When I was a child, my parents and I would go deep in the mountains of West Virginia to visit my grandmother every few weeks. We could always expect to find some sort of main course for Sunday dinner when we arrived. I remember on many occasions, the main dish of choice would be vegetable soup. My father would get a bowl of soup, which he enjoyed, and then proceed to picky out all of the peas in the bowl and discard them. Many times my father was made fun of and ridiculed for what others considered as an unnecessary quirk. The family would say things like “You can’t even taste the peas,” or “What’s wrong with peas?” Attempting to defend his position, my father would ask them this simple question: “If you can’t taste them, why did you put them in?”
This brings me to an interesting point that most chefs and cooks overlook. If we believe that everyone is created equally, but differently, why is one considered odd or strange for not liking a food? The truth about ingredients is, all are there for a reason. That reason could be taste, or texture. Most people never think about the texture of a food being a defining factor, but for some people, texture can be the difference between a quite delicious and appeasing meal, and a trip to “yell at john.”
In most cultures, it is considered rude to tell someone you do not like their food. I propose to you that it, in fact, it should be considered rude to try to make someone eat something they do not like. If you have someone over for dinner, remember it is a great gesture to ask someone if they do not like a certain ingredient, or if they are allergic to any particular ingredient as well. To insist someone eat what you put in front of them can be considered palate imprisonment.
I urge us all as chefs and cooks in the culinary world to consider our guests and let’s stop creating the awkward first dinner dates, cookouts, and dinner parties. I know you are a good cook. I just do not share your love of onions or mayonnaise. Please don’t feel bad for asking me not to use ketchup on your hamburger. I will not be offended. In short: Leave out the peas!
If you have ever read “The Three Bears” you know it’s about a little girl named Goldilocks, who breaks into a family of bears’ house. The main part of this story that sticks out is when she tries to eat porridge that the bears had left out on the table. She tries Papa bear’s porridge and finds it to be too hot. Goldilocks then tries Mama bear’s porridge and it is too cold. She finally gets to Baby bear’s porridge and finds that it is just right. The fact is not just any porridge would do.
It may seem like a simple children’s story, but it holds a deeper meaning to help us better understand picky eaters. I want you to realize that everyone has an opinion, even if they are unwilling to give it. Many of us eat things we do not like for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or the hassle of explaining to your server what you want or do not want. Goldilocks knew exactly what she wanted and did not stop tasting food until she got exactly what she wanted. We have to realize that liking, or not liking, a certain type or texture of food is not weird, and should be celebrated.
Going back to the example, we are trained as children to find the normal food to be “just right” when our taste buds are not the same as everyone else’s taste buds. Consider Papa bear’s porridge. It was said to be too hot. But too hot to whom? Goldilocks! Of course we can conclude for Papa bear, it was just right. The same can be said for Mama bear as well. I know many people who prefer their food cold. Do you think they ask for their food cold at a restaurant?
In a day and age in the world where being different is being celebrated more and more, we are still afraid to ask for food the way we want it. For you, for me, for the ones who hate mayonnaise or tomatoes, the ones who don’t like vanilla or chocolate, but love strawberry. These people are not weird. These people are you and me. Why should we settle? I refuse to settle. Life is too short. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and the ones preparing our food. Living life to the fullest also means never settling for second best!