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Dealing with Difficult/Finicky/Fussy/Picky eaters

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Most of the time I view finicky diners as a challenge. My friend's wife has a litany of restrictions: lactose intolerant, allergic to shellfish, coconut, peanuts, soy and I think one other thing. Anyway, I always try to make the entire meal friendly to her but still make it delicious for everyone. Dessert is the hard part. No butter? Yikes! Sorbet is my friend. :wink:

However, one meal is different than several days - and none of my friends ever looks over my shoulder making suggestions. I will hurt someone if they try that. Just ask my husband.

I think I have weeded out the friends that were too picky or just didn't care about food. I'll go out with them but don't invite them over for dinner anymore.

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Only one friend, a very dear one, has any allergies---hers are gluten and lactose, PLUS she's a two-decade Vegetarian. The past few times they've come here for dinner or brunch (brunch is HARD) I've read labels, left out anything remotely NOT straight from the produce aisle or her OK list, and had no trouble accommodating her needs.

Two weeks ago, we got together for our Christmas visit---late because of our odd, mis-matched schedules. Chris always likes to serve a really nice meat dish, usually one he grilled or pitted, because cooking meat has always been an unpleasant experience for her, and her hubby is a carnivore.

So Chris bought two gorgeous ribeyes, quite large ones---about a pound and a half, and I put them in to marinate in his secret marinade about an hour before the guests arrived. Chris had called the husband that morning to say, "Eat light today---I'm cooking huge steaks for dinner."

They came in, I brought out the nibbles---homemade black bean salsa and fresh guacamole, with vegetable dippers and a few Scoops for the die-hards. She ate both WITH the Scoops---guess she had read their label before and it was OK.

THEN, Chris called the husband into the kitchen to show him the steaks, which were in a big pyrex dish. He in turn called his wife, saying "Come here and LOOK at these steaks!" She took a look, asked what was in the marinade, and said, "Oh, I can't eat THAT---soy sauce is processed with wheat products."

She then went on to say that she'd heard about the steaks and was looking forward to some of it, hot off the grill, because having to leave out all the gluten and dairy products, her body must really be craving protein, because she'd just had a real taste for meat lately.

I was just floored. Never in a million years would I have thought NOT to marinate them, as she had never eaten so much as FISH in my presence. And I felt SO bad, because it would have been so easy to have cut off a portion to leave plain.

And they were so huge, he had to take half of his steak home for lunch the next day. I just wish I'd known, but it wouldn't have ever occurred to me not to go ahead with the marinade. But I did feel bad that we'd tainted the whole dish, of which part was going to be leftovers anyway.

:sad:

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What a pain! We have a family friend who announced one day that he was allergic to mustard. I don't recall the symptoms, but they were something like a migraine type headache. He had been eating at our functions for years with no issues.

In fairness, people can develop allergies over time. And allergies can vary in severity. ,

Oh I understand allergies over time- I can not even walk past a display of certain lilies without my eyes watering and in a room with them my breathing becomes wheezy- yet I carried them with no problem in my wedding bouquet years ago. The person I was referring to was eating various dishes with mustard and stating he felt fine.....Tough subject. My son has a friend with nut allergies and we are very careful. My niece has the latex thing going on- so I am quite conscious.

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I do not understand the people who are picky about what they will and will not eat.

I was brought up to try everything and, as a result, I like most foods (even if it takes several tries to do so).  My (late) husband was the same way. There are few foods I will not eat - aside from the really weird stuff.

Yet, I know people who turn their noses up at milk, all seafood, yogurt, meat that is not well-done, rice

and the list goes on and on and on to the point that it seems as if there are more foods they don't eat than those they do.

I don't get it.  So they had fish once and didn't like it.  Why do they assume then that all fish is going to be the same?

I could not live with someone like that.  Could you?

