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Dealing with Difficult/Finicky/Fussy/Picky eaters


foodcyclist
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One of the estheticians at the salon a frequent has a boyfriend with serious food issues. He doesn't have allergies, just food issues. His breakfast is always the same--scrambled eggs, toast (white bread) and bacon. He can eat plain chicken wings, french fries, hot dogs (with bun, no condiments), and I think that was it. No pizza, no spaghetti, no hamburgers--none of that other stuff you might think a picky eater might eat.

The thing about his guy is that he's more embarrassed about his food issues than demanding. They went to a family dinner at a restaurant, and he didn't make a fuss or anything, or refuse to go if he didn't get a special meal. He just went prepared not to eat anything (he doesn't like attention about his food issues). Fortunately, someone in his family explained the situation to the staff beforehand, and someone quietly asked him if there was something simple they could get him. He was relieved, but he didn't expect it or demand it.

I think most people are very willing to accomodate guests with allergies or food restrictions due to religion. But when it comes to other food issues, people are much more generous if the guests are not demanding or controlling about their issues. Pushy people don't get very far, at least not in my house.

edited: I'm not an esthetician, nor do I play one on TV

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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FFB, it does look like most of us inquire about food preferences when inviting guests. At least in the US. Since I've been living in France I've never heard anyone either ask for special food, nor inquire whether special food is necessary. The strangest thing I've discovered recently here is that in the Basque part of France tomato skins and pepper skins are considered to be "indigestible" and so serving them to a Basque guest would definitely be rude.

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only the guest of honor gets to choose..or stipulate... other than that I just let folks know what I am serving if they ask ..

thank goodness...people around me love food! ...I really do not have any "picky" eaters in my life ..all four of my kids are out for any adventure and look forward to them! ...most folks who do gravitate in my direction or visa versa ... love to cook. love to eat or both

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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This came up in a thread last year, I believe.

I think we have to draw a clear, and I mean CLEAR line between picky and allergy.

Last time this happened to me, the takeout guy thought I ordered shrimp eggrolls, and spent the night in the hospital hooked up to an IV to re-hydrate.

there's a HUGE difference between "I hate liver, and

"Seafood is a threat to my life."

But, I take responsiblity, everyone, and I mean everyone, who might possibly feed me knows if they put out shellfish, It's clear, it's sitting there, I can see it so I know to avoid it.

---------------------------------------

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Well I can certainly identify with the fellow that has food issues and is ashamed...

It is even hard to tell it here! I don't know why! So confession time:

I became a vegetarian at age 12- never liked the thought of eating meat. I was convinced for health reason as a teen to eat fish. I nearly died. I have a severe fatal allergy to fish. Same with Kiwi fruit and I was diagnosed with celiac... I usually never tell anyone and always find something to eat, even if it is salad and cheese... I cook absolutely everything-and well!

Do you know what it is like to be in a restaurant with a group of friends, "no thanks I am a vegetarian, no I can't eat fish. No I can't eat pasta. So, what fruit is in the fruit salad?"

I sound like a total nut!! Only my family and closest friends know. Even now I am ashamed...

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FFB, it does look like most of us inquire about food preferences when inviting guests.  At least in the US.  Since I've been living in France I've never heard anyone either ask for special food, nor inquire whether special food is necessary.  The strangest thing I've discovered recently here is that in the Basque part of France tomato skins and pepper skins are considered to be "indigestible" and so serving them to a Basque guest would definitely be rude.

Thanks, Abra. Maybe this is a topic for a different thread, but I wonder how you came to know that the tomato and pepper skins were rude?

I also wonder if any of the posters would mind saying for whom they're cooking, when they ask, "any food preferences or aversions?" I wonder if people with lists of what they will/won't eat would offer it if they weren't asked?

(In restaurants where I've worked, if you ask a diner this question, they'll come up with something they don't want. If you don't, they'll basically offer an only an allergy or dietary restriction (if someone is pregnant, for example, or severely allergic to nuts). )

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I cook with peanut oil a lot. I make sure everyone I don't know knows there are peanuts about.

