the art of eating as an omnivore
January 5, 2016 3:17 AM   Subscribe

No diet, no detox: how to relearn the art of eating, by Bee Wilson, author of the weekly column, The Kitchen Thinker. "All the foods that you regularly eat are ones that you learned to eat. Everyone starts life drinking milk. After that, it’s all up for grabs. From our first year of life, human tastes are astonishingly diverse. But we haven’t paid anything like enough attention to another consequence of being omnivores, which is that eating is not something we are born instinctively knowing how to do. It is something we learn."
posted by colfax (99 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
As I noted to a friend not long ago, everything but salt, fat, and sugar is an "acquired taste."

I found my tastes in food changed remarkably after I moved to Japan and wound up working in a school where they would serve one meal, and that was it. It may have simply been a matter of moving into my mid-twenties or maybe trusting that if everyone else was pumped that it was curry day, maybe there's a reason for it, but at some point in the past decade or so, I've learned how to treat vegetables right.

I mean, hell. On one visit to an elementary school in Japan to teach a little mini-lesson on English, I saw a classroom of kids compete in rock-paper-scissors for the privilege of getting extra salad. "Kids hate vegetables" is a cultural trope borne of a combination of marketing and just plain old nobody knowing how to cook broccoli in a manner other than boiling or steaming the bejeezus out of it until it's gray and smells like farts.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:55 AM on January 5, 2016 [34 favorites]


Read all the way to the end waiting for her to tell me how to make this "hedonic shift" happen, how to make veggies more appealing than junk food, and she never did.

Also, is she a parent? Has she tried to get a toddler or preschooler to eat fruits and veggies? What is the secret? I serve my kids a fruit or a vegetable at every meal, eat the same ones myself and make sure they see me enjoying them, don't "hide" them in mac and cheese etc, don't coerce them with threats of punishment or promises of desert as a reward... And consider it a victory if they will condescend to try a bite or two to please me.

A detailed description of the problem, here, but I am not seeing any solutions.

Also not sure why she is so convinced our eating behaviors are all nuture rather than at least partly nature. Because some people do have good habits? There is such a thing as genetic variation...
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:01 AM on January 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


"Kids hate vegetables" is a cultural trope borne of a combination of marketing and just plain old nobody knowing how to cook broccoli in a manner other than boiling or steaming the bejeezus out of it until it's gray and smells like farts.

Bingo. In the 70's my mother was cooking the way they always told everyone to do in the 90's - vegetables cooked crisp-tender, light on the sauces, not quite so much red meat, light on the salt. I grew up knowing the actual taste of vegetables, and in fact would always shun salad dressing as a child, simply because I wanted the unadorned vegetables. Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and celery have taste, and I didn't want any strong-flavored glop hiding it.

But I also agree that tastes can change. I long thought that I disliked beets - probably because I tried some as a child that happened to have been prepared badly - and then I got some in a CSA box a couple years back, and decided to at least try them. And what do you know - I do like beets.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 AM on January 5, 2016 [18 favorites]


I will say as a caveat, though, to my earlier comment that Japan has no shortage of issues with disordered eating, and also: to hell with green peppers, because they are bitter and awful in a way that makes me bitter and awful.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:07 AM on January 5, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also, this article/essay is fantastic.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:10 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Has she tried to get a toddler or preschooler to eat fruits and veggies? What is the secret?

I wish I knew. Ours will happily eat fruit until I fear for the nappies to come, but if an errant veggie makes its way into his dinner or even — shudder — his mouth, everything stops until he's taken it back out again and safely disarmed it and interred it deep below the high chair.
posted by bonaldi at 4:33 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've learned to eat things as an adult - spinach, raw tomatoes, cabbage - that I never particularly expected to. Everything's had presentations that I absolutely love. But I still can't even contemplate broccoli. When it goes into the back of my mouth, I start to gag and it's physically difficult to force it down. There's nothing you can put on it, no way you can prepare it, that will make me want to eat broccoli. That's despite my parents trying to convince me to like it for years. So there is definitely a physical response to things other than salt, fat, and sugar that is not simply a learned thing.

Ironically it's mostly non-American/European preparations that convince me to try newer things. I wouldn't like spinach or cabbage if not for different preparations of fast food chicken teriyaki, of all things. Weird how that works.
posted by graymouser at 4:35 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ours will happily eat fruit until I fear for the nappies to come, but if an errant veggie makes its way into his dinner

I have no kids, so please forgive my question.

How do they deal with a tomato? Do they think it's fruit or veg?


(also: Broccoli is lovely. I don't get the hatred. I learned to eat it when Gran would boil it to death for its sins. Now I understand that other people like it much less done. I'm sort of ambivalent, which is great if you're steaming broccoli and not paying attention. (Also also: more garlic basically fixes everything)).

I suppose it's a sort of "Your favourite vegetable sux" thing... to each, their own.
posted by pompomtom at 5:21 AM on January 5, 2016


I was the boy in the supermarket who was baffled why the trolley wasn't full of candy. Why dad? Candy is the BEST. I was just stunned with incredulity that my dad didn't understand this universal truth. I vowed that when I was a grown up I'd eat nothing but candy for every meal.

I'm a middle aged man now, and I hate candy. It's too sweet. Sickly sweet even. Last week I threw away a Mars bar because it was in my fridge for so long it passed it's expiration date. Did you know they even have expiration dates?

What I really love now is spicy food, the hotter the better. Which is odd, because as a boy I had an extreme physical reaction to even the mildest of spicy food. I would cry through puffy red eyes while pouring sweat. My lips would sting with every breath they were so sensitive.

I've almost forgotten what ice cream tastes like. Once a summer treat, now a ticket to four hours in the thunderbox.

Anyhow, what I learnt to love as a kid sure isn't what I eat now.
posted by adept256 at 5:26 AM on January 5, 2016 [12 favorites]


Vegetables were great as far as my brother and I were concerned - in stews and soups, or fresh from the garden in the backyard - nothing like a carrot or peas (right out of a pod) that came out of the ground a minute before. (Actually, a carrot was what my mom considered a treat. It was; ours were so sweet - good earth and enough sun, I guess.) We did get cookies and things like that, McDonalds etc., but rarely - a handful of times a year. (I did somewhat envy a neighbour whose mom baked cookies and muffins daily, and I think I tried to guilt my mom at least once about that, but she wasn't having it.) Milk - I was responsible for emptying probably half a carton a day, loved it.

The things my mom had to trick us with were cheese and meat. My brother was only ok with chicken. So she served "beef-chicken", "pork-chicken", "chicken-chicken". I didn't like the stringy pieces (veins, tendons) or chewy bits (fat) or bones, even the flesh tasted gritty, looked grim - it all looked as dead as it was, and I remember not really trusting that this should be eaten by anyone, ever. It wasn't clean, like the food from the garden. (This was 80s meat, though, I think I'd have been less concerned about vac-packed, boneless, bloodless stuff you see around today.) I actually remember being slightly suspicious of my mom - the stuff looked so dead - but she winked and smiled and the idea she'd do anything awful seemed silly. I did quiz her on it, though. I thought cheese tasted like something gone off (not incorrect). Fought to overcome initial revulsion in all cases, happily, just like I did with beer and cigarettes (but later).

Great article, agree completely.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:26 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: "I will say as a caveat, though, to my earlier comment that Japan has no shortage of issues with disordered eating, and also: to hell with green peppers"
Inside Out was localized for Japan with a special animated sequence substituting green peppers for broccoli as the quintessential "yuck" food.
posted by brokkr at 5:32 AM on January 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


My three year old, the child of two vegetarians foodies, has eating habits so weird and picky that I am considering feeding therapy for him. We started him out eating home cooked and pureed dhals and other healthy vegetarian whole foods but sure enough, once he got old enough to have opinions, all my good work was undone.

