guests in. I've found that, whatever my guests' issues are, they rarely affect every course so who cares if there is one dish that so-and-so can't eat or a different dish that another person can't eat?

This past summer, a friend and his daughter came for dinner; she was a raw vegan. In that case, every course except the grilled ball tip roast was "raw vegan". It was a great meal and the vegan guest just didn't eat the meat!

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Well, I find it a bit surprising that people would not want to invite a family member or friend to dinner simply because they are problematic eaters, for whatever reason. One can always make him/herself a special meal without any guests. As soon as guests are invited, they are central to the dinner-along with the food. Also, in my books, and this is probably a cultural issue, a guest is of top importance and should be made to feel welcome, wanted and the reason for the dinner. If I have to add other dishes specially for her/him, I will have no problem taking the time to do so- out of pleasure. I always make enough for everyone to eat so the problematic person does not feel embarrassed at having caused me extra work. In fact it makes for an interesting meal. I deal constantly with vegetarians (I am one also, and I think my choice should be respected), kosher demands, gluten free... and meat lovers. If a guest did not feel comfortable or did not thoroughly enjoy the evening, I consider it a failure.

I realize this is my opinion, and opinions are not anything but opinions, so I hope no one gets mad,but I felt I needed to voice myself.

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Well, I find it a bit surprising that people would not want to invite a family member or friend to dinner simply because they are problematic eaters, for whatever reason. One can always make him/herself a special meal without any guests. As soon as guests are invited, they are central to the dinner-along with the food. Also, in my books, and this is probably a cultural issue, a guest is of top importance and should be made to feel welcome, wanted and the reason for the dinner. If I have to add other dishes specially for her/him, I will have no problem taking the time to do so- out of pleasure. I always make enough for everyone to eat so the problematic person does not feel embarrassed at having caused me extra work. In fact it makes for an interesting meal. I deal constantly with vegetarians (I am one also, and I think my choice should be respected), kosher demands, gluten free... and meat lovers. If a guest did not feel comfortable or did not thoroughly enjoy the evening, I consider it a failure.

I realize this is my opinion, and opinions are not anything but opinions, so I hope no one gets mad,but I felt I needed to voice myself.

I agree that guests should be treated respectfully, and if you're going to invite someone to dinner, then you should make efforts to make your guest comfortable even if it means catering to his/her food preferences.

That being said, there's a big difference between a "problematic eater" and a "controlling eater". One or two food dislikes I can manage (as a host), but for example, I have a co-worker who has many, many, many food issues, including: no sweet things with fillings (but savoury things are OK), no sweet things with crusts (but savoury are OK), no cheesecake, no raw seafood, no onions, no dark chicken meat, no raw tomatoes, no cakes with fillings, no cakes with icing, no meat not cooked well-done...those are only the ones I remember. Sure I could create a meal that would exclude all those things (plus the ones I've forgotten), but that would decrease my own enjoyment of the meal, as well as the enjoyment of the meal by most of my other guests.

I would never invite someone like my co-worker to a meal at my home. But then, I'd never have someone like my co-worker as a friend. But if that "controlling eater" is a family member, you may have no choice but to invite him/her to your home. In those cases, I don't think it's a problem to have the guest bring a dish or two that he/she will be able to eat, or if need be, I'll make one dish that I know that person will be able to eat. But beyond that, everything else is fair game. I would not create an entire meal just to placate a picky guest, unless that guest were the guest of honour (and a picky eater would not likely be the guest of honour in my home).

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Yes you are correct. I have never met a control type like that- luckily and if such was the case I would probobly have a dish for them-one -like you said and suggest that they are welcome to bring a dish along just to be extra sure. I would never make everyone eat according to others, but for "normal" problematic eaters there would also be for them. It is impolite to give such a long list of don't likes or let it be known even. SO I see there is always a limit!

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If I know a guest has a preference before they come to dinner I will do my best to accomodate it.

but one time I had someone at my house for dinner I was putting the finishing touches on the meal and she was standing over me telling me everything she didn't like about it....she was quickly told to go to the mc donalds up the street if she didn't like it.....

I understand preferences, but don't be rude about it. I have eaten some awful meals in my day in the name of not hurting my hosts feelings. I expect the same treatment, or tell me before hand your prefrences (I usually ask) or just don't eat it....

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It is impolite to give such a long list of don't likes or let it be known even. SO I see there is always a limit!