A pet peave of mine would be people that feel they need to lecture or enlighten me about why they don't eat say red meat. All I really need to know is they don't eat red meat.

I'm becoming more and more aware of adverse effects related to people on various medications. It's almost laughable. People sometimes get offended if you ask. I don't want your medical history I just don't want you do drop dead before dessert.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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I just don't want you do drop dead before dessert.

You know, the closer we get to the Presidential season... and the more political the discussion seems to get at my dining table... there have been cases where... well... can I put some ground peanuts on your bread pudding? May I light your brandy while you're drinking it? Perhaps put a live piranha in your port? Oh well. At least the food isn't a problem. And the discussion is .... "memorable".

hvr :biggrin:

"Cogito Ergo Dim Sum; Therefore I think these are Pork Buns"

hvrobinson@sbcglobal.net

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  • 2 months later...

Ok, I have nothing constructive to add but I need to get something off my chest. If anyone has an idea as to how I should deal with this situation -- please, do tell!

I have a very passive aggressive step-mother-in-law. She supposedly has a peanut issue, but I cry 'foul' to that. I have been reminded of it, each and every time I cook for her. What's peculiar is that she has never ONCE mentioned this to the wait staff at the restaurants. She will also buy a bag of mixed nuts and finger through the top layer. If she doesn't see a peanut she assumes it's ok. She doesn't carry an epi pen.

In addition to the peanuts she has an aversion to garlic, fresh onions, and anything that has any level of "spicy" flavor, which includes salt or pepper! She hovers over my shoulder while I'm cooking and say's things like "don't salt it - I don't like salt, you can always add it later, but you can't take it out." As a result I have to serve bland food to all of our guests. When we all gather at the table there is a symphony of the shake, shake, shake of the salt and pepper canisters around the table. I have learned to place one set for every two people so the food doesn't get cold while we wait our turn for shakers.

We spend one week a year together (in addition to other trips) and I cook 90% of the meals. She will repeat her demands each and every meal. She once told me that she liked guacamole. As I started to prepare it she advised me that cilantro made her sick to her stomach, and peppers were too hot for her. So that, in addition to her other demands, left us with what? avocadoes and lemon juice?

The kicker is that when I first met her and she was trying to win my FIL's affections, she ate anything that I prepared for her. It was only later (after they were married) that she told me that she didn't eat the garlic and onions because they made her breath smell. She's forgotten that she told me that. When I reminded her about that comment she denied it and said that she couldn't eat them because they upset her stomach. It's not that she didn't want to, she couldn't... BS. She's passive aggressive.

She has also said many times that she can't stand the smell of peanut butter, so I suspect that's the reason she has a "peanut allergy."

You tell me... I sometimes just have to throw it back in her face -- just a little bit. Ex: Each Christmas I hand roll chocolates. She loves my coconut balls. This year I advised her not to eat one because I had rolled peanut butter balls in the chocolate AND THEN the coconut balls. I explained that surely the peanut butter oil had permated the chocolate and they wouldn't be safe for her to eat. It didn't stop her, she still enjoyed two balls.

Deep breath... That was great therapy! She just left after a four day visit, so was in need of a release.

In order to keep this on topic, and serve some useful tips (rather than just rant) I will say that I have found a few techniques to help me cope. When I start coking I nicely state that I know the things she won't eat -- she doesn't have to say it. It helps a little. I also make smaller dishes that she can eat. And I mean small - like the petite Le Crueset ramekin size. Here's your serving of lasagne, isn't it cute!?

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Ok, I have nothing constructive to add but I need to get something off my chest. If anyone has an idea as to how I should deal with this situation -- please, do tell!

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. I am a big fan of Dijon and dry mustard. He has never had those symptoms around me. I must say that I usually am using the mustard as a flavor note among many and have never put out anything glowing yellow like ballpark mustard. Totally think it is mental but I just say nothing.

Your situation with the micromanaging of your cooking is certainly different. I think your idea of making her things separate and "special" rather than making everyone suffer is probably the most sensible and least stressful approach. Good luck!