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My niece is married to such a person. I understand he has a long list of food he won't touch, including anything white... and he works at a grocery store chain.  My son's wife had a list of thinks she didn't like, but started eating them when I included them in things I cook.  Some things she still doesn't eat are puzzling.  She hates the taste of breakfast sausage and says she does not like pork but will eat -and apparently likes brautwurst when I mix it into meatloaf or other things I used to use regular sausage in. She likes carnitas which is pork shoulder.  She won't eat anything with a bone in it, at least she doesn't want to but does sometimes.  One constant that she never likes is celery. I substitute baby bok choy, romaine stalks or even bean sprouts for celery now.  Her brother is really a cautious eater. He has limited experience with different kinds of food.  He will taste anything but won't eat a lot of things he decides he doesn't like. Her sister used to be like that but seems to eat everything now.


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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I suspect it (food pickyness) is more prevalent these days with a couple generations worth under our belt that has been raised on a ever more increasing diet of processed and fast food compounded by never learning any cooking knowledge, but only to open, unwrap or reheat.

 

For example, one of my friend's ex-girlfriend's diet centers around cheese, but in a bad way. Consisting only of microwaved cheese nachos, cheese pizza, baked cheese enchiladas, cheese ravioli, white bread- all paper plated and perhaps with some zero heat jar salsa or marinara washed down with coca-cola, sugary margaritas or red wine. Suggest anything else and it is an "eeeewwww!" of disgust. 

 

I think it's an outward sign of mental unbalance quite frankly. She has a Master's degree but really is a dull and uninteresting person.

 

 

 

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I suspect it (food pickyness) is more prevalent these days with a couple generations worth under our belt that has been raised on a ever more increasing diet of processed and fast food compounded by never learning any cooking knowledge, but only to open, unwrap or reheat.

There may be something to that, but I suspect it has more to do with a couple generations' worth of Americans who haven't had to do without. If you're truly hungry, you'll eat what's in front of you. I doubt there are picky eaters among the populations (even in this country) that don't know where or when they'll get another meal.

Getting back to the original question: no, I couldn't live with a picky eater. I once had the dubious pleasure of hosting a niece and her family for the weekend. I'd been assured that the children weren't picky eaters and "would eat anything", but the truth was quite different. I had planned kid-friendly meals (macaroni and cheese, for example) with nothing too adult/unusual, but at every turn there was a wail from the 8-year-old: "What's this?...I don't LIKE it!" without even having tried it. It turned out in this example that she'd been raised on Kraft Mac & Cheese from the box, and didn't recognize the real McCoy. :laugh: It's funny now, and she's turned into a lovely young woman, but it took a while for me to be able to laugh about that visit.

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I live with a very picky eater.

I see no need to make a big deal of it.

We eat most meals separately.

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 If you're truly hungry, you'll eat what's in front of you. I doubt there are picky eaters among the populations (even in this country) that don't know where or when they'll get another meal.

 

 

Smithy, your post reminded me of the saying: "What is the difference between what a man will eat and what he won't? 24 hours."

 

I would not deal well with having picky eaters around me. Given that I don't have a poker face, unfortunately they would know it.

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I was just reminded of the opposite thing that I witnessed as a child. Family came visiting. When the meal was served the mom said the 4-year-old wouldn't eat something that was served to him. Mom had to leave the table and he ate it while she was gone.

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My first husband never ate anything except plain meat, potatoes and carrots/corn/peas. Period. That drove me crazy.

 

My daughter ate fish and seafood without a fuss till one day, in first grade, the teacher told her that fish scream when they die. She is 32 now and has never eaten fish or shellfish again. That is how powerful the mind is and how those around children can influence their likes and dislikes for entire lifetimes. :(

 

My sister claimed to 'hate' moose meat. She came to visit one summer and all I fed her was moose meat - in various forms - which she gobbled down happily. At the end of the summer, I told her what she had been eating and the look on her face was priceless.

 

My brother refuses (and has since he was a tiny child) to eat mushrooms and eggs - if he can recognize them. He will eat them if he can't tell they what they are in a casserole, soup, cake, etc. I have never quite understood the difference but in his case the taste or even the texture are not the problem - it is the shape I guess.

 

I am not big on really fatty meats (the meat is fine but I hate the texture of fat on the edges and will just cut it off) and I gag when I have to down milk in its drinkable form (and am somewhat lactose intolerant, as many people are, but use it in all other forms and in cooking). Other than that though I will pretty well eat anything so I don't regard myself as 'picky' - and I would never let on if I were eating at someone else's house that there was something I didn't like - I would eat enough of whatever it was that was not terribly appealing to me to be polite and I would be complimentary to the chef.

