A new blogging friend, Raising The Curtain, has reminded me of an old memory. One about my lifelong fussy eating habits, and how it all changed for me in a typically dramatic way even if it was unintentional.
I was a fat baby, and I remember my mom saying all it took to quiet me was a bit of zwieback that I could happily gum to death. I turned into a skinny child and teenager, despite the fact that I ate a LOT. Four big bowls of cereal every morning for many years! Oink. That was fine, it was fuel I burned off easily. And how I loved the food that I loved.
But boy, did I hate the things that I hated.
I loved ribs, beef fondue, pizza, my dad’s weird ‘black fungus Chinese chicken,’ grilled cheese sandwiches, especially with Lipton Chicken Noodle soup which is still my ultimate comfort food, ham sandwiches (no cheese) with the ham shaved so fine it was almost like ham mush – no thick slices of meat please and thank you. Watermelon, corn, green beans or wax beans (what the hell are wax beans, anyway?) fried chicken, roast beef, pork chops, shrimp boiled or fried, my dad’s smoked venison, and ‘hot n juicy’ hamburgers. Listing all these, I see that I preferred meat to almost anything else as a kid.
But…and it’s a big but…my hamburger was always plain. I didn’t even have one on bread. It probably didn’t have cheese often, either. Back then we tended to purchase sliced orange Kraft American cheese (not the plastic stuff that is wrapped in plastic. That crap isn’t even called legally able to be called cheese, it’s named “cheese food,” which sounds like something you feed to real cheese), not really worth putting on a good hamburger.
I ate, and eat: no catsup, mustard, or mayonnaise. I didn’t have salad dressing until I was 20, and it was a restaurant’s Italian dressing which converted me. We always had creamy blue cheese dressing. Blue cheese makes my tongue itch.
I would eat sliced raw tomato, if I could sprinkle sugar on it. I would not eat tomato sauce. I peeled the cheese off of my pizza and scraped the excess sauce out – a little was okay, but not great globs of it. I do this still when we don’t make the pizza ourselves. Did you notice I didn’t include spaghetti in my list of favorites? That’s because mine had no sauce; just pasta with salt and butter; and I irritated the shit out of my dad by rolling my meatballs around on a napkin to get the sauce off them, because they were cooked in the sauce. My meatballs had no onion in them, but did include a toothpick so mom knew which ones were mine (and my maternal grandfather’s – but that’s a story all by itself).
Which leads me into my biggest hate – onions. Hate, hate, hate them. Always have, always will. I can taste or smell them in food when no one else can; the aversion is that strong. If you cut an onion up for a salad and use the same knife to chop the lettuce, I will taste it. YUCK you’ve ruined my salad!
Bread and meat cooked together, for me, was – is – gross. No way would I eat meatloaf, or stuffing in a turkey, or even by extension my mom’s ‘porcupine meatballs’ which had rice in them, and possibly tomato sauce on the outside – I’ve blocked that memory.
We didn’t have a wide variety of vegetables in the 70’s/early 80’s. Or, maybe mom didn’t know what the more exotic ones were or how to cook them. Corn, except for creamed corn, was good with me. Spinach, however, was frozen and mushy. I could stand a little bit with enough butter and salt, but I never understood why my sister loved it so much! Potatoes and mushrooms could never be bad, in any form. Carrots were better raw, and I think I even ate mayonnaise when it was a raw carrot and raisin salad (I wouldn’t now). Coleslaw, no thank you – even though everyone raved about grandma’s secret recipe. But the absolute banes of my dinner experience as a child were Lima beans and Brussels sprouts.
They probably both came ‘fresh frozen’ back then, like the poor wilted spinach. I do know they were never fresh-fresh. I don’t think I’ve even seen a Lima bean in years, so either they are called something else here or they went out of fashion with big collars and pornstar moustaches on men.
I had the same method of attack for both Limas and sprouts: I cut them into chunks small enough to swallow whole, and took them like a pill with a gulp of milk. This was the only method that would win me the prize of dessert. The rule in our house was to eat all of your dinner or you get no dessert. Fair enough, rules are rules, and I tried like hell because back then I was a pretty good kid (that would change) and I wanted that slice of German chocolate cake or bowl of strawberry cheesecake ice cream, and I wanted it a lot!