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Ok, I have nothing constructive to add but I need to get something off my chest. If anyone has an idea as to how I should deal with this situation -- please, do tell!

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. I am a big fan of Dijon and dry mustard. He has never had those symptoms around me. I must say that I usually am using the mustard as a flavor note among many and have never put out anything glowing yellow like ballpark mustard. Totally think it is mental but I just say nothing.

Your situation with the micromanaging of your cooking is certainly different. I think your idea of making her things separate and "special" rather than making everyone suffer is probably the most sensible and least stressful approach. Good luck!

lol, you guys got nothin'! :biggrin: My mom's new husband is "allergic" to white cheese. Not the orange stuff, just the white. Uh, huh...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Ok, I have nothing constructive to add but I need to get something off my chest. If anyone has an idea as to how I should deal with this situation -- please, do tell!

I can only think of two things: encourage her to cook more often when she's at your home (or whenever you're together, or encourage your husband to cook more often in those situations.

In either case, you may end up eating bland or bad food, but at least you can't be blamed for it. And in the case of your husband cooking, because he's the son, he can stand up to her (if he chooses) and go against her wishes. You can't (without major grief).

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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.

Agreed on all counts, though I do ask first-time guests about allergies or vegetarian-ness. I've never had a problem. I do have one friend who doesn't eat onions, which I routinely forget - honestly, I do! And then I feel bad...until I eat my onions. :wink:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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although sometimes asking about food allergies will yield a whole list of I don't eat.... I think someone with a true allergy would speak up and say thanks for the invite. I am highly allergic to ___________ Just wanted to let you know.

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Hmmm...the picky kids who sigh at what I put on their plates don't bother me half as much as the ones who scarf everything down, then help themselves to cash-cards, camera, and a few other portables while "using the toilet"!

It seems to me that the more in need of a meal and a table full of people to enjoy it with somebody is, the less experience they have of sitting down ready to eat whatever arrives on the dinner table. They're used to take-out or fast food, ordering what they want, trashing what they didn't care for.

And to be honest, as our families blend and re-blend, and our supermarkets and bookstores are always showing us something new to eat or cook, we don't have the ability our grandparents had to predict roughly what will be on the table or how our dining companions eat or behave.

So I try to cut my guests a little slack, and I try to avoid plated, individually served dinners if I think a guest is likely to be unhappy with that style of eating. And I know some people are just unhappy with all but the plainest food, so why would I invite them if I don't plan to offer them hospitality in any meaninful sense of the word?

Funnily, sometimes the intention appears to be as good as the deed. I sat down with a piece of paper and listened at length to somebody tell me about the cans and can'ts of his dining habits. I actually lost the piece of paper, but he seems much less fussy these days!

The one person I try to avoid dining with at all costs is a friend who likes to have everything about a dish in a restaurant changed to suit her whim, in the kind of restaurant where the food is ordered as a pre-priced set...but she doesn't speak enough Japanese to harrass the staff into the proper state of submission, so she likes to get me to do that for her...NO, THANK YOU!!

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Wow. So many of you hve such really bad situations, I am so sorry. I guess I am really lucky that at this point in my life, if I don't like you enough to cook for you, I am much more likely to pay for the priveledge of a meal out, so that I can both leave as I like, I don't have to endure you in my personal space, and I don't have to waste good kitchen time on anyone I don't love.

That will change as my kids get older I guess but I have no problem supplying teen friendly food, and I like my kid, I should be ok.

Edited by pax (log)
“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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nancy, sorry to hear about your situation. I'm no family health professional but it sounds like she has major issues with you that she's projected onto your cooking. (When I put it that way, it actually is preferable to think she just hates your cooking.... ulp) I concur with Rona's suggestion. Maybe you both could cook something for dinner and you could let the leftovers speak for themselves. (Wow, I never knew I could be so aggressive with conflict..)

Some crazy ideas that I wouldn't recommend--

-- talk down to her while she's hovering over your shoulder. "See? I've sequestered a single portion without the things you hate-- peppers, salt, spices-- you know, flavor."