 

I would find it very hard to be around or have to cook constantly for whatever may constitute a 'picky eater' - but unless most foods were scoffed at by someone at my dinner table, I am not really sure what that means. Proven allergies I will definitely work around but imaginary stuff is harder to define/deal with - I believe it becomes a 'control issue' at some point.

 

I can, and am happy to, most of the time accommodate minor variances from 'I eat anything and everything' - i.e. one or two things that people are not fond of, if I know about them in advance but if I had a child or adult in my household, present daily, who refused to eat more than half of anything I cooked, I guess someone would go hungry and it would not be me. Either that or they would soon be buying and cooking their own food.

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There are probably many reasons for someone being a picky eater.  My sister didn't eat broccoli for years as she "didn't like it."  At some point she realized that she'd never tried it.  For some reason my mother put it into her head that she didn't like the vegetable.  Once my sister overcame that, she discovered that she loved the stuff.

 

My sister is still a somewhat picky eater, but in her defense, she's had stomach and digestive issues since she was a baby, and at that time the docs put her on a restricted diet, all of which contributed, I'm sure, to her selective eating habits.

 

By my standards, Toots is a fussy eater as she doesn't care for spicy food, peppers, many types of tomatoes, ginger, and some other foods, and it's somewhat frustrating to cook for her.  However, by her standards, I'm a fussy eater, as I won't eat offal, and I like my food prepared in very specific ways.  So, perhaps pickiness is in the eyes of the beholder, just like beauty.

 

That said, for a long time Toots wouldn't eat Indian food - didn't like some of the ingredients and the heat.  However, after showing her the varieties of food available, and that she could get dishes that were not hot, she has started eating several dishes from that cuisine.  Her pickiness stemmed from several experiences earlier in her life that established what Indian food was like, even though it was a small sample.  Sometimes people need to be taught that a particular food can be prepared in many ways.

 

As for eating with fussy Toots, well, she's the woman I love, and when I cook for her I make sure that she will enjoy the meal.  I don't want to sit down to dinner and not have her by my side.  So I compromise and adjust, and slowly I introduce new flavors and ingredients to her.  Lately she's started tasting some of my spicier dishes when we go out to eat.  She's started to experiment with kimchi now that she knows there are different degrees of heat and different flavors.  Sometimes it's just a matter of education and, perhaps, a little patience.

 

I do have a little anecdote to share.  A couple of years ago I made a lemon goat cheese cheesecake.  I used goat cheese because Toots has difficulties digesting cow's milk, and lemon flavor was added because Toots' daughter in law loves anything with lemon flavor.  The DIL loved the cheesecake, and at some point she asked about the ingredients.  When she learned that the cheesecake was made with goat cheese, she almost tossed her cookies.  "Yeow!  I hate goat cheese!" she exclaimed, yet just a few minutes before the cheesecake was delicious.  <sigh>


Edited by Shel_B (log)
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I think sometimes people don't like certain foods because whoever cooked for them didn't prepare it well.  I am thinking of someone i know who hated asparagus until she had some fresh from the garden and not from a can. 

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I think sometimes people don't like certain foods because whoever cooked for them didn't prepare it well.  I am thinking of someone i know who hated asparagus until she had some fresh from the garden and not from a can. 

 

Canned asparagus was my first experience with the vegetable, and it set my appreciation of them back many years.  I'm still not crazy about them, but do experiment with different ways of preparing them, and some methods are quit acceptable.

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I think sometimes people don't like certain foods because whoever cooked for them didn't prepare it well.  I am thinking of someone i know who hated asparagus until she had some fresh from the garden and not from a can. 

My depression-era mother boiled broccoli until it was gray. I steam mine.

 

Looking at the concept of picky eaters I am very fortunate. I married into a family that enjoys a wide variety of foods so beyond what we prepared in our own home they were introduced to many kinds of food from their earliest years. The foods they don't like are few. My older daughter detests mushrooms and I through a bad choice turned her off to salmon. She likes eggs EXCEPT in salads.  My younger daughter disliked onions for many years but it was a texture thing. If they were cooked until really soft such as in a long-simmered marinara sauce she was ok with them.

