Pick and choose…

Are you a fussy eater? That was the question on everyone’s lips over the Guardian Word of Mouth blog recently as they discussed people’s foibles and finickiness.

I was amazed by how many people both outed themselves as fussy eaters and seemed quite proud of that fact. I consider myself a fairly fussy eater and am quite embarassed by it since I’m a grown woman and the rest of my family are fairly unflappable when it comes to food. I hoped that some of Mister North’s sangfroid would rub off on me when we started this blog…

And I think it might be working. In the past few months, I have tried quite a few things I would usually have skipped in favour of something less challenging to me. Bad childhood experiences with liver have left me wary of offal for years, but I have eaten liver and hearts recently and enjoyed both of them greatly. I have long been suspicious of broad beans as drab little bitter things after eating frozen ones as a side dish in the 80s, but have been converted to their charms when served peeled and fresh.

I also ventured out for an Indian meal recently with Mister North, setting aside my lifelong distaste for garam masala, curry powder and tumeric to at least try something different. I also didn’t baulk when my dining companions ordered cumin chilli chicken at Chilli Cool despite a deep loathing of this retch-inducing spice. I actually quite enjoyed the dish when I tried it, but that was probably because I couldn’t taste the cumin…

However my new found bravery (and fear of looking like the fussy one when eating out) will not get me over my previously mentioned loathing of bell peppers. Unlike my childhood dislike of mushrooms which has more or less faded to an indifference now, my hatred of peppers is for life. That’s a carefully nutured abomination, cultivated over years of sitting at the dinner table until finished as a child, vegetarians dishes that didn’t mention them yet are chockful of them and a late 80s belief that stuffed peppers were the height of swank at the dinner table. It’s a dislike that has come to define me and I’m not letting it go.

While I fully admit to being (rather) judgemental of really fussy eaters who as adults can only force down chicken nuggets, potato shapes and boatloads of ketchup, I think it’s perfectly normal to have at least one thing you really dislike whether that be because of taste or texture. I would also never judge if someone is forced into fussy eating by food intolerances, allergies or illness, but I admit to a few qualms about people who refuse to at least try new things.

I shall be continuing to try something new as often as possible, even attempting to challenge my dislike of fruit in savoury dishes with the very generous gift from loyal blog reader Margo-a-go-go of the beautiful The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit which seeks to encourage the creative cook to try new and unexpected flavour combos. I’m particularly keen to see if I can overcome my antipathy to oranges…

So what say you? What’s your dealbreaker? Or what are you secretly yearning to try despite the fear that it make you spit food into your table napkin?

9 replies
  1. sloe-eyed
    sloe-eyed says:

    Unfortunately, my taste buds are locked into a sad dependent relationship with my eyeballs, which prevents me from trying foods that I think are ugly: mushrooms (blech!), oysters and clams (gurk!), etc. Also, cilantro tastes like soap to me.

  2. Elly
    Elly says:

    I like a lot of thing hot but hate them cold. My least favourite textures are rubbery and gelatinous.

    It’s interesting how one can like complex flavours in one type of food but not another. I know 2 people who love proper cheese, but can’t tell the difference between good and, erm, ‘simple’ wine.

    My horrors are:
    -Shell fish in any form
    -Cold fish in almost every form – but especially tinned tuna and anchovies.
    -Nori (To me it tastes like old mown grass and the smell of bicycle tyre inner tubes)
    -Fish sausage
    -Cold grains – e.g. rice, couscous
    -Pickled beetroot
    -Coriander (in large amounts)
    -Savoury things which taste sweet.(This is a hard one to explain – it occurs often in Thai or Japanese food)
    -Roast pork (I’m a fool for crackling however).
    -Chicken heart (I didn’t like the ones at the Brazilian barbecue place)
    -Liver (usually)
    -Raw mushrooms and the texture of large chunks of cooked mushrooms. I like duxelles, however. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duxelles) And yes, I type this in horrified awe of my own middle-class w***ery.
    -Raw onions – they give me indigestion and I hate having onion breath for hours.
    -Sesame seeds in sweet dishes – halva, tahini

  3. Quince Tart
    Quince Tart says:

    OK. This is going to be a long list. I’m a seriously fussy eater and you know what, I don’t care what people think of it. I had to fight long and hard for my fussiness as a child because interfering adults wouldn’t take me seriously. Now that I am an adult I consider that I have the right to have my likes and dislikes respected. I am happy to starve for them and do make them clear before I go to someone’s house for dinner so I cause minimal disturbance.

    Or to phrase it another way, I’m fussy about who I kiss, why the hell shouldn’t I be equally fussy about the other things that have contact with my mouth?

