You Have To Try It
When I first moved in with my husband, he was cooking out of his camping gear and dining at fast food joints. After equipping my kitchen, he suggested that perhaps I might like to use his mother's recipes... Since his mother had passed on, I thought it would be a really nice thing to do...and to be honest I always love a new recipe. What woman wouldn't jump at the chance to make a favorite dish for her husband?
However, when he presented me with a bright yellow plastic box full of untouched recipe cards that you buy in bulk from one of those cooking clubs, I was a bit confused. There were no recipes scribbled in ink, crossed out and rewritten, faded, dusted with flour and sticky food bits the way mine are...so I had no idea which ones were actual favorites.
"Uh...so which one of these is your favorite?" I asked
"I don't know..."
"Okay then...which ones did your mother make?"
"I don't know..."
It now sits on a shelf in my kitchen...
Since then I've been on a crusade to discover just what my adorable husband will eat and what he won't. For a man that loves adventure, when it comes to food, it's an entirely different story. I've come very close to sending him to his room for saying "YUCK!" in a very loud voice in the middle of a supermarket when I put an acorn squash into the basket. I should point out that he now loves acorn squash.
The incident which inspired this particular blog, however, went something like this...
Husband: What are we having for dinner tonight?
Me: Scallops, baked potato and spinach.
Husband: Geesh, Laurie...you are moving too fast. Can't we just have something normal for a change? Why do we have to have all this gourmet stuff all the time?
Me: (sighing) What part of the meal don't you like this time?
Husband: Scallops...I've never had those and I probably won't like them.
Me: Let me get this straight...I moved from New Hampshire to Arizona to be with you. I left my family, my friends, my job and EVERYTHING I know to be with you. And you won't eat a fucking scallop?
Needless to say, he ate the scallops and now he has decided he really does like them after all.
And now...from the October 2006 edition of "A Bird's Eye View" I give you this blog. Bon Apetit!
"If you don't like my standards of cooking...lower your standards."
First, let me tell you that I am a good cook. I have had occasional "food experiments" that did not come out as well as anticipated, but for the most part, friends and family have not turned down an invitation to be fed from my kitchen. I have only one rule...
YOU HAVE TO TRY IT BEFORE YOU CAN SAY YOU DON'T LIKE IT!
It is a simple rule and can prevent a lot of misunderstandings and missed opportunities. As an illustration, I give you the following two examples:
I was a finicky teenager. At Chinese restaurants I would order a hamburger. If the food didn't "sound" right, I wouldn't even consider trying it. So when trying a new restaurant recommended to our family by my uncle and asked if I would like an order of "chicken tenders," I vehemently said no. This was back before Chicken McNuggets made their way into mainstream cuisine...and the word "tenders" made me think of things like chicken livers, hearts...organ meat in general. I missed out on my first taste of what would later become one of my absolutely favorite things to order in the future...just because I refused to even TRY something new. (By the way, if you are ever in Manchester, NH and want to try a local favorite...the chicken tenders I speak of can be found at the Puritan Restaurant).
Foreign sounding words when applied to food also put some people off. While out to dinner with a boyfriend, we were asked if we would like our pie ala mode. I agreed immediately, but Jeff shook his head and said "No...skip the ala mode for me." When our desserts arrived, Jeff was rather shocked that mine came with ice cream and his did not.
Let's face it...for most of us food is important. It represents the things we love most in life...home, comfort, the feeling of being cared for and if it tastes good, so much the better. And nothing represents all of those things like MOM. Ask any woman cooking for the man in her life what her biggest frustration is and finding something that the love of her life will eat will probably rank right up there. Now if his mother was a lousy cook, she has it made. Unless of course, his mother's cooking was so bad that it left him with an extreme dislike for EVERYTHING. If his mother was an incredible cook, be prepared to hear the phrase "My mother never made it that way" in a rather petulant voice with the strains of an angelic choir in the background on the word "mother." A lot.
It does not help to point out that your mother cooked better and since it's YOUR kitchen, your mother's recipes take precedence. You'll find his lips will seal up tighter than a submarine hatch.
Be prepared for an astounding irrational diversity of things they don't like. Prejudice against hard boiled eggs, cabbage, mayonnaise, onions and tomatoes are a few of the things I have had to deal with.
