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Dealing with Difficult/Finicky/Fussy/Picky eaters

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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.)

Everyone has certain preferences or dislikes, and to some degree the difference between being "selective" and being "picky" depends on the observer. (Per Bertrand Russell: "I am firm, you are stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool.") The point of the original post, as I understood it, was dealing with extreme examples: those (adults) who will eat only a very few things, won't branch out, won't try other things, and by association end up restricting their companions' food choices.

If I have someone over for dinner who is a vegetarian, I'll serve vegetarian food so we can all enjoy it. But the person who is (say) vegan, gluten-intolerant, and won't eat anything yellow or red because it looks "icky" is likely to be more chore than fun.

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My ex picked the onions and peppers out of MANWICH!

 

He also cut my perfectly made golden caramelized crust off steaks Id make...There also could NEVER be anything crunchy in potato salad.

 

I dont know why I was with him...

 

....Oh and all samiches had to have MIRACLE WHIP


Edited by GlorifiedRice (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.)

 

See in the case of canned foods etc I think it is something you are raised with. My mom would have Del Monte Blue Lakes and Le Seur tiny peas in the can at our house growing up and I occasionally get them to this day just for that taste.

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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.

But aren't daily meals eaten together some of the best times with family/friends. I can't imagine eaten my meals separate from my family

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If I have someone over for dinner who is a vegetarian, I'll serve vegetarian food so we can all enjoy it. But the person who is (say) vegan, gluten-intolerant, and won't eat anything yellow or red because it looks "icky" is likely to be more chore than fun.

 

During a pre-faire meeting this spring I explained something to our group. In past seasons many had passed up the foods that were "vegan" because they figured vegan meant weird. I explained to them that if they cooked a veggie at home and didn't add dairy or meat to it (simplified version for this post) that it qualified for vegan.  When we state that something is vegan it is simply to let the vegans know that it has been prepared in a manner that they can eat. My son-in-law had eschewed our vegan food for years based upon this "it's weird" thinking. My daughter started making up food bowls for him (he could not make it to the feast due to other responsibilities) and was very surprised that he liked "vegan" food. In the end he got it.

 

separate thought:

 

Right or wrong, part of how I define picky is based upon attitude.


Edited by Porthos (log)

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My mom was a scratch cook raised out of the Great Depression and Gulf Coast. I can tell you there was no tolerance of contrary behavior at the dinner table. She made it her life's mission to make me eat eggplant when I balked at her moussaka as a young child. Only after 40 years have I begun to appreciate eggplant. 

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But the person who is (say) vegan, gluten-intolerant, and won't eat anything yellow or red because it looks "icky" is likely to be more chore than fun.

They're likely to be told to BYOF (bring your own food) if they're that damn picky. Vegan and/or gluten-intolerant, I'll accommodate. "I don't eat (whatever) colored food" or anything on that level of picky can take a flying leap... even if it's family or a good friend. They don't have to eat it but I'm not going to plan around it.

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But aren't daily meals eaten together some of the best times with family/friends. I can't imagine eaten my meals separate from my family

 

We certainly do eat some meals together.

My diet is somewhat restricted for health reasons (unfortunately) and the better half is picky...so it's just easier to prepare meals separately a good bit of the time.

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Isnt there a syndrome called Supertasters which explains pickiness?

 

Supertasters are people with a high number of taste buds who taste foods very intensely. Supertasters especially have a problem with bitter flavors--not a surprise.

 

People for whom coriander/cilantro tastes like soap have a genetic predisposition for that.

http://www.nature.com/news/soapy-taste-of-coriander-linked-to-genetic-variants-1.11398

 

Compared to me, Tri2Cook is a saint. I expect people to eat what I put on the table. I do ask about allergies, and I judge whether I'm hearing "can't eat" versus "won't eat." I'm fine about asking people to bring their own food. I tell them to please bring their own food so I will be sure they'll be happy at the party. I do put down a variety of foods to suit different tastes, but I won't cater to the few.

 

OK, so I don't know many vegans, gluten-intolerant, whatever-intolerant kinds of people. Almost all my good friends are omnivores like me. I'm OK with that.

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Right or wrong, part of how I define picky is based upon attitude.

I agree with that. (So therefore, it's right. :raz: )

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I think there are two issues here - adults that are extremely restrictive and adamant about what they will eat (in my opinion often following whatever fad is current) and the issue of dealing with children who are 'picky'. In the first case, unless there is a real medical ( I have a friend with a violent allergy to all alliums - cooking for her is difficult but worth it for her company) or ethical issue, I find it annoying at best. 