And I dare someone to tell me my kid's picky eating is all my fault for only feeding him McDonalds (he's never been inside one) or hot dogs and chicken nuggets (nope and he also doesn't like pizza) because yeah no. A friend once told me that trying to feed a toddler was the most demoralizing experience of her life and I have to concur.

(On the other hand, my boss's kids apparently happily eat Sichuan but they don't sleep while my son passes out for a solid 12 hours every night and has since late infancy, so you win some and lose some I guess.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:32 AM on January 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ironically it's mostly non-American/European preparations that convince me to try newer things. I wouldn't like spinach or cabbage if not for different preparations of fast food chicken teriyaki, of all things. Weird how that works.

I assume it's the totally different presentation that's working there. It has no connection to past times you've not enjoyed the food. My wife is a dedicated non-seafood eater. I've seen her eat fish once, in an experimental restaurant where there was no stove and all the food was prepared sous vide. The fish was served in a way she hadn't seen before and I think that helped her enjoy it,* but she hasn't become a regular fish eater.

Relatedly, I think it's also easy to overestimate the current food trends as "objectively correct" ways to enjoy food. Crisp tender is great, I often cook vegetables that way, but that's a preference, same as any other. Growing up, I got the usual boiled or steamed to near death veggies, and that's still how my parents prefer them. They're adults, not children, they're aware of other options, and they liked vegetables, they just like them really well cooked. "Crisp tender" broccoli would make my father gag, the same as boiled broccoli does to many people, because it's not what he's used to. I think a lot of people in my generation grew up with boiled broccoli, didn't like it, in part because they were kids (who tasty flavors more strongly), then fell in love with the first preparation they had once their taste buds were less sensitive, and assumed that that is the "trick" to liking vegetables. There's a ton of other stuff going into why kids typically don't like vegetables, but some of it is that bitter foods taste more bitter when you're six.

*Well that and the fact that we were in Lisbon and she had decided to try some fish to reconnect with the the seafaring part of her Portuguese heritage.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:35 AM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "I will say as a caveat, though, to my earlier comment that Japan has no shortage of issues with disordered eating, and also: to hell with green peppers"
Inside Out was localized for Japan with a special animated sequence substituting green peppers for broccoli as the quintessential "yuck" food.
posted by brokkr at 22:32 on January 5


You know, I was THIS CLOSE to mentioning this myself. It is such a cool piece of trivia!
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:36 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


Japanese kids are lucky because they can eat whale and we can not
posted by Postroad at 5:38 AM on January 5, 2016


(also: Broccoli is lovely. I don't get the hatred. I learned to eat it when Gran would boil it to death for its sins. Now I understand that other people like it much less done. I'm sort of ambivalent, which is great if you're steaming broccoli and not paying attention. (Also also: more garlic basically fixes everything)).

I suppose it's a sort of "Your favourite vegetable sux" thing... to each, their own.


No, it's more of a matter of taste. To some of us, broccoli tastes bad.

On the other hand, I did have a revelation in early adulthood. I grew up with southern parents, where the custom is to put vegetables in a pot and stew them until they're mushy. Not long after getting married, my wife made some lightly steamed green beans, which were still crunchy. I loved them! I was amazed. See also: steamed asparagus.

A friend once told me that trying to feed a toddler was the most demoralizing experience of her life and I have to concur.

Ain't that the truth. My son loves chicken nuggets and mac n' cheese as much as any toddler, but he will also eat other random stuff like teriyaki chicken or tortellini with pesto sauce and balsamic vinegar glaze. But the tortellini must be the Buitoni grocery store pack. My wife recently brought home a different brand of tortellini in tri-color and he refused to eat it.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:41 AM on January 5, 2016


See also: steamed asparagus

Steamed and then fried in butter is the only way.
posted by adept256 at 5:50 AM on January 5, 2016


it's because the solution, which permeates the article, is to experiment, try new things and change your habits. and those of your kids. but that's haaaaaaaaaaaaaard! everyone whines, and so it mostly doesn't happen.

I thought it was fairly clear that the author was talking about changing the conversation around food. Remove the judgment and puritanical language around what makes "good and/or bad" food and stop the punishment/reward cycle around "cleaning your plate", etc. try new stuff, and daily. small changes to build better philosophy around what's "good/bad" and learn what real portions look and feel like. learn what really "being hungry" feels like and how to derail compulsory anxiety loop around food so many of us are raised with.

but that's haaaaaaaaaaaaaard! everyone whines. yup, so it is. so is getting on a bike and riding it to work instead of driving, or choosing to live in a less desirable home so someone can spend more home time with the kids, or any number of other choices we make to promote better family and personal health. it's hard, inconvenient and sometimes creates tough choices about whether to take a job that pays more but offers less time to care for oneself/one's family. but some do pull it off.

changing habits isn't easy and there's no magic pill. it takes a long time and you don't get to play the "sugar free/gluten free/fat free/vegan/fashionable diet obsession of the week" card and be a sanctimonious blowhard to the colleagues about what a virtuous ascetic you are either.

it's a change in mindset, really, from "can't/won't/but..." to "well, okay maybe I can try X. well okay X didn't work but that doesn't mean the whole thing's shit, maybe Y works better..."

I was raised by a woman whose stock phrase in life is "yes, but..." my mom is the world's champion complainer and olympic medalist in Refusal Of Change, so I get it. change is a bitch and habits of a lifetime are tough to oppose, but it's possible. just opening up to "possible" instead of "nope" is a big shift in viewpoint tbh.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:52 AM on January 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yeah broccoli is one of those things like cilantro where how it tastes is affected by your genes. A lot (most?) of the people who hate broccoli are not tasting the same thing that the rest of us are.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:54 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Two cookbooks I've recently begun using have vastly increased my enjoyment of vegetables. Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty and Plenty More.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:57 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm just getting my zen on and assuming that at some point later in life my son will broaden his eating horizons if I just keep presenting him with the option. But in the meantime, he does have to actually ingest calories (it's not really true that kids won't starve themselves and will eat food if you present it with no alternatives--ask me about what a Failure to Thrive diagnosis for your one year old feels like!). So, until such time as he doesn't have a tantrum over a piece of kale appearing on his tray: pasta, tofu, goldfish crackers, pureed squeezie packets of fruit and veg, milk. I just keep telling myself that he could do worse than those foods being on his guaranteed will-eat list.

So yeah, it's haaaaaaard. But the fucks I have left for how anyone else chooses to eat are buried under the laundry and probably shoved behind the utility sink with dust bunnies all over them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:08 AM on January 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


No, it's more of a matter of taste. To some of us, broccoli tastes bad.

As I said: to each, their own. More broccoli for me - it's about the only green veg I remember to buy if I'm not specifically planning something.

When having green beans, I might barely steam them. My SO thinks that's too much, and they should be eaten raw.
posted by pompomtom at 6:18 AM on January 5, 2016


I think effect of food appearance is underestimated in forming preferences. I mean, take raisins, boiled peas or Brussels sprouts: to a toddler, do those things look like something their parents would ordinarily encourage them to put in their mouth? A youngster who hears "get that out of your mouth" several times a day is probably developing preferences that have nothing to do with taste.
posted by klarck at 6:19 AM on January 5, 2016


klarck: "A youngster who hears "get that out of your mouth" several times a day is probably developing preferences that have nothing to do with taste."
This also dooms entomophagy in the developed world, which otherwise had the potential to help immensely in combating climate change.
posted by brokkr at 6:41 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


This also dooms entomophagy in the developed world

I think not necessarily in an industrial world. There're loads of products one could use cricket-meal in without anyone caring. Add sugar and/or MSG (I'll have the latter).


(to a toddler, do those things look like something their parents would ordinarily encourage them to put in their mouth?