There came a day, a day that is frozen forever in my mind, when I no longer was forced to eat the things that I loudly, dramatically and continually said I hated. It was a Brussels sprouts day. I cut each sprout into four sections. More pieces meant more time spent trying to swallow them whole without chewing which just prolonged my misery, and of course a longer delay for dessert. They were the only things left on my plate. I’d gotten about one-third through my allotted portion when it happened.
Maybe the sprouts were bigger than usual. Maybe it was just time. You see, my gag reflex nearly always kicked in and caused me to make unpleasant ‘urk’ noises when forcing down the noxious veg – even without chewing they were horrible. This time, it went a bit further and I puked milk and sprouts all over my dinner plate.
I can’t speak to my parents’ reaction, but I was never forced to eat the things that I hated again. My opinion was that they finally believed me, and I was so grateful.
I’ve never eaten Brussels sprouts or Lima beans since.
I never had limas before, but they look like organs that have been laying around for a while…
I never liked sprouts when I was a child, then again, every veggie was nasty when I was a kid. I grew over that.
But I have the same with porridge. It makes me gag.
But if you don’t like onions, do you like leek?
Eww! Yes, they do even look gross, all veiny and mouldy 🙂 I can do porridge, but not the way they do it here! Mine has butter and a ton of syrup in it, and fruit like raisins. Then I can eat it. Otherwise it tastes like something they should bind books with.
Porridge makes me gag, I always had to eat it when I was a child. It is disgusting, no matter what you put in it to make it taste better, haha. 😛
Wow you read that fast! Nope, no leeks, no scallions, no chives. I adore garlic, however – and adding garlic when something calls for onion usually does the trick. I think I might do another post about how I changed with age – not very much!
Back in the day it was all about cleaning your plate! Now it’s all about giving kids whatever they’ll eat. Somewhere in the middle there’s a happy solution.
Well, I chose not to have kids so I won’t experience that battle. But I did eat! Just not the horrible stuff.
Every vegetable I was ever offered as a kid was boiled till it was mushy and bitter. When I was around fifteen I tasted Asian food and there was no looking back.
Limas can be nice if they’re not mushed.
I think American fundamentalism really ruined American cooking. You know, everything has to be a penitence. New England Calvinists used to boil bananas in the skin when they could get them.
Good point! My mother came from a super religious, nearly Appalacian, family background and she just didn’t have much experience with cooking for taste, it was more for the vitamins, etc, and the price.
That is very dramatic. I was never able to convince my mother that I couldn’t stomach her food (especially soups), but my brother helped me out most of the time. Bananas, eggs, and mushy vegetables were (and still are) particularly offensive. However, my mother loathed Brussels sprouts more than anything so I was spared that at least. We had plenty of cauliflower brains, though. *shudders*
What are cauliflower brains? That sounds even worse than cauliflower in general, another hate of mine. My mother hated liver, so we never had that at least.
Cauliflower brains is when you take a head of cauliflower and steam it and then pour cheese or butter or whatever on top. I call it brains because it looks like brains. And I suspect it tastes like brains too. I want to like cauliflower (still crispy, in a spicy curry or something) but I can’t bring myself to eat it even to give it a try. It has been 10+ years since I’ve had any and I should give it another chance. It couldn’t possibly be as bad as I remember.
When I was 12 I became vegetarian, but that didn’t spare me the mushy vegetables.
I have never heard that, LM, but now I know why I shudder when I see a whole head (oh! see there?!) of cauliflower brains!
When I lived in Alaska, the winter veg seemed to be either broccoli or cauliflower. I was a vegetarian back then, but geez, I began to loathe those two veg. Bad vegetarian! Bad!
I was very lucky to have two good cooks for parents, and since they were quite cosmopolitan, we ate everyTHING! Never mushy vegetables. Though, there was a long time that I hated celery because the flavor was too heavy in soups, etc.! Now Big Mister makes me Ants On a Log (peanut butter in celery, with raisins dotted on top), and I chow down after I finish laughing at the funny food!
I join you in this proclamation: Onions must go.
I have a very lovely poem about onions by Naomi Shihab Nye. I don’t care what she says, that’s to say, I care about everything she says except this one thing.