-- to hell with it, cook any way you want and watch everyone else scarf it down. She can have rice cakes.

-- when she nitpicks your cooking, explode in a violent tantrum of deep-seated issues. "YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ME?!" Then everyone argues and you reach some resolution and hug it out. Sorry, I've been watching too much Brothers and Sisters.

Gosh, I'm so hateful!

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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I had the issue with garlic and onions with an acquaintance in Germany who claimed not to like them. She would ask me to reduce or eliminate these ingredients in my tomato sauce or whatever. I would bob my head indistinctly in a manner which could be construed as nodding, and put in the amount that I had planned to use. She loved the tomato sauce.

I learned that she asked another friend of hers to make a tomato sauce "like Jason's" and would make the same requests, only to have her demands entertained. She would complain that the sauce didn't taste as good. She never made the connection.

I've since learned that people who are picky about the seasonings I use should be invited to arrive when dinner is ready to serve.

My picky little brother thinks he hates onions, but only complains if he recognizes the texture. What he doesn't know about Salisbury steak (or Japanese hamburg steak), most tomato sauce, and hash browns won't hurt him.

I also ignore demands/requests about salt. If someone really has a medical reason to avoid salt I'll make a couple of dishes that should accommodate their needs and maybe try to be more careful about oversalting things that I might unintentionally use a heavy hand with. But many dishes taste terrible with the sharp taste of salt added after the fact, without a chance of being absorbed by the ingredients as the salt dissolves. So, if I felt so inclined as to explain myself, I'll say that I know this particular dish needs to be seasoned while it's still cooking.

Coarsely mashed avocado and lime juice with maybe a little salt is actually my favorite guacamole when the avocados are good, perfect as a condiment for savory dishes, though sometimes less interesting as a dip for chips if it's the only option. But cilantro and garlic and onions are a must-have in my salsas :)

I'm occasionally slightly bewildering to people who are serving food to me thanks to my vegetarian habit, but I usually remedy that by offering to bring something, helping to cook, or just eating what I can. I'm also far more flexible when someone else is doing the cooking.

I don't tend to serve "simpler" or lower quality cuisine when I have people with more basic tastes than mine, because I want people to have a chance to enjoy the same things I do, and perhaps see why food can matter. I make concessions for religious reasons, people on special diets, and allergies, but not for people who are simply picky.

Nearly everyone appreciates it, though I've had one or two vegetable-fearing hardcore meat eaters who skip all of the green things and end up eating only the breads, rice, white vegetables, and the like. I consider that their own fault.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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If I'm cooking for family, I know enough about their preferences to choose something they'll like. If I'm cooking for someone new, I simply ask, "are there any allergies or things I should avoid?"

I don't have multiple families over for sit down meals, and that's mostly a space issue. But I also feel that a meal cooked is a gift, and if I know about a couple's preferences, I love to make something THEY'LL love. That could mean lasagna for one couple and a weird exotic menu for another.

A dinner party is always a carefully planned event, and that means planning the combination of guests and tastes, too.

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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. I am a big fan of Dijon and dry mustard. He has never had those symptoms around me. I must say that I usually am using the mustard as a flavor note among many and have never put out anything glowing yellow like ballpark mustard. Totally think it is mental but I just say nothing.

In fairness, people can develop allergies over time. And allergies can vary in severity. Personally, I've discovered that I now have a problem with raw onion. Never used to bother me. And cooked onion is fine. But whenever I eat something with raw onion in it, I end up with a headache. And not all onion is created equal – red onion is the worst, but they all bother me to some degree. It's not serious enough that I'll make a big fuss over it – I won't end up in the hospital or anything – but I make an effort to avoid it now. I try to make a point of saying "no onions" on sandwiches and salads, but if I forget, I'll just pick it out. And if I do eat some unknowingly (potato salad is a prime suspect), no one else would be able to tell I was affected. I'd just have a low grade annoying headache that could've been avoided.