OK I'm apparently some kind of weirdo, but Brussels sprouts and boiled peas looked, to me as a toddler, like something my parents would indeed ordinarily encourage me to put in my mouth, because that was the food they were feeding me. Do you not eat peas? WTFF?)

posted by pompomtom at 6:53 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


70's/80's Ireland really was a culinary wasteland and there were a lot of foods, especially veg, that I hated until I left home and tasted how they could taste. For a long time I couldn't eat tomatoes or peppers or salad leaves or deressing any kind because the only salad I knew was:

iceberg lettuce
watery tomato
boiled eggs
slice of ham
mayonnaise

and the smell of the boiled eggs was so overpowering I had a Pavlovian wretching reaction to everything else.

If we asked what was for dinner, the answer was "ham" or "chicken" or some other meat or fish, because the vegetables were an afterthought - potatoes in some form and vegetables that were put on at or before the same time as the meat, so if you had a roast you were eating vegetables that had been boiled for two hours, with no seasoning bar maybe a pinch of salt. Steak was cooked until it was dry and leathery. I remember the first time I had pasta - I was about 8 and it tasted amazing after so many dry spuds. Bare pasta with no sauce. And we still had to have spuds with it because a dish without potatoes was kinda suspect.

At least living on the coast we had a lot of various types of fish, usually a couple of hours after it was caught.

Aren't French kids famously made to eat the same food as adults? Although "le Macdo" is quite popular there too.
posted by kersplunk at 7:00 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


My toddler of 17 months or so loves broccolli, also asparagus also blue cheese.
She will eat absolutely everything. Although Blueberries get devoured mercillessly.

I was having dinner with an old work colleague who has a child of similar age and demanded pictures of mine.
"What's she eating?" asked colleague?
I had a quick look,
"Oh, it's a crab, served in the shell" Said I.

She went strangely silent for a bit.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:04 AM on January 5, 2016


You are lucky, Just this guy, count your blessings!
posted by amanda at 7:11 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


My kids love vegetables, raw or cooked. Nothing to do with how we fed them, that just seems to be what they prefer. We eat a lot of broccoli in our house as it is one of their favourites. But for some reason they won't touch salads because of the lettuce, although they will eat all of the other component ingredients. We don't eat much in the way of starchy foods - potatoes, rice, pasta - with dinner anymore because they won't eat much of that stuff.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:14 AM on January 5, 2016


Japanese kids are lucky because they can eat whale and we can not

I was told by a Japanese person that no one really likes eating whale all that much; it's apparently not very tasty. The practice continues partly because parents are like "we had to eat the damn stuff when we were kids; you do too." Also, I suppose, because, if they Market could be heard, whale-meat businesses would go under. And we can't have that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:14 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm reading this with more of an interest in how it applies to adulthood and how we eat as adults (with a nice helping of remembering how I ate as a kid and what I will eat now as compared to what I wouldn't eat when I was wee). I don't remember many battles as a child for eating what was on my plate--and I was apparently considered a picky eater--except for meat. I didn't like it. I didn't want it but I had to sit at the table until well past everyone else did until I finished it. (This only applies to visits to my dad and stepmother's house. My mom would just make me something else.)

I guess I understand the defensive tone of parents in this thread, but then I am reading this from a very different perspective.
posted by Kitteh at 7:18 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Biochemistry does make a difference in how food tastes, how bitter broccoli and salad are, whether cilantro tastes like soap, etc. For me, it can change day to day! The author doesn't seem to have incorporated this important information at all. Ugh.
posted by amtho at 7:39 AM on January 5, 2016


they won't touch salads because of the lettuce

Lettuce is rarely cut up small enough for a child to put it comfortably in their mouth. I also personally have issues with lettuce-based salads because there is a lot of coordination involved in trying to stab a small enough piece of lettuce then get a good arrangement of other items on my fork. Too much trouble for one food.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:41 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


"...Brussels sprouts and boiled peas looked, to me as a toddler, like something my parents would indeed ordinarily encourage me to put in my mouth..."

raisins = rabbit turds
peas = rolled up dog boogers
Brussels sprouts = guinea pig brains

(Yeah, pretty sure I'm the weirdo.)
posted by klarck at 7:56 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


They won't eat shredded lettuce in burritos or tacos, no lettuce on burgers, etc. I'm starting to think the lettuce hatred must be a taste thing. They eat all their veges with their fingers, despite valiant attempts to get them to use forks at dinner.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:58 AM on January 5, 2016


I was raised by what-we-now-call-foodie parents in the 70s/80s. I ate with considerable curiosity, loved all vegetables (save okra, which is abhorrent, and I can still only handle when it's totally dissolved into gumbo) and tended to look forward to trying new things with gusto (I remember the first time I tried escargot as being kind of a big deal). I didn't much care for french fries, popcorn or ice cream, loathed peanut butter and jelly and patently refused to drink milk (still don't like it, even in coffee) and had a serious problem making friends in the lunchroom because they didn't like the comparatively weird shit (pesto!) I'd put on my sandwiches.

My sister, conversely, refused everything my parents offered, spent her entire childhood vehemntly demanding cold cuts and processed cheese and to this day prefers the chain-restaurant, mass-produced, individually wrapped to anything that might possibly be viewed as "weird."

Of the two of us, she's the skinny one.
posted by thivaia at 8:13 AM on January 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


On an individual rather than cultural level personal taste can be heavily influenced by undetected allergies or food sensitivities too (although what with the increase in allergies or at least awareness of them this might influence a cultural shift as well). There are foods I was forcing myself to eat for years because they were 'good for me' despite the fact that they just... tasted wrong and made me feel generally terrible that lo and behold I recently found out I'm allergic to (fuck bananas, forreal tho). A lot of the fruits and veggies I'm allergic to now I know I've always hated, which makes me wonder how much of an influence that was. That said, a lot of foods I generally love (nuts, other fruits and veggies) are off limits to me as well but I think my reactions to those have historically been less severe. So I'm not sure how much of my 'personal taste' was related to allergies to begin with. Who knows.

Pollen allergies cause cross-reactions with tons of fruits and vegetables, which can be super limiting. For a long time now the only foods I could reliably eat without guaranteed gastrointestinal distress are the ones that are bad for you; red meat, cheese, etc. So... you know. That developed some pretty shitty eating habits. I've also wondered if that was an influence to when I ate nothing but grilled cheese for a week when I visited my grandma and grandpa in Florida when I was 12. .... ok, that was probably just me being 12 and my grandparents being overly indulgent. I was also kind of an asshole kid so I can't blame them. And I've always been a picky eater.

Anyway. I'm still trying to fix my diet. You would think this major upheaval with what I can eat (no more peanut butter sandwiches that's for goddamn sure) would have made it easier in some ways to recalibrate but man it's hard. With additional restrictions it's really not easy. And I was glad she (briefly) addressed the challenges of poverty as well because I feel like that's often ignored and ends up just being another excuse to shit on poor people.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 8:15 AM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Inside Out was localized for Japan with a special animated sequence substituting green peppers for broccoli as the quintessential "yuck" food.

Now I finally understand the Iron Chef pepper-bite.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:47 AM on January 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


My evidence for totally disputing the thesis for this article is based primarily on one human being, my daughter. (And most of her friends.) But since I haven't seen this in the comments so far, here it is:

My child, as a toddler (this would be the age of two the author uses as the setting point for our food tastes) would only eat chicken nuggets and french fries. I have no idea how these picky kids get all their nutrients, but maybe some of you doctors know.

By the time she was 20 (the other milestone age the article cites), she was well on her way to having one of the healthiest and varied diets you could imagine and also becoming an excellent cook. She is also whatever the opposite of compulsive is about her weight. She turned out fine.

What happened? Life happened. People change. They grow up. They find out that vegetables are delicious and spicy food is fun and classic cuisine from other lands is heavenly.

So to the parents upthread who can't get their kids to eat their broccoli (or green peppers, or soft-boiled eggs), don't worry about it. They'll grow up.