Re: the second issue, I am very influenced by my experience teaching both Child Psychology and Adolescent Psychology for many years to conventionally aged college students. When we discussed child-parent conflict, food, and especially dinner, was always one of the first topics raised. And more than once a student commented, "I got tired of fighting so I ate what she (Mom) wanted me to. Then I went to the bathroom and made myself throw up." And often again, someone else said, "Why didn't I think of that." The issue here, of course, was always power not nutrition. And the kids knew it even if the parents didn't.

Elaina

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I know people  with allergies but that is for another thread then here.

 

Super taster and super smeller  have more problems with food then bog standard people but there is also people who are the opposite of a super taster/smeller   and for them a banana taste cardboard an tomato only sour.   Then there people with autism that have texture problems and there fore refuse to eat wet, crunch or  soft foods. 

 

When it comes to canned food,  I use canned corn and canned tomatoes, why, simple because I live in an apartment and my gowning season short and I rather have taste corn then fresh corn from Spain or China  when there is none here.   Trust me  out of season veggies are not that yummy.

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I'm pretty much an eat anything person, but have my limits.

 

Recently I have been making chili cheese hot dogs, in fact we had them for dinner tonight with some sliced strawberries. I've been buying Hebrew National brand kosher beef hot dogs, and good quality rolls. I couldn't eat hot dogs or bologna for many years because they were used too much to feed me while I was a kid to keep the food budget down. They were not made from the top quality and more expensive ingredients I now use. I don't enjoy them a whole lot, but my husband loves chili cheese dogs, and I do enjoy being able to please him without cooking two separate meals, so I eat them anyway. I add chopped raw onion and jalapeno pepper with the seeds to mine, and I'm okay with it, if not over the moon like he is, but it brings me pleasure to see his own.

 

One of the worst scenarios in developing eating disorders or intolerance and control issues with children IMO is to force them to eat things they do not want to put in their bodies. That seems to be a definite control issue. I remember being forced to eat hot tamales. We were in San Diego at the time, so they were very hot. Now, I love spicy foods, and mourn the fact that after sixteen years of trying to educate my husband's palate his heat tolerance is only a little higher than it was when I first started cooking for him. I also got into battles about whole wheat bread as a kid. I love it now, but this kind of traumatic experience will stick with people to the grave. Parents, please don't force feed your kids. It's just a very bad idea.

 

It's just no fun to cook for people who are too critical or picky. Try to get creative, and you get shot down every time. I'm lucky that I usually cook for my husband, who's not picky at all except for heat (capsaicin) level. He also was initially resistant to a vegetarian meal, but is getting more tolerant over the years.

 

I love to please people I cook for and when my niece and nephew come to eat I have asked them to make lists of what they'd like to see on the menu. I still keep these lists to draw from every time they come.

 

My nephew once said after eating a clam pizza modeled after Pepe's in New Haven CT, "Anyone who can pull off a clam pizza must be a really good cook."  :wub:

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or ethical issue

The ethical thing is sometimes difficult for me to take seriously. I want to because I understand that it's something the person feels strongly about but then I run into someone like a local lady who proclaims "I'm vegetarian because (assorted ethical reasons, nothing medical or health related)" and then orders an egg white omelette. Basically, it's wrong to eat the yolk but she's fine with it being tossed in the trash so she can eat the white. That's just strange ethics to me.

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I'm still not convinced the habit/behavior failings can't be laid at the parent's feet. Contest of wills? As a child I cannot remember any of my friends or schoolmates that had real issues with the food served and that we all ate. Kudos to those whose children grew out of it- perhaps it was a phase, learning a sense of autonomy while absolutely controlled by adults.

 

However, people practicing selective eating way into adulthood and middle-age have a serious mental disorder. 

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Or  vegetarians  who happily eat cheese, because meat is murder  well cheese  kills  bull calves,  ram lamb,  billy goats  because in countries where  the meat isnt popular, they have no use and some are slaughter the day after birth. 

Any way I am very used to friends weird eating habits, due to autisms,  allergies, religions  and medications  but it does annoys me when neither of this is present and people say  I dont peas, I never have, I dont like them. Well  how do you know you  dont like something you never eaten?

 

Oh by the way, gobi pakora  doesn't contain cauliflower in this home and Indian food does not contain ginger, or that is at least what one person think and we all have agreed not to tell otherwise our dinners would be very restrictive.

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I'm still not convinced the habit/behavior failings can't be laid at the parent's feet. Contest of wills? As a child I cannot remember any of my friends or schoolmates that had real issues with the food served and that we all ate. Kudos to those whose children grew out of it- perhaps it was a phase, learning a sense of autonomy while absolutely controlled by adults.

 

However, people practicing selective eating way into adulthood and middle-age have a serious mental disorder. 

