I'm 28-years-old. On a recent visit to my parent's home (with my own kids in tow) I was discussing various means of cooking with the vegetables in our gardens (my mother and I are both doing square foot gardens this year). During this discussion she reacted in shock to some of thing things I suggested she cook and eat. She assumed that I would never have tried any of these foods.
I was a "picky eater".
First of all....I'm 28. I'm not 4, or 9 or 12...28! If I was a picky eater as a child, why assume I've never moved past that in any sort of way? Most people's tastes change when they reach adulthood. Also, as adults, we learn to step more out of out comfort zone....or at least some of us do.
I said as much to my mother and told her that I had tried a lot more foods since I've been out on my own. Instead of being pleased, she was annoyed. She seemed insulted by the idea that her kids would try different foods for or with other people, but not for her. Okay...not exactly the best reaction there.
However, there is another reason for this beyond us just getting older....
Maybe we weren't picky. Maybe Mom just wasn't a very good cook.
Of course I didn't say this to my mother....it wouldn't be worth the resulting explosion and crying fit....but I THOUGHT it. Thank god she can't read minds!
For the first 24 years of my life I was under the impression that turkey was a tasteless cardboard-like substance. I liked the gravy, but the meat? Ugh! You'd chew it endlessly and then it was just dry and horrible...and you'd have to drink something just to get the stuff down. I gave up trying it, I'd just smother my mashed potatoes in gravy and go my merry way. It wasn't until I friend hosted a Thanksgiving meal at her home that turkey was redeemed for me. The irony being that she's vegan! She doesn't eat meat, but she still managed to make an absolutely amazing turkey for the rest of us. It was moist, juicy, and flavorful. Not at all difficult to eat! Since then my husband has made some really great turkeys as well. I'm sold! I've also realized I love meatloaf. Meatloaf! Turns out there are a million ways to make it and I like quite a few of them. My mom's version was basically a hunk of hamburger with lots of onions and green peppers. Ick.
It's not even that my mother is a bad cook...it's that she only cooks a certain way to please my father, and possibly herself. Growing up we'd get boxed macaroni and cheese if we didn't like what she had made for dinner....and that was pretty much every night of our lives. She was happy with the meal. Dad was thrilled with the meal. The rest of us? Not so much.
My father likes very basic America food. Meatloaf, potatoes, pork chops, canned veggies, spaghetti with meat sauce, etc. He tolerates pizza, but doesn't actually like it (?!). He absolutely would not eat Mexican food....or any other ethnic cuisine for that matter. He doesn't like rice and won't eat mac n cheese.
My mother likes similar foods, though she does like pizza and a limited section of Mexican and Chinese foods. Otherwise? She's not going out of her way to try it. She actually really likes rice and pasta dishes though.
I personally think my mother would love Indian food. Will she try it? If I force her to. She thinks Indian food is all spicy and I haven't been able to convince her otherwise. She has a major aversion to spices which is probably why her cooking suffers....spices and seasonings can make a dish! If you skip them? Well there isn't much to go on there.
My mom is shocked by the fact that my kids love beans of any sort. Black beans in particular! She claims "my kids would never eat anything like that!" I pointed out that she has never in her life actually cooked anything containing black beans so there is no way we would have ever been exposed to them. Her reply: "well I made black eyed peas!" Yes, she did. Once a year on New Years. And they sucked. Plus...black eyed peas and black beans are not the same!!!
I appreciate that my mom cooked meals, but I really wish she'd stop chastising me for being a picky eater now that I'm adult....particularly when it's very likely that half of the things I refused to eat was due to how it was prepared. Your child doesn't like a food? Try again later! Maybe try to figure out another method of cooking it....find out what they didn't like and alter that next time around. Think outside her own box a bit! Also accept that you might be doing it wrong. Brown rice is not terrible....but I didn't know that because my mother tried to cook it like white rice....yeah, that doesn't work. No wonder it was crunchy!
Also be aware that some things are always going to be awful. Canned spinach is terrible no matter what you do with it...but maybe FRESH spinach would go over better. The question should have been this:
Do I care more about what my husband and I like....or about getting my kids to eat well?
My mother chose the former....and is still complaining about the results all these years later.
Perhaps the biggest facepalm inducing part of this is how damned picky my mother is. On this particular visit I took the Swiss Chard in her garden (a plant someone gave her) and sauteed it so that it would actually get eaten. If I had not done this, she would have never done a damn thing with it and the plant would have wilted and been wasted. She liked it fine, but she wouldn't have ever known had I not insisted. Moments like those I feel like I'm the parent, not the other way around.
She would never have tried Chipotle had I not forced her to go with me...and surprise, surprise, she LOVED it! Can you understand my frustration over this? It's maddening!
Meanwhile, I actually have a reputation with my friends as being willing to try anything at least once. Going out to eat with my vegan friend has been helpful. I try a lot of stuff I otherwise would never have heard of because of her. Some things I don't like, like Ethiopian and Vietnamese food. The important part is I tried it to see. My mom wouldn't have been willing to do that. Other things I've ended up loving (like Indian food!).
So am I a picky eater? Sometimes, yes. However I don't want to be and I am very willing to change. I just wish the same could be said for my mom.