And about the article: did I miss something, or did the author cite any studies at all supporting her idea that what kids eat at two they will be eating at twenty? I think she made the whole thing up.
posted by kozad at 9:08 AM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah broccoli is one of those things like cilantro where how it tastes is affected by your genes. A lot (most?) of the people who hate broccoli are not tasting the same thing that the rest of us are.

I think that's the case for me. Broccoli is gag-inducingly bitter to me.

Another weird one is spinach. I can eat raw leaf spinach all day long, but you cook it and I can't stand the stuff.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:08 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


it's because the solution, which permeates the article, is to experiment, try new things and change your habits. and those of your kids.

That seems to have been the answer for myself and my son.

My sister and I were raised up to the age of 12 or so mostly by our grandmother, who always encouraged us to try new things. Maybe she learned that after raising our mom, who has always been a notoriously picky eater. I wasn't thrilled about over-cooked vegetables but I ate them - all except the deep green pile of stringy mush known as "boiled spinach" (bought frozen) which I simply couldn't tolerate, and most cabbage-type foods were just bland, faintly bitter cardboard to me - but I was otherwise pretty open. My sister would refuse to eat anything that had bell pepper even just waved over the pan during the cooking process, but I think that was it.

Mom wasn't much of a cook, either. Once she had us in our own household, she had about a dozen or so recipes she'd learned once. Our meal planning was an endless two-week cycle of them. There were so many foods I never encountered (avocado, kale, shellfish other than shrimp, I could go on and on) until I was an adult and could shop for myself. But at least by that time, "trying new things" was a habit. And by the same token I learned that fresh spinach and lightly-steamed/barely-wilted cabbages and greens were worlds apart from what I grew up experiencing. Now those are a regular part of my diet.

When my son was young, his mother and I likewise encouraged eating a variety of things. I think we got lucky in that he was more agreeable to the idea to begin with than some people's children (cf. many of the previous thread comments). There ended up being only a very few things that he would absolutely refuse to eat - raw tomato and summer squash/zucchini come to mind. So okay, when I made squash for me, I cooked some broccoli or green beans for him and everybody's happy. But I don't think we would have gotten to even that point if "try new things" hadn't been part of his upbringing.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:12 AM on January 5, 2016


"Try new things" is great advice, but seriously, you guys think people with poor eating habits and people with picky kids haven't thought of that already?

Great if that's all it takes for you or your family. But when I eat junk food it's because of convenience and comfort, not because I'm afraid to try new things. I am the least picky eater I know. I like pretty much all food (though I try to avoid meat because reasons.)

Likewise it's not for lack of trying on my part that my kids are so picky. I offer lots of new things, and they reject almost all of them (usually untasted.) I pick my battles.
posted by OnceUponATime at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I definitely experienced the idea of healthy food as a form of coercion as a child. It didn't take. Now as an adult, I have no interest in whether food or my diet is healthy or not, and I don't want to hear about it. I feel that, so long as I can at least avoid morbid obesity and vitamin deficiency diseases, it's enough.
posted by knoyers at 9:32 AM on January 5, 2016


Broccoli is weird. When it's barely steamed, it's one of my favorite foods, especially with a light dribble of fresh lemon juice over it. When it's cooked to death, it's repulsive to me, especially in a "Chinese" dish slathered in sweet sauce. Gross.
posted by Camofrog at 10:12 AM on January 5, 2016


Yeah broccoli is one of those things like cilantro where how it tastes is affected by your genes.

As I've aged (or possibly I was always like this), broccoli and a couple other of the woodier brasicas have started running merry hell on my digestion. I know a lot of people get gassy after broccoli, but with me it's a a good deal more than that; I get cramps, my stomach swells up enormously, and I become very unpleasant to be in a room with for about seven hours.

The funny thing is, the four vegetables that seem to cause that with me all also seem to have the same kind of aftertaste; I don't dislike it (in fact, I liked broccoli as a kid), but today it's become a harbinger for "oh, wait, I think I'm tasting the future farts".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


also I really gotta close some of these tabs I have open because having this post title cut off to "the art of eating as" keeps making me forget what we're talking about here
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would love to know what the foods & drinks I cannot consume without gagging all have in common. I think it's fascinating!
For example, brussels sprouts (or as I call them, green death marbles). I've tried them every way you can possibly think of including fresh picked, roasted with various rich fats, leafed and fried, shredded, all to no avail. It's the same when I taste plain spirits (and some red wines). I've come around on broccoli and cauliflower, and have always loved cilantro. I don't like things that taste like anise or licorice, including star anise. Green chiles are a good way to ruin perfectly good egg dishes, but spinach in any form is delicious. Cheeses, especially aged, are largely unappreciated by me, though I keep trying. I don't get it.

tl;dr: Food tastes are weird.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:16 AM on January 5, 2016


Another weird one is spinach. I can eat raw leaf spinach all day long, but you cook it and I can't stand the stuff.

Yeah, I have the same reaction. I grew up with spinach as a horrifying mess of bitter boiled vegetables that I couldn't touch. But then I found out that you can eat it in the raw leaf and it's delicious. It's probably similar to why I gag at broccoli.
posted by graymouser at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2016


Kids don't make no sense.

My 7-year-old absolutely REFUSES to eat anything that "has stuff" on it. Like if you make his favorite Mac and cheese but finished it in the oven so parts are brown and crispy on top he won't touch it. And there's no negotiating.

My 5-year-old on the other hand will try anything once and pretty much always likes it.

We raise them exactly the same way! Makes no sense.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:38 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hate vegetables so much I wrote a blog about it.

My husband eats most vegetables but has gout so a few of them, including broccoli and cauliflower, are off the list. We're trying to get our 7-year-old to like them, and we definitely cook and serve them at most meals, but when he sees that both of his parents aren't eating them, it's a tough sell.

But fortunately when he first tried chocolate he hated it, as well as french fries. Took a couple of years before the inevitable happened and he loved them. So we can tell him "tastes change" and he at least gets it.
posted by Mchelly at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2016


Metafilter: tasting the future farts
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm fine with vegetables as long as I get enough raw chicken with them.
posted by ejs at 12:24 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Broccoli is taking quite a beating on Metafilter today. I guess I'm the only guy keeping the broccoli farmers in business.
posted by kozad at 12:31 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


You and my kids kozad. It's one of the few vegetables they will eat. That and corn niblets.
posted by sauril at 12:36 PM on January 5, 2016


I'm going to disagree with the thesis of TFA a little bit. Some of this has been covered in prior comments to some extent.

1. Tastes do change. A lot. One of my nephews ate french fries and ketchup almost exclusively for several years as a child, with occasional chicken fingers/strips. Now he's a chef at a fairly high-end restaurant. Seems to eat OK.

I will eat pretty much anything. Of course I have preferences, particularly regarding preparation, but I'm a true omnivore. As I get older, I get more and more adventurous. But I also continue to care more about food preparation, and spend a lot of time and effort in improving my cooking skills. I shudder to think of some of the things I made, and proudly served to others, back in my 20's.

Which brings me to:

2. Some people just don't care about food, at all. I don't get it. But I can kind of see it. As I mentioned, I care more now than I used to, in general.

But some people find no pleasure at all in food, it is strictly utility. So they eat a limited variety of things they've found to be unproblematic. (A family I'm familiar with has a very nice kitchen they never use. They order pizza EVERY NIGHT, and eat out at fast food during the day.)

The closest I can come to understanding it might be, for me, something like paint color. I don't really care much what color my walls are, as long as the room is clean. I notice different colors, sure, but I don't think about it much at all, or get bothered by much of what I see.

I think the MetaFilter community has a high percentage of foodies, but some people simply don't care.

The author of TFA is a foodie. She cares about and loves food. Some people don't.