There are several ways to handle food prejudice:
1. Omission: Prepare to make all the dishes you would normally make without the rejected ingredient. Say goodbye to potato salad with mayonnaise, if that is the repulsive item. Leave the onions out of the onion rings. Deviled Eggs without the eggs... Yes, you see a pattern forming. Be prepared to forget half the items you know how to cook.
2. Bribery. You may resort to bribery if you need to. While children may be co-erced with new toys or a special sweet treat, the adult male may require some other incentive. Try something like, "If you at least TRY the spinach, I won't nag you about anything for a week." If that isn't incentive enough try using anything that he cares about. Usually their needs are simple so it won't be difficult. Just be prepared to hear later on how they tried spinach and loved it without reference to the U.N. negotiations it took to actually get them to try it.
3. Food smuggling. Occasionally this is something you may get away with, especially if the food in question can be cut into very little miniscule barely-detectable-by-the-human-eye pieces. If you get away with it, NEVER admit to doing so. The satisfaction of gloating will only result in careful analysis of every plate of food as the diner dissects it beneath a food microscope for suspect pieces. Nobody wants to eat dinner next to somebody who triumphantly holds up a fork and says, "AHA! What is this?" I did manage this successfully only once with my youngest sister, Toni, who had an extreme mushroom prejudice. I pureed the mushrooms with cheese and butter and proceeded to use it as a stuffing for a veal dish. She loved it! Only when many years later she decided that she actually liked mushrooms did I admit my deception.
4. Competition. A good time to introduce new foods is when you have company. Most men will never assume the truculent "I won't eat it and you can't make me" attitude in front of another man...especially if he's eating it.
Everyone Has A Food Quirk
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to food and I am not without my own. If the only way you will eat something is covered in ketchup...fine. If you think a cucumber, pepperoni and cheese sandwich is absolutely yummy...great. These are things you have tried and liked.
My brother loves to take all the foods on his plate and combine them into one rather unappetizing (to me) glob. I personally like to segregate everything on my plate as I eat. If they accidentally run into each other, I will still eat it if I have to....but I prefer not to.
Other quirks I have are:
1. Lesieur Baby Peas. Don't try to feed me those frozen, neon green, wrinkly ones unless they are in a chicken pot pie. I don't like the chalky taste. Which means I won't eat a lima bean either...
2. Carrots - when eaten alone as a side vegetable, it must be cut into little circles. It's how my Mom always made them and therefore they are far superior to any other shape.
One Thanksgiving, Toni put one of my other sister's in charge of the carrots. Ronda dislikes cooking...she almost has an allergy to it...and so she pawned the carrots off onto her husband, Bill, who loves to cook and considers himself somewhat of a gourmet. Don't get me wrong, Bill CAN cook and very well, so it's often a relief when he does take over the cooking for Ronda. However, this was Thanksgiving and Ronda was expected to bring the sacred buttered carrots that we always had growing up. Upon opening the container and discovering glazed carrots in a sort of julienne form, Toni had some very colorful words for our sister. Ronda has never been put in charge of anything more important than dinner rolls since that event.
So how does one deal with being confronted with foods they dislike or are reluctant to try? It depends on the situation and the people involved. There is a politics to food...
1. The Buffet - Probably the best choice for the finicky eater and his/her not so finicky partner. Everyone can try only what they want. If you can't find ANYTHING to eat at a buffet than you are too picky and you should seek professional help.
2. The Family Holiday - If it's your family, you shouldn't have any problem. They're probably used to your strange eating quirks. If it's somebody else's family, make friends with the family dog so you can stealth feed it beneath the table. If there is no dog, keep a napkin on your lap for removing disgusting food from your mouth politely. If you can pre-empt what goes on your plate, rather than say you don't like something, use the phrase, "I'm not particularly hungry" and limit your food to the items you will like. NEVER use the word "YUCK" when asked if you would like something.
3. Informal Dinner with Friends - Just tell them you are allergic to whatever you don't like and came close to dying once when you accidentally ingested it. This will scare them enough so that they won't try the smuggling trick.
4. Dining at Home with Your Significant Other - If you are doing the cooking or making the reservations, than feel free to do as you please. If your significant other is the one cooking, you may express once or twice what your dislikes are and then leave it up to them. Reminding them before the preparation of EVERY SINGLE meal is like issuing a challenge...or insinuating that they have an issue with short term memory. Trust me, you do NOT want to annoy the person that is preparing something you will be eating.