 

My son's best friend in grade school was an incredibly picky eater.  Both of his parents were very good cooks and they always had amazing food around, everything fresh and beautiful and beautifully cooked.  The kid, Luke, would eat almost nothing, he especially hated fruits and vegetables.  He once came to our house and I knew two things he WOULD eat were hot dogs and pizza (much to his parents' dismay). So we had hot dogs and pizza, which Luke was enjoying....until a drop of ketchup from his hot dog fell on the plate next to his piece of pizza.  He was so disgusted by this that he did not eat anything the whole rest of the time he was at our house (and he spent the night).  I felt terrible that he wouldn't eat but he wasn't worried about it, just drank his water (he hated fruit juice, milk, and soda pop) and said he was fine.  Now, Luke's all grown up and eats a fairly adventurous diet, although he still won't drink juice or milk. 

 

My father loved most fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins, but he loathed rice and pasta, and anything that was sour or bitter. And garlic.  (He thought people were pretending to be sophisticated if they "claimed" they liked olives or vinegar.)   Whenever he was away, my mom would feast on spaghetti with other verboten foods.  She was a good cook but I know she would have loved to expand her repertoire -- but she practiced "exotic" things on her bridge club get-togethers.

 

Unless someone's being an annoying arse, I figure their food dislikes and phobias are sincere.  Yes, sure, if they were in a prison camp or a desert island, they might be grateful to eat roasted larva, but my kitchen/dining room isn't supposed to feel like a prison camp (I hope!). I have no problem accomodating people's food preferences, even if it's sometimes difficult or even irritating.

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We must be living in some kind of unreal bubble.  My parents never made me eat food I didn't want to eat...although I can't remember anything I refused to eat besides soft-cooked eggs.  (Still do.)  And we never forced our children to eat things they didn't want to eat.  But I don't recall any problem foods.

 

We have folks over to eat a lot of the time and many of them have allergies and intolerances...we are mostly quite advanced in years...and they are always very clear about that.  And so am I.  If it's really difficult, they bring their own food or don't come for meals.  Or I make food around their problem areas.  I don't know why it's just never been a problem.  But then I don't run  a catering business or a restaurant or cafeteria.  I guess we've just been lucky. 

 

There are a few things I won't eat.  And that's that.  And I always tell people if we are eating at their homes, and luckily seafood is so expensive around here that no one ever minds not feeding it to us. 

And honestly, we tend more to have folks to our home because we have two huge dogs who go everywhere with us and if you come to our house, you can bring your own dogs.  We are known as "Dog Heaven" to friends. 

 

We are neither of us 'super-tasters' although DH likes more salt and more sugar than I do.  (I sound quite self-righteous, don't I?  Although I don't mean to.  :blush: )

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I think it has gotten much, much harder to accommodate what we might view as a picky eater (whatever their reasons for being so might be) because our fare has gotten much more sophisticated and complex than it was decades ago, particularly for those of us with a culinary interest/background.

 

Half the fun for me of having people over for dinner (especially these days since I live alone) is cooking a 'fantastic meal' (one I might not normally make just for myself). Since that happens so rarely, I definitely don't want to have to follow the old tried and true rule of never making something that I have not made and perfected aforehand. I love to experiment - and perhaps to expand the culinary horizon of my guests. To put a standard roast and 3 veg on the table unadorned is very difficult and not fun for me - though I will do it if I know that otherwise my guests will go hungry.

 

In long years past, I might just have put a fairly plain roast, some sort of potatoes or plain boiled rice (with maybe a smattering of parsley on the top to make it attractive), and several vegetables on elegant platters and just about everyone would have happily eaten those. These days I might want to do a 'thai' or 'spanish' theme for instance. That means, though those might actually contain most of the same ingredients as those previously 'plain' meals, the spices may vary (which brings in a whole new world of potential 'preferences'/likes/dislikes, even allergies, to consider) and individual ingredients that are not liked by a particular guest may be difficult to pick out discreetly and push to the side of one's plate.

 

And people are so much more outspoken than they used to be too I think. Allergies abound - that never were there when I was a kid or in the early years when I was beginning to cook, to my knowledge. And, as some have mentioned, there is the 'fad or diet of the week club' to consider as well. I am a polite hostess so I will ask in advance if there is anything that my guests can't eat - but these days the list that is returned may be very long indeed. All this can be frustrating for a host/hostess. These same people might go to a restaurant and just quietly order or not eat whatever is served - but, when I ask for a home dinner, they will say much more than they would in that venue.

 

So perhaps the answer is just to put out very plain/simple and immediately recognizable/common/familiar/non-ethnic based foods when I am inviting guests over. I invite them because I want to enjoy their company - but, I admit that it takes a good bit of the 'fun' out of the exercise for me when I cannot be creative in the kitchen as I plan and prepare their dinner.