All that aside, but still on-topic: I'm completely over food guilt. I refuse to participate. I eat what I want, as much as I want, whenever I want, fuck you very much. As a corollary, I also refuse to participate in food-policing anybody else. Eat whatever the hell you want. (With a minor itch regarding adults who are exceptionally picky. We can get along, but we won't be friends.)
posted by yesster at 12:44 PM on January 5, 2016 [7 favorites]


We had a friend who's kid literally ate only 5 different foods - 2 of which were heavily processed potato products. Occasionally he'd choke down milk. It took nearly a decade for that kid to expand his diet beyond those 5 things, and it was largely due to peer pressure because when he went to someone's house he had to eat what was available. Another friend's kid, vegetarian household, was essentially a carbovore and would often refuse to eat anything new or "weird". I recall once we were in an awesome vegetarian restaurant with loads of choice, where she would only eat garlic bread. She's slowly eating more variety now but again via peer pressure.

That kind of attitude was pretty alien to me. I grew up in a household where the rules for eating are more or less echoed in the book French Kids Eat Everything with the added problem of us being poor and my mum being pretty strict with our relationship with food. Not to say I didn't have choice - if I didn't want to eat say carrots Lyonnaise (the fool I was) I could eat raw carrots to my hearts content.

So needless to say, based on the experiences of our 2 friends and our own experiences as kids, my wife & I were pretty determined to avoid having a picky eater. So I fed my poor wife all manner food while pregnant, made sure she ate all manner of food while breast feeding and when starting solids I gave the dauphin literally the broadest variety of foods I could. And you know, it mostly worked though to be honest I think it has more to do with us being good role models, making cooking less a chore and more a core part of our life & family. So, luckily, we generally don't fight much with him regarding food. Table manners though... we could use some help with those!

Hilariously though, I have the opposite problem now - he will generally not eat what is thought of as regular "kids' meals" (other than fries of course). It has changed recently and he'll now eat substandard kid's menu pizza & chicken nuggets but he stands firm on his refusal of fish fingers, hot dogs, hamburgers, peanut butter (how did that happen), grilled cheese sandwiches (what a weird kid!). For the longest time he didn't even like most candy!
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:46 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry but if your child doesn't like grilled cheese sandwiches I strongly suspect that he has been replaced by an alien of some sort
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:49 PM on January 5, 2016


possibly a synth, are you near the Institute?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


I strongly suspect that he has been replaced by an alien of some sort
Weirdly, he will eat cheese quesadilla so I suspect it is more about the delivery system. So likely a clone of some sort.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:52 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


My kids (4 and 1.5) have been pretty good about eating new foods and especially fruits and vegetables but who knows why. We've discovered that our younger kid loves sour foods and will bite/lick lemon wedges if they are around. I let him suck on a pickle last week and he laughed and then came back to take a bite of it.

One thing that helps is limiting access to the unhealthy options. Given the option between fruit and chocolate both kids would probably go for the chocolate and if we are having french fries as a side then we have to make sure that the french fries come after the main has been eaten otherwise the older one will fill up on fries. I try not to buy snacks in general because if there are snacks in the house I'll probably eat them but if there aren't any then I'll be fine going without.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:21 PM on January 5, 2016


Ashwagandha, we did all of that too and still wound up with a picky eater. It really, really is just a crap shoot. And I suspect in some part genetic as my dad was picky as a child (he's a serious foodie now but apparently the first time he deigned to even eat a hot dog at the age of five, my grandmother literally cried tears of joy), and my father-in-law also revealed recently that he was The Picky One in the family. I was fairly picky, too, though not to the same degree as my son. Also? I'm a supertaster. I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of the genetics angle. Being a supertaster means that any food that is at all bitter or astringent to me is just dialed all the way up to eleven. The ability to taste a lot of subtle flavors in food is both a blessing and a curse.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:24 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


But some people find no pleasure at all in food, it is strictly utility.

yeah this is basically me, but again, at this point the majority of that is probably due to health reasons rather than personal taste or whatever

basically with food I look for something I can ingest that doesn't make me sick and generally gives me the least amount of trouble, which yeah, not always the healthiest options

i eat entire bricks of cheese which let's be honest is pretty easy as far as meal prep goes
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 1:37 PM on January 5, 2016


One thing that has helped us (and I read it somewhere on the internet, so it must be true!), is that it takes about 9 interactions with a new food for you to acquire a taste for it or know that you genuinely don't like it. So we are shameless about telling our son about new and new-ish foods, "of course you don't like it -- you need to try it 7 more times!" So he would still take a bite the next time we served it. Sometimes it actually works, and he learns to like them. Sometimes we lied and reduced the number of times left in hopes of getting a winner.

When he was younger this was easier to pull off, now I think he keeps track.
posted by Mchelly at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


"of course you don't like it -- you need to try it 7 more times!"

shit, so this is where my mom got the idea of trying to make me like olives tricking me into eating eight entire olives

cruel and unusual honestly
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 1:56 PM on January 5, 2016


I'll take any and all olives off your hands.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:58 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Which, btw, I refused to eat until I was like 25)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:58 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Add me to the pro-broccoli side; in fact the incident that started me acquiring it regularly was President George H.W. Bush's (the Good George, or Far Less Awful George) infamous anti-broccoli statement. Come on, MetaFilter agreeing with a Bush? Shocking!

In fact, when I moved to the outskirts of San Luis Obispo ten years ago, I was delighted to learn that my new residence was just-the-opposite-side-of-the-highway from a field of broccoli. Although SLO County's agricultural output is quite varied, its top 4 "money crops" (at least the legal ones) are (1) wine grapes, (2) strawberries, (3) free-range beef cattle and (4) broccoli.

But my tastes are still somewhat juvenile, preferring almost any overcooked vegetable to its raw version (with special love for any veggie breaded and deep-fried, especially zucchini), having a weird aversion to the taste of mushrooms and olives (and noticing them even when they are most finely chopped), loving broccoli but not its white-privileged cousin cauliflower, and having a since-childhood love of most variety of beans (especially green beans and yes, even limas). Also preferring cabbage to lettuce in all applications, and an acceptance of green peppers born of a set of tender 'gringo' taste buds that could not handle any peppers with any heat until I was over 50 years old (and only recently adding jalapenos to my list of loved breaded veggies). And when my childhood 'special dinners out' were often at the upscale 'tiki restaurant' Trader Vic's, my favorite 'special veggies' became Pea Pods (Snow Peas) with Water Chestnuts (too many 'sarcasm' quotes? Trader Vic's was that kind of place, as I realized growing up... but I still love the Water Chestnuts).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


David Lebovitz posted this article the other day: Pleasure is Good - How French Children Aquire a Taste for Life I believe it. This is pretty much how I've raised my kids, and they are not picky and the eldest is quite a good home cook already.

BUT: they both had really picky periods during childhood. All these people who write about the wonderful French etc. make it seem like you just serve 2-y-os a full lunch and everything will be good. Not so.
The elder child lived from water-biscuits and tapenade for a year, drinking only water (I know, it's the weird result of her gran feeding her while I was on a business trip). When she snapped out of that, her favorite dish was sushi. She is a sportswoman today, and regularly cooks anything for large groups of friends.
The younger lived from apple juice (only the worst, cheapest sugariest type) and cream cheese on toast for more than a year. Everyone was worried including the pediatrician and the dentist. She has perfect teeth today, and literally resembles a taller, healthier Kate Moss.

What we did well at the time was being really good at family meals. We stuck to a rigorous schedule of breakfast, lunch, dinner intertwined with two formalized snacks, and we really often had friends and family over - either our own friends, or the kids' play-dates. And after a (long) while, what happened was that our toddlers felt left out when they weren't part of the party. It's boring to sit there with your apple juice when everyone else is having broccoli. But we never commented on their weird tastes or shamed them, or even listened to the desperate pediatrician.