If you think that was bad, you should have seen her in action at a Chinese restaurant! I was terribly embarrassed to be associated with her, and I felt horrible for our hostess. And it was here that I learned she eats shrimp (no shells), but not lobster or crab, no duck, no weird vegetables..... And although she eats savoury things with crusts, she won't eat quiche. Or eggs that are a little wet (like softly scrambled or sunny-side up eggs). I think pudding is out, too...

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If I know a guest has a preference before they come to dinner I will do my best to accomodate it.

but one time I had someone at my house for dinner I was putting the finishing touches on the meal and she was standing over me telling me everything she didn't like about it....she was quickly told to go to the mc donalds up the street if she didn't like it.....

I understand preferences, but don't be rude about it. I have eaten some awful meals in my day in the name of not hurting my hosts feelings. I expect the same treatment, or tell me before hand your prefrences (I usually ask) or just don't eat it....

Exact-a-mundo!

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I was looking for this topic and could not find it.

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I just don't divulge what's in the recipe, unless there's an allergy/addiction or religious/ethical aversion to something.

Case in point - an aunt who "hates" liquor in food...no aversion to liquor in a glass, just "hates" it in food. Lemme tell ya... she gobbled up my apple pie that had a good half cup of liquor in it, as well as the oxtail stew that had an entire bottle of red wine in it. "Oh, this is so good." Yes it is!

But the sister who doesn't eat pork... I'll let her know if a pie crust has lard in it so she can eat something else. But I'll sure as hell still make the lard crust.


Edited by viva (log)

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Okay, I think I'm crazy and alone. I don't make special meals when I invite people over for dinner. I don't ask if there are any food aversions or allergies; I don't care much about the former (more for me) and as for the latter, it is up to them to tell me. If it's a group I know well, I already know who's deathly allergic to shellfish. If it's not a group I know well and they don't tell me, I'm sorry and we'll figure it out.

If someone would like to sit and not eat, they are welcome to. I also don't get upset if someone doesn't drink the wine or alcohol I'm serving.

Granted, I don't go out of my way to gross people out. If it's a group I don't know well, for example, I wouldn't make sweetbreads a part of the main course or even plated app.

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Thanks Lior, Pransantrin and others who have expressed such tolerance and generosity toward their guests, and for pointing out that allergies, and some other food preferences can be worked around without feelings of hostility. Surely those of us who enjoy food enough to belong to eG have a repertoire of good dishes that can accomodate a lot of different tastes/restrictions.

It's a balancing act between the host and the guests; hosts should inquire ahead and be flexible, and guests should take some responsibility for their own limitations by giving the host good warning, being appreciative, arriving with a dish of their own to share or expecting to eat whatever they can and have a good time. When those unusual situations arise, if there is a misunderstanding or if a guest is rude, you just have to laugh it off and not invite them back.

I feel sorry for those people who have lots of strange food hang-ups that are neither dietary restrictions, allergies nor philosphically or culturally based. There are people who, for whatever reasons, simply don't enjoy food. We have all known someone like that; someone who fusses and picks over stuff, who worries all the time about what they will be able to eat, who obsesses over ingredients, and who ultimately ends up eating food that isn't very appetizing, as if it was medicine, or some kind of job. That's sad, but it isn't something to be mean about.

As for you Jensen, thanks for the compliment--I tried to convince myself that naughtiness was a sign of smarts when my kid was young! I'm just witchy Aunt Katie. Those boys probably think I'm a dope. Doesn't she KNOW we hate nuts?

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For my kids, who really aren't that picky, I'll cut back on nuts in the brownies or cookies because my younger daughter "doesn't like nuts". She's not specific WHICH nut, just that she doesn't like them. She claims to hate raisins and cinnamon, but we got her to eat trail mix w/raisins this summer, and cinnamon's in all sorts of things we cook.

My wife -- likes her meat red, won't eat cheese on burgers or sandwiches. I work around those restrictions pretty easily.

Kids friends/houseguests: Allergies I'd work around, otherwise it's "That's what I made and how I make it. Pick around it if you don't like it." We don't have many dinner guests, so it's not that big a problem.

My sister-in-law...she hates onions. She freaks out if my brother uses one in the kitchen without STERILIZING the cutting board and knife afterwards. She's turned her daughters against the noble onion. My Mom specially makes her potato salad WITHOUT onions if my SIL is going to be there, and portions some out, and then adds the onions for the rest of us. I, on the other hand, am always finding new and inventive ways of sneaking onions into dishes I make. She's not picked up on it yet -- minced onions, onion powder, etc.

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Food alergies are something I take seriously....

Sometimes, relatives pull that "it tastes icky" crap. That's when I go the extra mile to make certain that foods they dislike are about all that is available.  :hmmm:  Because I'm just mean that way.  :angry:

:biggrin::laugh::laugh:

Will you be my new best friend?