Onion must go. They are an abomination unto the Lord. Don’t care if (S)He made them. It was a mistake, an off-moment. A very big mistake. A very off moment.
An abomination, I tell you.
Yay! You are welcome to dinner at my onion-free house, any time!
On my way. I wish.
As you know, I like onions, LOL. But a definite no to Brussels and Lima beans.My son eats his hamburgers and hot dogs nude too – more flavour maybe? Thanks for the shout out!
You’re welcome! I told the story on your blog as a comment, then said to myself, heeey, that’s actually a long story worthy of more attention! My friend Lagitana mentioned that my comments are sometimes worthy of posts, so I did. I eat hotdogs cold and “raw” – or I did, when I could get Oscar Meyer hotdogs. The ones here are sort of nasty so need the bread to cover up the flavour! I like calling it nude, too 🙂
LOL… I love onions. I use onions and garlic is almost everything I cook.
Right, so no dinner parties at your place for me 🙂
Mehheheh… S’okay. You can cook. I’ll come over there. Just made some great turkey garden burgers tho… (‘cept they had onions in ’em); Ground Turkey, onions, diced broccoli crowns, A1 and soy sauce, one egg…and MIX…top with Prov-Mozz cheese (Sargento!)
I’m not sure about the egg, and o course not the onion, but the rest sounds great! We can’t get A-1 OR provolone here! Sacrifices had to be made…
egg just helps it hold together well…you can’t taste it at all. 😀
Glad they eventually relented 😉 You obviously weren’t going to give in. Sounds like you live life as you see it and have done so for a long time. Isn’t that what life’s all about?
It didn’t amuse my dad much 🙂
My dad refused to eat food that smelled bad and stunk up the house – like spinach! WIth my mom and brother having so many allergies, we mainly ate fresh veggies which we grew. I longed to eat fast food hamburgers like other people. Milk was alway great for floating down and covering up less than favorite foods!
I have never known Spinach to stink up the house. Now, Cabbage… And yet foods like cabbage and cheese and other stinky foods taste so good. It really makes no sense. How can something smell so bad and taste good?
Not a fan of cabbage – cooked – and of course now I live in the ancestral home of bacon n cabbage! Blecch. My dad loves Limburger and other super-funky cheese, and rollmops. Barfola 😦
I never wanted fast food much. Until McNuggets were invented. And they were still kinda gross. Thanks!
Did you know there is some research to the effect that people are genetically wire to either like or hate Brussel sprouts? I’m in the hate group.
I’ve alway been a super picky eater and still am, however I always try new things and retry old hates cooked in different ways because you never know. My pallet is lean enough that adding anything new is a plus. I hate fish, yet once Kent brought me some smoked salmon belly to try. The belly is normally tossed because Salmon eaters don’t care for it. I reached out knowing I would hate it…. then was confused that I didn’t. So I tried it again, and again. I not only didn’t hate it, I loved it. But even knowing I liked it, I still feel my brain pulling away from the very thought of eating it.
I lived with my uncle for about a year and a half and he was of the “It’s on the plate you eat it club”. So I learned to swallow peas and lima beans whole. I can now take my palm full of daily pills without a blink. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one.
I grew up poor with an alcoholic mother, so there was no real fresh food, but I now hate Mac and cheese. To me veggies come soft and in a can and while I like green beans, I dislike them fresh. What mom did cook when things were going well was cooked with little to no spices. There are some things mom makes that I like just like she makes it and no one can match, but most of it I’ve either kicked to the curb or learned to make much better.
I’ve heard that about the smell of fresh coriander. I HATE it. My dad likes it, not sure about my sister, and mom as you know is not around to ask. Dad says he hates sprouts, too, so there might be some basis in fact there! It’s funny, for a family like mine that loves food so much, that we didn’t do a better job back in the 70’s. I have to sort of blame what was available, along with mom who was very thrifty and also just didn’t experiment much. But, two kids and a full time job doesn’t leave much leftover for being creative in the kitchen, if you don’t really have much interest to begin with. Dad, however, loves to try new things!
Maybe my skills with pills also leads back to those Lima bean days! I never had a problem taking ‘horse pills.’