Specially with no. 2, this attitude got a lot of support from her day-care and kindergarten (it was an integrated institution), and I got engaged in the daily life there, even cooking there on several occasions.

What I'm saying is that it is rather blasé to claim this is easy. When my kids were small, I was dirt poor, beneath the poverty level poor, but I had access to cheap products, lots of knowledge and amazing community support. Teaching kids to eat "French style" takes a village.

There is something else though: everyone takes for granted that there is something biological about hating cilantro and/or broccoli, but it seems that soon to be published research says no, not at all. Which fits with my private experience. Since I live in a multi-cultural neighborhood and have worked with food, it has been natural for me to discuss food culture with mothers from different cultures, east and west. Specifically, I have asked about spicy food, spinach, cilantro and broccoli. None of these providers of daily meals had ever heard of problems with these categories of food. (Though there does seem to be a consensus that raw bell-peppers is a weird thing to eat). In my own experience, though I really, really love spinach and all other greens, I've had to learn to prepare these foods in a way that other people will appreciate.
posted by mumimor at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Some things are just textural.

Broccoli tastes neither here nor there to me, but I hate the weird bronchial tube structure it has when it's in my mouth. Of course, cauliflower, the blind cave broccoli of broccoli, scores the additional trifecta of looking awful, smelling awful, and tasting awful (to say nothing of how my Atkins-drone friends kept trying to foist off mashed blind cave broccoli as a non-death-penalty-deserving substitute for mashed potatoes). It is like eating the bleached carcass of drowned sadness.

I've never been able to enjoy citrus in segment form, either, because those little wedges just seem too much like cat lungs to me, complete with disturbing papery tissues and connective fibers.

At the same time, give me a piece of horrendously blue cheese that looks like a runny infected eye on the verge of jaundice and smells like a pile of jockstraps that sat in the sun through much of August and holy fuck I am so all over that shit.

Taste is a peculiar thing.

Of course, my favorite taste-evolving influence has been three deep descents into scrabbling poverty, the latter of which I'm still in, and I tend to eat what's given to me (except shrimp, which is a war crime of bug-eating and stinks up every corner of any room in which it's served), and eat things that I can afford because they're cheap, and I've discovered new ways of saucing and handling foods that have made things once appalling appealing.
posted by sonascope at 2:29 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


to say nothing of how my Atkins-drone friends kept trying to foist off mashed blind cave broccoli as a non-death-penalty-deserving substitute for mashed potatoes

That is hilarious writing! But it is also exactly the point of what Ms Wilson is saying: the health-driven approach to food is killing the pleasure of eating. Who would ever eat mashed cauliflower? Or mashed any form of cabbage at all? It smells, you fart after eating it and it is ugly. People who eat and encourage that type of food are not enjoying food, they are eating as a form of self-punishment and exaggerated deprivation. It's religious in the bad way.

I haven't yet completely mastered the art of broccoli for broccoli haters, but with cauliflower, I've found a recipe that everyone enjoys to the extent that I have been invited to veg-haters' parties just because they want the cauliflower (always a little depressing at the point when I realize I can pick up my stuff and leave when the food is gone)
posted by mumimor at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Who would ever eat mashed cauliflower?

Yo. I fucking love cauliflower. But if I'm going to eat a pureed or mashed veg that isn't potatoes, it's parsnip. (Peel, cut in same size bits, cover with 50/50 milk and 35% cream. Bring to simmer, cook to tender, puree with a couple knobs of butter and some lemon zest.)

Broccoli for broccoli haters: roast or deep fry until crispy and brown. Also cauliflower.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


guys stop impugning the good name of non-green (i.e. ripe) bell peppers

it is only the green ones that are foul and unforgivable
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:55 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


those little [citrus] wedges just seem too much like cat lungs to me, complete with disturbing papery tissues and connective fibers.

This made me laugh out loud; not in judgement or anything, but because never in a million years would I have come up with the idea of making that comparison.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:35 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


2. Some people just don't care about food, at all. I don't get it. But I can kind of see it. As I mentioned, I care more now than I used to, in general.

But some people find no pleasure at all in food, it is strictly utility. So they eat a limited variety of things they've found to be unproblematic. (A family I'm familiar with has a very nice kitchen they never use. They order pizza EVERY NIGHT, and eat out at fast food during the day.)

The closest I can come to understanding it might be, for me, something like paint color. I don't really care much what color my walls are, as long as the room is clean. I notice different colors, sure, but I don't think about it much at all, or get bothered by much of what I see.

I think the MetaFilter community has a high percentage of foodies, but some people simply don't care.

The author of TFA is a foodie. She cares about and loves food. Some people don't.


This is really at the core of the issue. People really close to me are like that, and they are often religious and find pleasure is somehow sinful. Once, when I cooked a meal for them, they complained it was too pleasurable, and distracted from more healthy activities, such as talking about religious issues.

This is why I think the article I linked to above is relevant: you have to learn to enjoy life. Or not. And your health depends on it.
posted by mumimor at 3:37 PM on January 5, 2016


we did all of that too and still wound up with a picky eater.

To be clear from my story, I don't think there is always a rhyme or reason for picky eating but I do believe kids taste intensely in general. In your case, the likelihood of your kid being a super taster as well and you end up with a perfect storm of picky eating. Hopefully it doesn't last and your kid learns to enjoy more foods.

By the way, I'm not a vegetarian now but I do know many with kids and I know there can be a lot of judgement & pressure from medical professionals regarding weight percentiles and the like. So what I'm saying is I feel your pain.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:33 PM on January 5, 2016


My kid is regularly singled out as a 'good eater' to the point that her father and I have to consciously stop the eye roll. Because, when you put her actual food preferences/consumption against those of the 'picky eaters' she's being compared to, it's pretty similar. She has her favourites (avo sushi, banana, cheese toasties/quesadillas, burritos, rice, oats a multitude of ways, apples, peanut butter, runny eggs) and her no go zones (most seafood, panadol, onion, mushrooms), and her random assortments of 'sometimes' (raw tomato, baby spinach, pears, hard-boiled eggs). She just has manners.

Like, I can vividly remember relatives cooing and carrying on about how much of a 'better eater' she was than their son. Because she was sitting contentedly chewing at an apple (chew off the skin of a granny smith then give the rest to daddy or mummy is her method), while their son ate a selection of corn, cucumber and apple, while yelling at them for other foods and throwing bits he didn't like and so on. I just couldn't understand what the difference was (at that point she steadfastly refused to have anything to do with cucumber or corn). After a long while I worked it out.

My kid sits fairly patiently at the table, examines her food, eats with relative persnickety tidiness for a child, says please and thank you and requests more of what she likes and discusses what she doesn't ("I do not like the dressing or these leaves" as she singles out the broccoli to eat in the salad for example). She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full. Reminding her to drink water is our primary food interaction (we are in an Australian summer - she needs to drink water dammit). That and the wheat intolerance leading to chronic constipation.

She does not binge on the food she likes, the way a lot of picky children of our acquaintance do (the ones with parents who demand the plate be clear and offer nothing else, so the child eats very little for days until pizza/burgers/whatever, then eats up to twice an adult serving). Well, she did once, then lay on her grandparent's floor whining and moaning and resolved never ever to eat so many pancakes again.

She sees both my husband and I try food. She sees daddy work out what kinds of tomato he likes, sees mummy get roused on for making faces about how gross banana is. She gets to control her own food intake just like we do. She's involved with food prep from breakfast to dessert. She sees us practice our manners and trying food and talking about. She's never been punished for eating or not eating, or been rewarded with eating (apart from dinners out, the same way we celebrate pretty much everything in my family). We read food magazines together and she has never heard me, or my partner, call a food 'naughty' or 'bad'.