    So here goes I do not eat:

    1. Mayonnaise- ugh
    2. Salad cream – one of the nastiest, most disgusting smelling substances on earth in my opinion
    3. Eggs (boiled, omelette, fried, scrambled etc. I’m fine with them in cakes and things.)
    4. Margarine or butter on bread (I can just about manage butter on toast as long as it’s totally smothered in jam or marmalade or on vegetables though I’d rather it wasn’t there)
    5. CHEESE – foul stuff- what the hell is wrong with you people?!
    6. Yoghurt – smells bad, tastes worse. Just say no.
    7. Canned fish especially tuna – stinky
    8. Sandwiches unless they are absolutely freshly cut and preferably do not contain salad. This one partly comes from the fact that a large number of the items above are regularly featured in sandwiches. As for the salad issue, it’s a textural thing. I think putting salad in sandwiches spoils both the salad and the sandwich.
    9. Fish that isn’t incredibly fresh.
    10. Shellfish that look like snails.
    11. Actual snails.
    12. Tripe in anything other than very small doses
    13. Natto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natt%C5%8D (I swear the Japanese just invented it to see whether they could persuade foreigners to eat something so utterly vile.)
    14. Ketchup and brown sauce

    As you can see there’s a sort of dairyish theme to most of the above. That makes it easier to remember folks. If it comes from an udder and has significantly change flavour and texture through churning or fermentation then keep it to yourselves. Also if it’s a savoury creamy sour thing that resembles one of those milk gone wrong products you’re all so strangely fond of. (Am I the only sane one here?)

    On the upside I eat all vegetables and fruits and most seafood and meats including octopus, liver, heart and, if I have to, kidneys. I love spicy foods, seeds, nuts, breads, cereals, noodles, pastas and all sorts of exotica.

    I’m serious about the ketchup though.

  4. miss_south
    miss_south says:

    All, this is most helpful as I no doubt be cooking you dinner some day and don’t wish to make you reach for a bucket. I am amazed Quince Tart can eat out anywhere, feel bad that I may have made Elly eat shellfish in dim sum and with Sloe-Eyed on the cilantro/coriander thing. Tastes like I’ve stuck my tongue in the washing up bowl and inhaled some own brand washing up liquid…

  5. Carolyne
    Carolyne says:

    No offal or shellfish, neither are kosher so wasn’t brought up eating them and having tried them all in early adulthood, I don’t like the taste or the texture.
    Cheese unless it’s melted on a pizza, or grated over pasta. In it’s natural state it makes me think of a big chunk of wax and no-one wants to eat that!
    Raw tomatoes.
    Peanut butter, so much so that I can’t even stand to be in the same room as someone who is eating it, indeed, just the smell alone makes me want to vomit.
    Heinz baked beans and any other brand of baked beans.
    Margarine or spreads, I’m only interested in butter.
    Tuna that’s not out of a tin
    Cous cous
    Green peppers
    Water chestnuts
    Sandwich spread
    Raw mushrooms
    Brown sauce
    Branston pickle
    Oranges and other citrus fruit plus juices too.
    Kalamata Olives

    It seems I’m fussier than I realised so it’s probably not very forgiving of me for being turned off by male fussy eaters!

  6. Quince Tart
    Quince Tart says:

    Nah it’s actually really easy. Most places have at least some options that don’t have much in the way of dairy in them. There’s the whole of Asia available to me especially East Asian. The yoghurt in curry doesn’t taste of yoghurt it tastes of spice and hopefully significant amounts of chilli.

    Veggie places are sometimes a trial but generally have a vegan option which works for me.

    Chips don’t come with ketchup pre-applied. You can order pasta and pizza without the cheese. I don’t really care about butter on veggies in French places it’s just that given the choice I won’t add it.

    It’s only that dairy-philes are so obsessively in love with the stuff that they can’t see past it to cook without.

    It really is only one or two flavours that I actually really dislike but they are the basis for a whole food group. Also I missed one. Baked beans. For the same reason I don’t like ketchup. They’re a group too.

  7. Margo-a-go-go
    Margo-a-go-go says:

    I really don’t have any – like I’ve mentioned, not crazy about ice cream, or lollies/candy/sweets, but not ick-ugh-averse to them. Some part of my brain chimes in: Food = fuel. Although, I’ve only once forced myself to eat an apple core, and the idea kind of makes me wince.

  8. Margo-a-go-go
    Margo-a-go-go says:

    @Quince Tart: You are totally right about dairy (and I love the stuff, but it’s seriously not that critical).

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