Coming Full Circle

Growing up, I was the pickiest eater EVER. My parents had an extremely difficult time feeding me, and they cringed at the idea of taking me anywhere if a meal would be served. I didn’t eat meat, any cooked vegetables (except for potatoes and corn), most raw vegetables (except for celery and carrots), an assortment of fruits, grains, spices, and certain kinds of dairy. Basically, for what seemed like an eternity to my parents, I’m sure, I would only eat: white rice, white pasta, white toast, peanut butter, soy sauce, salt, canned tomato sauce (with no evidence of actual vegetable pieces), cheese, and sweets. (I was not picky with sweets, for the most part. Go figure.)

I could (and did) eat rice for every meal of the day sometimes when I was younger, but try putting a stir fry on top of it and I would stonewall. The worst part of the whole situation was that I was more than just a picky eater– I was super stubborn about it and I could last for hours at the dinner table, arms crossed, if I needed to prove a point. I remember being asked– nay, begged— by my parents to eat the teensiest piece of chicken or fish (maybe about the size of a quarter) before I could leave the table. I always refused and waited in my chair for several hours, usually until my mom would throw her hands up in exasperation and say ‘fine!’. I was even banned from going trick-or-treating one year because I wouldn’t sway to eat a solitary baked bean. It was the principle of the thing.

Texture was (and still is) the biggest issue for me. I liked the smell of many foods, but once they were in my mouth, I just couldn’t deal with them. (To this day, as a matter of fact, I think the main reason why I’m a vegetarian is because I don’t like chewing meat.) In my mind, all vegetables were supposed to be crunchy, all fruits were meant to be juicy (not vegetable-esque like rhubarb), grains should be chewy (no cracked wheat or steel cut oats for me), and spreads and sauces (peanut butter, jam, pasta sauce, etc.) should be perfectly smooth and silky. I hated finding chunks of nuts in my peanut butter, bits of strawberries in my jelly, or pieces of any vegetables whatsoever in my tomato sauce. That’s just the way I rolled for many, many years.

Even when I had moved out on my own and no longer had to endure any extended periods at the dinner table– arms crossed in defiance, staring down a lone piece of over-steamed broccoli on my plate– my meals consisted mainly of oatmeal for breakfast, raw salads and maybe a grain for lunch, and pasta or wraps for dinner. I loved hummus. I just wasn’t comfortable experimenting with foods and preferred to stay within the soothing embrace of my established routine.

Everything changed when I met Marty.

For one thing, the first meal he cooked for me was an impromptu soup. A few days into our relationship, I was already deliciously in love with him, so rather than protesting that ‘I didn’t eat soups or any cooked vegetables, for that matter’ when he put my bowl in front of me, I just batted my eyelashes sweetly and ate it up.

I enjoyed it.

The next meal, he expertly offered me homemade sushi, which aside from the rice and raw vegetables, was not part of my culinary repertoire. He tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me how to use chopsticks, but I– sweetly, lovingly– ate nori, pickled ginger, and wasabi for the first time.

Practically everything Marty cooked for me was brand new to my tastebuds. I had never eaten tofu before; he whipped some up in a teriyaki stir fry. I wasn’t big on eating eggs, either, but he made mean omelettes that had me reconsidering my staunch anti-egg stance. I had never experimented with certain vegetables: kale, beets, parsnips, asparagus, bell peppers (for real), snow peas, green and yellow beans, broccoli, bok choy, zucchini, mushrooms, etc.– and within weeks of starting my relationship with Marty, I had tasted (and liked!) them all. Looking back, I have no idea how I survived for so long eating what I used to. All of my favourite dishes now are ones I had never tried before meeting Marty. Sushi! Soup! Stir fry! KALE, god love it!!

Despite my radical advancements in the culinary realm, there are still certain aversions that persist. I have a hard time with meat. I won’t eat a raw tomato unless it’s chopped up into super tiny pieces and shoved into a salad or fresh salsa. Steel cut oats and cracked wheat still make me gag. Papaya feels too buttery in my mouth. It gives me goosebumps if a potato hasn’t been fully cooked all the way through. But, I definitely consider every little addition to my diet to be a great victory.  I recently started eating avocado, which was a huge deal, considering that my former food rule had been “Green foods should all be crunchy”. And of course, I added dark chocolate to my repertoire while giving up dairy, and that has to count for something, right? (Right?)

The problem is, even though I have added literally hundreds of new foods into my diet since I was a girl, I’m still the person who is a nuisance to feed when we go out for dinner or over to somebody’s house. How is this possible? It bothers me that I still have this very particular list of things I won’t/can’t eat (meat! dairy! cashews! mayonnaise if at all possible!), but I suppose my meal plans now definitely trump the all-starch, high-sodium, ultra-sugary diet of my childhood.

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