That said, we are bother having to shift to a wheat-free diet due to intolerances and it is making us both work on our food planning. So we sit down and work out what we can eat and what we like - I have a preference for chickpea curry, she is in a Japanese classroom so anything Japanese gets her seal of approval. We both are occasionally meat-free. We've just realised her aversion to panadol (a painkiller) seems to be an intolerance since the first dose she managed to actually keep down sent her into a giggling hysteria in spite of a freshly broken arm. Her early egg intolerance is gone, completely, and her preference is for very very runny eggs. We respect her choices though, and talk to her about them.

People act simultaneously as if there is nothing we have done to contribute to this situation - it's just her nature so what we are doing is stupid asinine hippie shit - but at the same time whatever they are doing (food rules, restrictions, punishment/reward systems) is going to contribute. That gets me a little bit cranky.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


The other thing we worked out is that it's likely my partner and our kid are supertasters, and if anything I'm a subtaster. I once couldn't differentiate between the balsamic strawberry jam and the vanilla strawberry jam. They were both gobsmacked at that, but it did explain a few things and made cooking and eating a bit easier all around.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Raw green bell peppers are the best. So fresh tasting and crisp. And my kids have loved 'em since they were toddlers (probably learned by seeing me devour them).
posted by zsazsa at 5:49 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Some things are just textural.

Watching someone eat cottage cheese makes me feel queasy, and I can't imagine every willingly having that stuff in my mouth. The combination of mushy and lumpy pushes all my buttons, like a bowl of live maggots with gravy. Conversely, I love paneer, which if I'm understanding correctly is basically the same thing but because it is served differently it has a different texture and appearance so yum. Food preferences don't have to make any sense whatsoever.

I'm one of those people who was a picky eater as a child and now eats most things and loves to try new flavors and foods. As a kid some things tasted too strong (like sharp cheddar), some had gross textures (cooked tomatoes), and other things were just weird or whatever. Almost all of that went away, though like anyone there are things where I just don't like the flavor no matter how many times I try it.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:58 PM on January 5, 2016


The initial process of curdling to make paneer and ricotta/cottage cheese is the same, they get treated very differently after. And fwiw, I have the same thing as you--will gobble paneer, hate cottage cheese. But love ricotta wtf?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:05 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I still have a texture thing. I think a lot of "me not being picky anymore" is actually that I've just learned how to prepare food and serve food so that it exactly conforms to my various idiosyncrasies. I think a lot of adults who don't consider themselves picky but who were picky kids make that transition. Like, stewed tomatoes just on their own? Horrifying. Slimy, mushy, totally gross. But pair them with homemade macaroni and cheese such that each bite contains a little macaroni and a little tomato? Perfection. But at the age of 6 it wouldn't have occurred to me to do that, I would have just run screaming from the tomatoes.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


There was a time when 95% of us lived right next to our food, on a daily basis. We got to see what the life cycle of these things went through. Plant or animal, we knew what it was.

Modernity divorces the husbandry from the culinary.

Factory life makes factory food normal.

non serviam
posted by yesster at 8:01 PM on January 5, 2016


"husbandry" not best word; sorry
posted by yesster at 8:09 PM on January 5, 2016


For livestock, "husbandry" is literally the canonical word.
posted by stet at 8:20 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mchelly: "I hate vegetables so much I wrote a blog about it."
Maybe broccoli doesn't like you either.
posted by brokkr at 2:27 AM on January 6, 2016


broccoli is so horrible and vile-tasting and causes such incredible gastro pain that the act of eating it could be considered active self-harm for me.

"cauliflower cheese" is actually my hostage duress phrase
posted by poffin boffin at 9:42 AM on January 6, 2016


My first-born child was a magnificent eater. Begged for roma tomatoes while shopping in the grocery store (he was about 15 months old) and proceeded to eat them like apples for the duration of the trip. Screamed and cried and pulled at my jeans when I was chopping bell peppers until I gave him some. Ate everything we put in front of him, all the time. He never, ever went through a picky phase, and I only remember him having one food he absolutely hated: mushrooms. Oh, I was so self-righteous! I was sanctimonious! "See? THIS is how to get a kid to eat! Just put the food in front of him, don't make special food, and don't make a big deal out of it!" He's 18 now and still eats everything and only ever turns down mushrooms.

His little sister? My daughter STOPPED EATING when she was 18 months old. Just stopped. A food diary I was keeping at the time (to see if she really was ingesting as little as I thought, or if I was exaggerating it) had her intake over three days as 47 pretzel sticks, 2 yogurts, copious amounts of water, a couple small pieces of cheese, and maybe 18 ounces of milk. FOR REAL. The doctor told us to put her back on an enriched formula and had us just stop pressing the issue at all (which we really weren't doing in the first place). So we did. We served her the food we were all eating and if she asked for something else, she got it. I hated it. I hated making separate meals for her but I did it. It took YEARS for her to start eating the foods we were eating, and I credit her brother with it more than anything. His gusto and delight with food rubbed off on her, or she just decided to start eating, or whatever, and she now (at nearly 16) eats pretty much everything, and she'll *try* everything, too. She only recently discovered how delicious mashed potatoes (and gravy!) are; not sure she's my kid, come to think of it. But yeah: sushi, seafood of all kinds, salmon, fancy French stuff, sauerkraut, etc., etc. She eats it all.

My lesson from all this? It's a total fucking crapshoot. My kids were raised the same way w/r/t food and look what happened. Kid A has been a great eater and lover of food from day one, Kid B not so much but is now.

I still look askance at parents who try to force their kids to eat everything on their plates or pull the "just one more bite!" or "you have to eat X amount of bites before you get dessert!" stuff, though. *shrug*
posted by cooker girl at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love broccoli that isn't overcooked, but my body can't digest it anymore, which is tragic. Same with cauliflower or cabbage, which I don't miss that much. I have a valid excuse not to eat cole slaw. People get pushy about slaw. Keep your horrible mayonnaise piles to yourselves.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:05 AM on January 6, 2016


I always end up feeling really weird when discussions about food preferences come up because I seem to have inverse taste buds compared to everyone else.

I love mushrooms in all their forms, tomatoes (whether raw or cooked), mayonnaise, fish, shellfish... You know all those foods that come up as generally hated? I happily eat them all. I've loved broccoli since I was a small child. I've rarely met a vegetable I didn't love. I loved peppers even when I had an intolerance to them when I was young. I'll try new stuff all the time - rare meats, vegetables I've never seen before, you name it. People always complain about eating egg whites - that's my favourite part! Brussels sprouts? They're the best. No, seriously. Rollmops - or indeed anything pickled? Delicious.

But give me foods that almost everyone seems to love? I hate, hate, hate melted cheese on anything (cauliflower cheese is an abomination because it's a waste of good cauliflower), so I will not eat macaroni cheese or cheese toasties, and pizza is rarely consumed. I detest apples: the flesh is mealy, dry and tasteless on every variety I've tried and the skin makes me gag and throw up. (But give me a nice juicy pear and I'll devour it!) I'm not a big fan of chips - I'd rather eat the Steak Tartare du cheval I had in France. People say they like grapefruit... and to me, it's so acidic that it tastes exactly like vomit.

This second list has got smaller over the years, because every so often I'll try a food I thought I didn't like and find out it wasn't that bad. Honey, celery, raw carrots, liver, certain types of tea, coffee - they've all migrated over to my OK list over the years. I'll try something I don't think I'll like every now and then, and it turns out it's usually decent. Apart from those treacherously common apples. The only taste for food I've lost over the years is a taste for very sweet items - I used to drink flavoured hot chocolate in coffee shops, but no matter how good the idea of mint hot chocolate sounds, I'll never finish it. (At least now I know why my parents marvelled when I drank Slush Puppies.)