Yes! I'm always up for a new best friend! You do like onions, don't you???!?! :biggrin:

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We don't do large group dinner parties except for holidays. We fix what we like, put out way too many choices anyway, and figure that nobody can hate everything we choose. We could eat for over a week on the leftovers after sending stuff home with others. I am tolerant of vegatarians but I've had to deal with some very militant vegans who had no tolerance for other people's veiwpoints and that soured me big-time.

We normally only have one couple over at a time and always tailor the menu for their likes and needs. That's just good manners in my book.

My wife and I just came off of six weekends of cooking a rennaisance-feast-style lunch on Saturdays and Sunday for approximately 70 people who are a mix of omnivores, vegatarians and vegans. With the exception of the mushrooms and potatoes we fixed all hot vegatables to be vegan; potatoes were split into t2 dishes, one with butter, one without. My wife made grain-based hot dishes that were vegan, and we also serve raw vegatables. We serve bread for everyone as well as a variety of cheeses. For the carnivores like me there is roast beef, roast port, chicken and sausages. In this setting I have a clear understanding that vegans need real food choices and the ones in this group are not borderline rabid about their personal choice.

I got one "comment style" complaint about the fact that we use strawberries for decoration on the meat platters. We put strawberries on the veggie/cheese platters also so there were strawberries available for the vegans and vegatarians.The complaint was that vegans and vegatarians won't eat them becasue they've been on the meat platter. I simply responded that the omnivore will eat them.

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Yikes. I'm glad none of my friends are that severe; I'm glad too that none of my friends have any kids (though that of course will change in a few years). The pickiness is minor--

1. One friend wouldn't eat yellow fruits (?). I think she eventually caved.

2. One friend of mine went through a low-carb phase (as they often do). Gave up eventually.

3. One won't eat raw coconut and lychees. That's ME! But I do eat around them without complaint. Some friends of mine who also hate coconut even give me their coconut-laced desserts to eat. By the end of the meal there are cupfuls of just coconut on the table. That was a catered meal. If the host is especially proud of what she prepared, I'd just hold my breath and gulp down the coconut. Yum!

Among my friends I'm the only one who really cooks anything, so they're all just happy to eat whatever. I think somehow they don't want to appear declasse. I think if I prepared a special meal for someone problematic (or even someone's kid) and they barely touch it, I might cry (so sensitive!). In case I ever come across these problems (though I hope I never will), thanks for the ideas, everyone!

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I'm reading this thread again and want to be absolutely clear about something: Am I seeing that when guests are invited to dinner at your house, they tell you what they will/will not eat?

When did an invitation to dinner at someone's home become a "have it your way" experience? To me, it's the ultimate in rudeness to expect someone to cook to your specifications when you are an invited guest.

FWIW, I also don't get pissed off or offended when a guest doesn't, for example, eat their peas, or picks out the mushrooms from the salad. We don't have a clean plate club here at Casa de FoodBabe.

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This seems to be a sensitive issue for some while others let special/last minute demands just fly through the kitchen at will. Interesting. I guess its' all relative to the situation.

I have a couple friends of the Jewish faith who are 'kosher noshers' and I'll try to tweak a recipe to allow for the strict dietary rules of their faith (no meat with dairy, segregated cooking utensils and pots, etc).

I see situations where I have to alter a recipe due to allergies or faith as a challange. I see situations where I have to alter a recipe due to finicky tastes as an annoyance.


Edited by foodcyclist (log)

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I really have mixed feelings on this topic. I deal with food allergies and picky eaters on a daily basis.

I'm honestly afraid to let my kids eat in the homes of people outside the family because I worry about people taking the food allergy thing not as seriously as they should. The rare times we go to a friend's for a meal, we stop and pick up something for the kids on the way. The price is just too high if someone slips up.

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Katie is so right about finding the balance between the guests and hosts. My sister in law keeps kosher, and while it is a hassle, she always lets me know that she is just fine with bringing her own food, which I , of course, decline. We have nice extended family meals every Friday night and Sat lunch. When she comes, which is every 3 weeks or so, I always make sure that the food is on a warming plate before the Sabbath comes-her portions, anyway, and it will never have meat and dairy mixed. The rest of us have nice hot fresh food, whoever wants to partake of a dairy dish with their meat is welcome to. There is plenty for everyone. My son - a grown 21 year old, still hates tomatoes, so I just make sure I cut them big so he can pick them out of the salad. No one has ever said "icky" besides once when my 10 year old was very little, and later on I explained to her that we NEVER say "icky" to food, as others may feel uncomfortable if they are eating icky food and the usual lecture - about people who have no food and would be happy to eat anything.

