This morning I read this post, from The Urban Vegan, about educating your palate. I will say that I really enjoy her blog and her recipes and I agree that people in general should be willing to try different things. I do. I think that trying new foods is well and good, but I certainly took this (and so did others, judging by the majority of the comments), as a referendum on picky eaters. Obviously, if you’ve seen the title here, I’m a picky eater. Most people who read that seemed to be in agreement- people who are picky are annoying when it comes to eating and are possibly giving vegans a bad name.
I want to be clear. I don’t think at all that it’s appropriate to not encourage children to eat a variety of foods or for adults to dismiss entire food groups. If the only vegetables that pass your lips are potatoes and tomatoes in the form of French fries and ketchup, that’s a serious problem. While I am a self-proclaimed picky eater, I eat a variety of vegan foods, including vegetables. But you know what? I’m 30 years old. I’ve been eating that long. I don’t have to try something that I know is bitter to know that I’m probably not going to like it. I also don’t have to touch the burners on every stove I see to know that they’re hot (well, when they’re on, anyway). The 9 types of flavors out there are objective. They exist. To what degree we perceive them can vary and certainly our enjoyment of them can be different, but we know they’re there. While some people love bitter, others can’t stand it. I am one of those. I do know that there are certain very strong bitter type flavors that I enjoy (like those found in broccoli rabe, lemon or white vinegar; I’m always willing to try things along these lines), but generally speaking I don’t like bitter foods. I can’t explain exactly why, but after 30 years of eating, I know this about myself.
Which brings me to the point of this post. The message I got from the post I read was that if people would just try things, they’d like them. They might have to try them a few times, but they will- and they should. It’s been shown that for some people, you do have to be exposed to some foods multiple times before you’ll begin to at least tolerate their taste, if not like them. As a therapist, I often point this out to parents of picky eaters and encourage them to offer their children a variety of foods multiple times. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. There was a time when I was MUCH pickier than I am today. My parents made me eat foods I didn’t like all the time. If I didn’t like them, I went to bed hungry. For better or worse, I did begin to at least tolerate certain foods. As an adult who wanted to adopt healthier eating habits, I learned that some of those foods I could actually enjoy, when prepared properly. The only way that I enjoy bitter foods like (regular) broccoli is when you douse them in so many other fatty things that where there used to be nutritional value, now there’s simply nutritional excess. That doesn’t help me. And believe me, I’ve tried it way more than 17 times.
So why *should* we try these things? If adults are eating a “healthy” diet with variety of other foods, I don’t see the point, unless it’s simply for the convenience and perception of others. That’s not the way that I want to be. I want to make the world a healthier place. I don’t think that we’re going to get there by being judgmental about people’s eating habits. Instead of judging, why not suggest an alternate healthy food such a person might enjoy? Why not suggest an alternate method of preparation? If I don’t look good in yellow, you wouldn’t be annoyed at me if I didn’t wear it, would you?
Yes, we want people to eat a variety of foods for optimal nutritional status. I’m here to show you that you can get there without liking mushrooms. Or raw tomatoes. Or… or… or…