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Very interesting responses. I still tend to think that when most people use the phrase "picky eater," the food really has very little to do with it, it's mostly an ego thing. It's more understandable with kids, they're trying to assert some autonomy (i.e., they're growing up), and I think for the most part they should be allowed to make their own choices. (But I don't have kids, so what do I know?) With adults, it's much more tricky. Mostly it's just not a food issue, and if they're my guests the question becomes, "how much of this crap am I willing to put up with?" If an adult refuses to eat food because it's a particular color, well, I have little patience for that. I don't consider him a picky eater, this is not a food issue. But if people dislike certain things, I see no point in getting upset about it. We're dealing with adults here, they're allowed to dislike things, however irrational we may consider that dislike to be. So at what point is someone considered a picky eater? I once had cousins visiting from overseas, and I made a big pot of mujadara only to find out that they couldn't stand onions. I was surprised and even a bit stunned (how can anyone not like onions?), but they're adults, they know what they like and don't like. (And mujadara freezes beautifully.) But does that make them picky eaters? I'm not religious but I keep a semblance of kashrut. I don't eat non-kosher meat, I don't eat shellfish. When I eat at friends' places, they'll either make fish or I'll just eat the vegetable side dishes, I'm fine with that and so are they. Am I a picky eater? I don't think so, but others might. There are many examples. I just don't know how to differentiate between "valid" refusal to eat stuff, "picky" refusal, and just plain nuts!

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Research has shown that most people in the so called "Bible Belt" eat the same 20 entrees for dinner in rotation most of their lives.

And not trying to further fan the flames from that statement, there was even more research that shows that there is a huge culinary divide between

political parties, with those identifying as Liberal being the more cultured and adventurous eaters. (Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20111117104347/http://hunch.com/media/reports/food/)

 

I was raised around a hugely successful (an Institution even) restaurant and everyone was into food in my family, I was given books about different cultures and religions and food as a child

So I wasnt picky. Although I didnt like raw tomatoes as a kid, but love them now. I am NOT picky as an adult. BUT I am particular about food safety, and food sourcing and I dont eat at certain other peoples houses or from certain restaurants because I have had some horrid experiences.

 

I think its a Supertaster thing I also think its a taste acuity thing, the proof of taste acuity is easily proven by the Barilla Pasta Sauce thing. Barilla tried to bring its popular Italian brand sauce to the USA, It had much less sugar (if any) but it was failing in the US mkt and they did research and found that US consumers were used to a sweeter sauce because their sweetness acuity was higher due to all our sauces having more sugar...

So I think its both Nature Vs Nurture...

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My son's best friend in grade school was an incredibly picky eater.  Both of his parents were very good cooks and they always had amazing food around, everything fresh and beautiful and beautifully cooked.  The kid, Luke, would eat almost nothing, he especially hated fruits and vegetables.  He once came to our house and I knew two things he WOULD eat were hot dogs and pizza (much to his parents' dismay). So we had hot dogs and pizza, which Luke was enjoying....until a drop of ketchup from his hot dog fell on the plate next to his piece of pizza.  He was so disgusted by this that he did not eat anything the whole rest of the time he was at our house (and he spent the night).  I felt terrible that he wouldn't eat but he wasn't worried about it, just drank his water (he hated fruit juice, milk, and soda pop) and said he was fine.  Now, Luke's all grown up and eats a fairly adventurous diet, although he still won't drink juice or milk. 

 

My father loved most fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins, but he loathed rice and pasta, and anything that was sour or bitter. And garlic.  (He thought people were pretending to be sophisticated if they "claimed" they liked olives or vinegar.)   Whenever he was away, my mom would feast on spaghetti with other verboten foods.  She was a good cook but I know she would have loved to expand her repertoire -- but she practiced "exotic" things on her bridge club get-togethers.

 

Unless someone's being an annoying arse, I figure their food dislikes and phobias are sincere.  Yes, sure, if they were in a prison camp or a desert island, they might be grateful to eat roasted larva, but my kitchen/dining room isn't supposed to feel like a prison camp (I hope!). I have no problem accomodating people's food preferences, even if it's sometimes difficult or even irritating.

 

Ketchup on hotdogs?  Ewww, yuck.

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Many years ago, I was briefly hospitalised in London with a relatively minor complaint. I was on a public ward. The hospital supplied food was, to put it kindly, dire. Verging on inedible. And I'm not in the least bit picky.

 

In the next bed was this heading-for-middle age man. One dinner time he said to me

 

"This food is wonderful."

I thought he was being ironic until I saw him wolfing it down. He was serious.

I asked "What do you usually eat?"

 

"Well Monday to Saturday, I have fish and chips from the local takeaway place. On Sundays I have chicken and chips." (Chips in the British sense)

I was stunned and sad. I don't think he was picky, just ignorant. And I am sure there are many more like him.

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Ketchup on hotdogs?  Ewww, yuck.

 

I know, right?  But the kid liked it...just not if some of the ketchup got on the plate near the pizza!

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