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Shel_B, regarding asparagus have you tried them tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasting them? Very different flavors than boiling or steaming deliver.

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I'm from the generation that didn't have picky eaters because our mothers wouldn't tolerate any nonsense about food.I ate what was on the plate - unless - it was lima beans, and it was long while before my mother would accept that I wasn't being picky, I really truly hated lima beans. If what I didn't like was something my mother didn't like, that wasn't being picky, if I didn't like something she did like, that was being picky. Hence the lima battles. When fresh corn was in season at the local farm stand, she would invariably ruin it by making succotash. I tried lima beans once as an adult, and my original opinion was confirmed.My mother enjoyed them because that was the only time in the ten years she lived with me that they made it onto my dinner table.


Edited by Arey (log)
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Isnt there a syndrome called Supertasters which explains pickiness?

 

I've heard of this but thought it was related to cilantro/coriander dislikes. 

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I truly believe that being picky is not a "choice" people makes and it causes them as much anxiety as it does anything else..I was a pediatric RN for 15 years in ambulatory care and most of my discussions were with parents were about the kids eating ."they are so picky" " I cannot get them to eat anything" blah blah ..I never looked at my kids diet I breast fead until 1 then put food in front of them I ate ..I believe many flavors cross the breast milk and exposing them early has its advantages ..but still biology lead me to feed my kids foods I loved the taste of and for most folks all my life what I have eaten was considered "too much work" or "too weird" for others…

 

The sense of taste texture and what is and isn't pleasant in the mouth I think can be determined by genetics then reenforced by environment ..most folks can overcome the ability to not eat something and some folks can't and it is what it is  . somehow when it comes to the table we have really strong opinions and great emotion ..the fights at dinner tables over food are endless and so sad!

 

I am a super taster ..absolutely and it is really hard to fake I am enjoying a meal when it is stuck in the back of my throat because every single flavor in it is screaming at me and it is NOT in unison …

 

I used to get so offended by picky eaters ..I thought "I eat everything" then my husband called me out as an absolute "bitch to take out" and it is true I can taste EVER bloody THING in food and that can be tedious ..when it works it is magic and I am in heaven but if ..like a good painting things are off ..wow it is bad bad bad ……if there is "instant" anything …I taste it …artificial flavors colors ..and while I think I am very adventuresome and love to eat all kinds of things ..true nose to toes eater here ..I am very picky with instant processed and chain food restaurants .if someone cheats at a pot luck I know it ..but never tell ….if something comes on a menu as made in house and it wasn't I can tell  " ..my poor kids baked me a lovely cake from a box and I had to gag it down smiling….I felt bad I could not make myself like it that is a horrible feeling not to appreciate happy kids offering you cake for crying out loud not fair! many many kids are born this way and out grow it ..as I learned to cook and love food and the whole food adventure I realized it has advantages and disadvantages… …for me I have no doubt it is something inherited because my father was the same way he would put his fork down in a restaurant and challenge the chef about the region of the dish he was tasting because of the combo of herbs used  and he was always right ….

 

 

half of me loves being this way and half of me HATES it ..I feel like such a snob and really I want to eat a chicken nugget dipped in sauce once in  while that is not made from scratch ….it ruins so much fun and food internally because I fake it and am "outing myself" now outside my family no one really knows because I cover it well and just keep my mouth shut when other people choose were we eat and love chain food.. ..I do not want to be a "super taster" but I am and it is hell in my mouth somedays LOL!!!  …the good part ? you can not fool me with a sauce or the choice of ingredients quality and freshness… ..If I like something and have the memory of its components in my mouth and the knowledge of the ingredient I can recreate almost anything I taste after trying it only once or sometimes twice …that part is very cool and my friends love to challenge me with a lot of free meals out! they want to create something so they will take me out to try it so I can break it down! 

 

so that is it ..my dirty little secret I am an EXTREMELY picky eater ..but love to cook and eat food! all kinds of food 

 

so there in defense of picky eaters this is an all about "me" post LOL!!! and there you  have it a point of view from a very picky eater… I am horrible to feed horrible to take to dinner if you know me well and know I am unhappy with the food (aka my husband and close friends …sometimes my kids I can fool them still ) …I remember as a kid swallling food to avoid tasting it if it was terrible just to avoid the embarrassment of not liking what everyone else seemed to enjoy ..but I also am a hell of a cook! double edge sword I say for every good there is a bad! 


Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
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Yes genetic is also part to why people are picky, they say it is a combination of  upbringing, genetics that makes a person a picky eater.  To be able to taste food, you need  a nose and a tongue, your nose is as important as your tongue, with out it   food taste bland, banana will have no taste at all.   Then you need a taste memory, we sort of know what a tomato taste like and  that is what we are looking for when we eat a tomato.   BUT if you have been smelling  melted cheese  or gotten your tomato covered in melted cheese as child, the smell you are looking for  isnt tomato, but cheese and tomato  so when  you bite in to a tomato , it taste  horrible because it doesnt taste tomato as you remember.

 

That is why it is important to serve the whole family the same food or baby food with similar flavours  so the  taste memory and taste is the same.   Today many kids dont eat them same as the adults.  My  generation and my mum generation had no choice  then eat what was on the table, we had not the choices as many do today so we learned to eat and also it wasnt popular to hide veggies in things, so we got to know them by their true flavours.

 

My ex husband was picky eater by upbringing , his mum seldom used spices and if she did they were 4 to  10 years old, which for oregano is way too old and they never ate anything else then meat and potatoes and over cooked carrot or broccoli  so that is what is food for him.  He would even eat pasta sauce, pasta and potatoes because  you get hungry if there is no potatoes, I got him out of that after 3 years. He  would refuse to eat anything new, what so ever because it would be to his taste.  Well I  got him to eat beans and vegetarian for  5 months with out him even knowing, that how horrible his sense of taste was and he was a trained military chef.  

 

Yes, part of the reason I divorced him was his restrictive eating.


Edited by CatPoet (log)

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How are you defining "picky eaters"? For example, there are many people who like canned vegetables. (As well as fresh veggies, not instead of.) But canned just doesn't bother them, it might even be preferable because of ease of preparation, and because they simply like them better. A lot of people on this forum (myself included), for the most part, won't touch them. Does that make us picky eaters? It doesn't matter if we can "justify" not eating canned veggies. Most pick eaters (whoever they are) have some sort of "justification" for their decisions. (In quotes only because I'm not so sure they need any justification for deciding not to eat something.)

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Hummingbirdkiss, that is why I teaching my kid to bake with out boxes, hate that flavour and can taste food colouring and flavourings, ugh  and lucky boxes are to expensive and hard to find in Sweden,

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My first husband never ate anything except plain meat, potatoes and carrots/corn/peas. Period. That drove me crazy.

 

 

 

Deryn - Is it possible that your first husband was my father? Of course, he would be 107 if he was still alive. Add green beans and white bread to your list and that is the diet I grew up on. I believe my mother would have been more adventurous (After Dad died she started cooking eggplant, cauliflower and lots more things I never tasted growing up.) Food in friends houses wasn't really very different - in the 1950's many people ate that way.

 

My daughter was a picky eater throughout her childhood. I had no problem accommodating her. She refused anything containing tomatoes but if we had a tomato based pasta sauce it was no trouble to thaw some pesto, which she loved. (I freeze it in ice cube trays for that very reason.) She refused cooked vegetables - but would eat salad, carrot sticks and raw broccoli - again no problem. The one given was that she have some protein and either veggies or fruit for every meal. Starches were never a problem. (Which makes me wonder: Is there a picky eater who refused potatoes?) There were multiple other foods she refused - including most candy and desserts but nothing that was really hard to work around. And our family dinners were relaxed and full of conversation, not arguments over food.

I took great amounts of grief from my sister-i-law for 'allowing' her eating habits. Today my daughter eats (and cooks) everything. The change happened gradually through her adolescence.  And her cousin, said sister-in-law's daughter, who was brought up having to eat everything, is an extremely picky eater as an adult. 


Edited by ElainaA (log)
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Yes!  My foster brother refused to eat potatoes in any shape or form, he will now eat roasted potatoes because he lost a bet and had to taste them.  He will not eat boiled potatoes, potato mash or French fries or anything with potatoes.

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