[Paris, 2001: my first escargot]
Mr. M often calls me a picky eater. I giggle inside whenever he does. Oh wait, no, I usually giggle on the outside too and try to correct him with examples of the culinary delights that I will inhale. But he still doesn’t buy it. That’s because he goes to restaurants without menus in English, asks for the best thing there, and even if he declares it icky, he continues to eat whatever he bought. I’m not a super food adventurer… but I’m far from the picky girl I used to be!
I grew up being extremely picky… so much so that I’m sure that dining out with me was an absolute chore for my parents. I can recall perusing menus in Maui once and refusing to go to any of them. I bet they didn’t have chicken nuggets on the menu? Who knows. I’d often go hungry at slumber parties because I wouldn’t eat the meal of the night. And even into college, my food preferences were a constant source of dorm cafeteria conversation. Why? I don’t eat salad. I loathe condiments. I don’t like my food touching. Casseroles gross me out. And I don’t eat sandwiches unless the two ingredients are peanut butter and jelly (panini aren’t “sandwiches”).
But college did change me, and all for the better of course. I ate sushi for the first time thanks to it being on the dorm food menu, and I ate Indian food for the first time as well thanks to my next-dorm neighbor Mandeep. Escaping the hill and going somewhere new for dinner was an expensive ($15?!) but fun weekend hobby for us, so my friends and I would take time to pick out new things to try out and explore. My culinary explorations died for a bit when I moved into the sorority house, since our menu lacked the dorm’s variety, but then something big happened…
I spent the summer of 2001 studying and traveling throughout Western Europe. And even though I prepped myself for it, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to skimp on food and survive the lectures, reading, and touring. So, I ate. And ate. And ate some more.
I think it’s really easy to be picky on a week-long vacation to a new locale. You just have to survive for a bit and then you can return to your normal routine. And when you travel with friends/family, it’s easy for them to protect you from jumping outside your food boundaries. But on this trip, I was free to try whatever I wanted. No one I travelled with had mocked my non-salad eating habits before. There weren’t condiment jars on tables to make me skittish or weird. I could try something and see if I liked it, and if I didn’t, there was something else around the corner I could manage to eat as well.
I never would have known how much I loved mussels if I hadn’t ordered a whole bucket of them in Belgium for lunch on a whim. Or that really stinky cheese can taste incredibly good with the right bread, wine and park bench. And no matter the language or translation, most sausages are pretty darn yummy.
My summer eroded my fear of food and I started to really enjoy it instead from that point on. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t get a wee bit frightened at times, but just this week I willingly dove into a Brussels sprouts appetizer and went back for more. I won’t admit that it was the bacon that was the real enticing culprit…
Heck, you’ll even see me diving into a salad every now and then… probably not as often as I should, but I do eat it!
Are you a recovering picky eater? What was your moment of truth?