That said, when I'm invited for dinner, I'll tell people I'm vegetarian, but not to go out of their way. I don't need a special meal prepared just for me – I'm perfectly happy with side dishes. I just need to know that there are at least a few things that don't have any meat products in them. I wouldn't even mention the onion issue – that's my problem to deal with.

Edited by emmalish (log)

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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From the guest's side:

I have to say this whenever I am invited to a sit down dinner party. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"I am so pleased you thought of us. We'd really like to come enjoy some time with you. Roy is still easy to cook for but I have had some issues lately and I can't eat very much. I hope that that won't bother you. Please don't worry or make a fuss, I will enjoy every bite I get down and I will enjoy your company more."

This works for most people. Some insist on fussing, and I'm grateful but it is not necessary or expected. In some cases, it becomes too much. I don't go back to those places. The only concession I've ever mentioned, and this only to dear friends, is that if there was a soup, I'd be thrilled. If not, heck, whatever. And sure, I am happy to bring it myself, if that suits.

I LOVE food, I love to experiement, I love to talk about it, but some things just don't work. In the end, the company is more important than the food and that's what I stress. If the hosts get bent over it, there really isn't much I can do.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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nancy, sorry to hear about your situation. I'm no family health professional but it sounds like she has major issues with you that she's projected onto your cooking. (When I put it that way, it actually is preferable to think she just hates your cooking.... ulp)

jumanggy THAT made me laugh, and you are spot on! I care about what people think of me, but I inherited her through a second marriage (my FIL remarried, after the loss of his lovely wife) so I can't "stop calling" that acquaintance. In fact I think that's why I get crazy. I can handle anything in small (or medium) doses, but when I see her it's for a minimum of four days and sometimes as much as two weeks at a time. shudder.

Back on topic: I love to entertain and much of what we do involves cooking, so I couldn't be happier. Most of the fun of a dinner party is the group effort. I do have one friend that is "finicky" in that she can't stand to see any type of fat added during the cooking process. She is very health conscience, and I appreciate that. She doesn't say anything, but she will literally sneer at a pan if oil is used for browning, or if I use even a one tiny strip of bacon with the green beans. In her case I watch the ingredient list and serve lot's of chicken or fish.

You know... as I'm thinking about this I should send her a thank you card. It was because of her that I studied up on and started using my cast iron pans!

What's funny about this person is that she doesn't think twice about eating two desserts. I guess it's easy to pretend the fat doesn't exist if you don't see it.

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I also ignore demands/requests about salt. If someone really has a medical reason to avoid salt I'll make a couple of dishes that should accommodate their needs and maybe try to be more careful about oversalting things that I might unintentionally use a heavy hand with. But many dishes taste terrible with the sharp taste of salt added after the fact, without a chance of being absorbed by the ingredients as the salt dissolves. So, if I felt so inclined as to explain myself, I'll say that I know this particular dish needs to be seasoned while it's still cooking.

My mother's husband doesn't like it when I salt as I cook. "Too much salt," he claims, for health reasons. He doesn't salt food at the table (just drowns everything in black pepper, but that's another story).

Of course, he then goes and eats pork and beans from the can, Frito pie, and who knows what other sodium-laden goodies. Makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Of course, he then goes and eats pork and beans from the can, Frito pie, and who knows what other sodium-laden goodies. Makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.

I'm familiar with that sideways logic. My salt adverse in-law won't let me salt while cooking, yet she'll enjoy a bloody mary after golf. Two cans of V8 (640 mg of sodium) garnished with a giant pickle (roughly 300mg). That's a full days worth of sodium for my mom who IS on a salt restricted diet.

If someone really has a medical reason to avoid salt I'll make a couple of dishes that should accommodate their needs and maybe try to be more careful about oversalting things that I might unintentionally use a heavy hand with. But many dishes taste terrible with the sharp taste of salt added after the fact, without a chance of being absorbed by the ingredients as the salt dissolves.

I had an aunt that had restrictions, so we didn't salt food while cooking. The only salt option we had at the table was 'light salt.' Talk about HARSH. We endured that one though because she really loved her salt, and we knew she missed it. It was easier for all of us to adapt, we didn't want to make an issue.

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