Mutual respect creates the balance. If someone stood over me and made comments about the ingredients, and not just one, I would tell them it is wrong behavior. People can be so odd-it is amazing!!!


Edited by Lior (log)

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The price is just too high if someone slips up.

While I'm the only one with food alergies (and a mild one at that) we do take them seriously in our menu planning here. We have one dear friend who is both a Type I diabetic and suffers from Celiac (sp?) but having that knowledge in advance means we can prepare a menu that has the balance she needs diabetes-wise and doesn't contain the wheat/barley/rye/oats celiac-triggering ingredients.

I have developed a sensitivity to some chemical that is used by some but not all tomato growers. My tongue swells and pushes into my molars and can make just speaking and swallowning very painful with the molars cutting into my tongue. Not like-threatening but still painful.

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Food alergies are something I take seriously....

Sometimes, relatives pull that "it tastes icky" crap. That's when I go the extra mile to make certain that foods they dislike are about all that is available.  :hmmm:  Because I'm just mean that way.  :angry:

:biggrin::laugh::laugh:

Will you be my new best friend?

Yes! I'm always up for a new best friend! You do like onions, don't you???!?! :biggrin:

:laugh: Sure. I like the way the undercooked ones look in a little pile on the edge of my plate. :razz: :wink:

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My dad's best friend was allergic to several things. It was always interesting planning dinner menus around what he could eat, and avoiding some fairly common things that could kill him. My definition of a successful meal has never included watching a guest's throat swell closed, nor the onset of anaphylactic shock. In fact, I find administration of a syringeful of adrenalin to a guest to be a highly unsatisfactory conclusion to a meal.

I concur with taking one's own food as needed for piece of mind. When there is more than one allergy, often unexpected things can trigger a reaction.

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I know someone who is picky beyond belief. The only things she really eats are: breads/starches/pasta, pizza, potato salad, boneless chicken breast and cakes/sweets. She'll also eat some beef & turkey.

But pretty much everything else is off limits. When I hosted a brunch for a mutual friend of ours who was having a baby, I wondered briefly if she'd eat anything. But it turns out her plate was piled high with the things she did eat like belgian waffles, turkey sausage and french toast. And I was surprised that she even had quiche on her plate. Sometimes, people don't realize they like something until they try it.

My father, one of my sisters and her fiance don't eat pork. Therefore in the summertime, I make my "famous" (famous in my family) beans with turkey bacon, just to accommodate them. Of course they don't taste nearly as good as the ones with regular bacon, but everyone seems to enjoy them.

Last year when I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, I made two different types of collard greens - a batch simmered with pork ham hocks and another batch with smoked turkey necks. Everyone was happy.

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Dairy free potatoes. I drew the line there. The line is: not everyone has to eat dairy free potatoes because someone has an allergy.  I admit that most of my dinner parties rely on gratin dauphinoise for their oomph.  Planning dairy free potatoes for everyone made me nervous.  Butter free mash? Obviously not. Butter-your-own boiled? A bit like my high tea in granny's back kitchen.  Roast? Not a talent of mine.  So I drew the line there, made the gratin for everyone else and did a tray of oven chips for diary free option.

I usually do something similar. My upstairs neighbors are vegetarian and none of my other friends are (asking for a "meatless" dish at a restaurant here will often get you chicken...chicken's chicken, not meat!). So I can't really plan the whole menu around them. But sometimes it's a good excuse to try some recipe I hadn't tried before, or invent something new. It's often not all that difficult to set aside a couple servings worth of something and leave out the meat or add something else instead.

Veganism is something else though; when my neighbors first came from the states, the husband was vegan. Then I'll suggest they bring something because that's a bit limiting for me, especially for Turkish cooking.

I don't play around with people's religious convictions. (Someone once said "break your own taboos, not others".) Avoiding pork for Muslims is easy, you can't find it here. :) (I do have friends who visit from outside and bring me products made with the "forbidden meat." No way am I going to waste it on someone who'll say "eeeeew!" This might include non-practicing Muslims who still have a strong cultural aversion to it.) Makes me think of the time my parents invited a new couple from Sarajevo to dinner. She served pork roast. She knew Jews didn't eat pork but had not had any experience with Muslims (it was Iowa in the 60s after all). I think they ordered pizza.

Of course if someone has one of those really dangerous nut/seafood allergies, they usually let you know, and I always try to accomodate. But they should let me know.


Edited by sazji (log)

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