I'm a more adventurous eater than any member of my immediate family. My mum is rather picky - she wouldn't try the rabbit I cooked once, and she recoils in disgust if I eat rollmops in her presence. My dad will eat almost anything, but he doesn't mind if he eats the same sort of thing every week. For me, where food preferences come from is pretty much a mystery. All I know is that I share a lot of preferred foods with my Eastern European grandmother, who I didn't spend that much time with and whose food preferences skipped a generation.
posted by Rissa at 10:07 AM on January 6, 2016


That is hilarious writing! But it is also exactly the point of what Ms Wilson is saying: the health-driven approach to food is killing the pleasure of eating. Who would ever eat mashed cauliflower? Or mashed any form of cabbage at all? It smells, you fart after eating it and it is ugly. People who eat and encourage that type of food are not enjoying food, they are eating as a form of self-punishment and exaggerated deprivation. It's religious in the bad way.

*Raises hand*

I regularly eat mashed cauliflower (and in other ways) and have cabbage in the form of slaw pretty much every day. I don't eat stuff I don't enjoy and am actually a little perturbed that it's equated with self punishment. Really? Sometimes it's just a matter of different tastes.
Also it doesn't make me fart. I get way more gassy and farty after something like grilled cheese or pizza (which I also totally enjoy). Oh and also chocolate but I don't care because it's chocolate.

On the broccoli subject. I was a no way I won't eat that gross vegetable growing up. I detested it. And it really didn't have anything to do with how it was cooked. I eat it all kinds of ways now. One of my overall favorite veggies now.
On the flip side when I was very young I ate seafood, specifically shrimp. Mom said that from toddler age when they'd go out for dinner they'd park me in my highchair with a shrimp cocktail and I was happy.
Can't eat seafood at all now. It's not for lack of trying all sorts of different kinds over the years. I've forced myself to go through plates of sushi and sashimi, fresh trout, salmon, whitefish etc and I just can't get a taste for it. The only seafood I can recall enjoying and wanting more of was this very specific lobster dish at a 5 star Chinese restaurant, that may have been due to all the scotch we were drinking. Other lobster I've had since then, yuck.
posted by Jalliah at 1:21 PM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Foods that make me fart are distinctly in the category of Other People's Problems. I love cabbage, and my wife hasn't divorced me yet, despite her complaining, so I figure that's a green light.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:51 PM on January 6, 2016


We like gassing about gas! It's interesting that so many people are reporting gaseous issues with cruciferous vegetables given their content of fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides and polyols, all things that are digested in the lower intestine. They have a reputation that precedes the FODMAP diet considerably! Other names for these things are prebiotics, roughage or fibre, which you are advised to eat to maintain a healthy gut. This can cause bloating and gas problems in people who do not have the gut flora to digest these things.

Ironically, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and other indigestible fibres constitute a significant portion of the digestion pill market, and are supposed to stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli which are recognised as health promoting organisms and are widely used as probiotics.

It is possible to buy a targeted prebiotic that is genetically engineered to feed a specific bifidobacteria, but most of them are just hoping that there is enough of the 'good' bacteria in your lower intestine to be stimulated into multiplying. This would seem not to be the case for people who are having problems after eating cruciferous vegetables!

Broccoli, walnuts and blue cheese were awful, bitter things to avoid when I was younger, but now pasta with broccoli, toasted walnuts and blue cheese is a tasty treat! I used to hate beer, but now if it's less than 90 IBU I am not interested.

Mashed cauliflower is a useful constituent for pizza, quiche and tart crusts if you are avoiding wheat for some reason.
posted by asok at 3:03 AM on January 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, asok, when I was first noticing the broccoli issue I did some research (and very nearly posted an askme) asking about what nutrients I may be missing out on by avoiding broccoli, and that's when I discovered that broccoli (which gives me trouble) and kale (which does not) were in the same botanic family. As are napa cabbage, cauliflower, romesco, collard greens, brussels sprouts, turnips, mustard greens, and bok choi.

And then something hit me: turnips and broccoli rabe are sort of, like, edge cases for me; the purple-and-white turnips hit me hard, but the smaller white Japanese turnips....just a tiny bit. And the turnip greens don't. As for the broccoli rabe....if I stick to just the tenderer leaves, I'm okay, but if I am not careful and have the buds, then I feel a bit rumbly, but nothing like when I eat actual broccoli.

And that's when I made a sort-of-educated assumption that for me, it's the consistency of those particular brassicas that gives me a hard time. Tender leaves, I'm fine with; tougher stems or roots, no dice.

So I just have a lot of kale, turnip greens, bok choi, collard greens and napa cabbage instead, and only avoid the broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflour, big turnips and romesco. Fortunately the brassica family is large.

(Side note to krinklyfig - dude i always hated cole slaw too)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 AM on January 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I still look askance at parents who try to force their kids to eat everything on their plates or pull the "just one more bite!" or "you have to eat X amount of bites before you get dessert!" stuff, though. *shrug*

I never make my son clean his plate, but I do insist that he eat a reasonable portion of dinner before he can have dessert. Children can and will hold out on eating real food in order to get at sweets. As long as my son eats some protein and vitamins, he can have the sweets too (in moderation)
posted by Fleebnork at 9:46 AM on January 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


This morning I was rereading the NYT article on What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast and I was struck by this part:

The first time Saki ate the fermented soybean dish called natto, she was 7 months old. She promptly vomited. Her mother, Asaka, thinks that perhaps this was because of the smell, which is vaguely suggestive of canned cat food. But in time, the gooey beans became Saki’s favorite food and a constant part of her traditional Japanese breakfasts.

What happened in between?????? How did this occur?
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:01 AM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Returning much later to this thread to drop in a link to this Atlantic article which says similar things to the main link here ("you can't just decide to eat healthier, you have to enjoy healthier foods" and "serve your kids lots of vegetables") but supported with research. It also comes across a lot less judgmental, to me. Anyway, very relevant to the topics discussed in the OP.
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:56 PM on February 1, 2016


OnceUponATime, I'd imagine that has much more to do with social/cultural capital than actual money. When my no. 2 was small, I was dirt poor. But we had real food every day, and she learnt to eat broccoli. It's about knowledge rather than cash. I have several friends and relatives who prefer take-out and fast food, because they don't know how to cook. My sister once told my nephew "you don't like broccoli" in spite of him very obviously eating and liking it right there.

How to teach broccoli: in the early toothless beginning you mash one unpeeled potato with a spoonful of broccoli and a spoonful of butter, with a fork. Then you gradually increase the amounts of broccoli and loosen the mashing. If it becomes too bitter (baby makes faces), add more butter or a little cream. Butter/cream is very good for small brains.
posted by mumimor at 2:39 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the money thing is a big deal too, though. Our family is comfortably off, but still my husband gives me a hard time for all the fruits and vegetables I throw away -- not just stuff I served my kids that they wouldn't touch (though there's quite a bit of that) but also stuff that went bad before I got around to serving it. The short shelf life of fresh fruits and veggies is also a cost that's missing from some of these "the cost of eating healthy" calculations. It does feel very wasteful.

As for the last bit butter and salt have definitely been key to getting my kids to like the vegetables they do like. I wonder if less educated people may not have read the latest research that says "hey, salt and fat aren't as bad as we used to think; it's sugar you're supposed to be scared of now," and that's another reason their kids eat less veggies...

(Like your friends and relatives, I also don't know how to cook, but I do know how to do steam-in-bag in the microwave, and stir in a little butter and salt, and personally think this is the ideal way to prepare most veggies. Tastier than boiling and healthier than frying, anyway. Though it is not the cheapest way. Canned veggies are way cheaper, but not nearly as yummy.)
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:11 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


What happened in between?????? How did this occur?

seriously wtf. "we gave this food to our baby and she puked from revulsion immediately so we made her eat it again until she was resigned to her grim fate" seems like an, uh, interesting parenting choice.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:52 PM on February 1, 2016


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