My Life as a Fussy Eater

My Life as a Fussy Eater.


Yes, I can admit it. I am a fussy eater. I don’t enjoy the prospect of trying new things, and will immediately reject any meal if I can’t recognize what it is. 
My fussiness was evident from a young age. I had, to put it mildly, a very limited palate. My diet consisted primarily of hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, pizza, French fries, chicken nuggets, Kraft Dinner, sugary cereals, and bologna or peanut butter sandwiches. Then, of course, my one and only condiment of choice for everything – ketchup.
Throughout my childhood, my parents valiantly tried to get me to eat different foods, but were constantly thwarted by my stubborn streak. In many regards, I was not one of those hard to control kids who would act out and challenge their parents’ authority. For the most part I was your stereotypical “Good Boy”. I never stayed out late, or hung out with the “wrong crowd”. I always did well in school, and I never touched drugs or alcohol; but my decision to not try new foods was absolute. I could not be swayed by promises of dessert, punishments, or being forced to sit at the table for hours. 
As the years went on, I made very little progress in changing what I ate. I added a few fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, corn, peas, carrots, and the occasional salad consisting of just lettuce, celery and Catalina dressing. I added scrambled and fried eggs, but only liked the egg whites and the runny parts of the yolks for dipping toast. 
I became the butt of many jokes in my family. Especially during visits to my Grandma’s house. She would prepare these elaborate Sunday roast dinners that were absolutely spectacular (though I was too stupid to recognize it at the time). However, I refused to eat any of it and would sit down to a dinner of microwaved hot dogs. Then there were all the Thanksgivings when I needed ketchup to make my turkey more palatable because I didn’t like gravy. Apparently having a bottle of ketchup on the table takes something away from the elegance of a meal. 
By my mid-teens, my parents had pretty much given up on getting me to eat anything new. My parents work schedules and long commutes made the nightly sit-down dinner at the kitchen table a thing of the past. I was left to my own devices to get my own meals. Generally just easy-to-make frozen versions of my traditional fare. Then I would eat them in my room, sitting in front of my TV. With the change of earning my own money through part-time jobs came ordering my own pizzas and buying my own McDonalds. My diet was so atrocious that I don’t see how it’s possible that I won’t develop colon cancer at some point in my life.
Things pretty much stayed this way until my mid-twenties when something happened that has the ability to turn any fussy eater around…I got a girlfriend. It didn’t take me long to realize that women aren’t interested in having a long-term relationship with someone who grocery shops exclusively in the frozen food section. I made a conscious decision to start adjusting the types of foods I was willing to eat. Sure my parents could threaten me with the prospect of losing desserts, but only my girlfriend could threaten me with the prospect of never having sex again. 
I started by looking at the foods that I currently liked, and trying different versions of them. For a long time I refused to eat Italian foods like spaghetti, or lasagna, but then I started to break them down into their ingredients. There’s ground beef (hamburger), noodles (Kraft dinner), tomato sauce & cheese (pizza). I was able to change my mindset by realizing that if I like certain foods separately, I should still like them when they are combined into other foods. 
That was the epiphany that led me to greatly expanding my list of acceptable foods. I began eating all forms of chicken. Not just the finger/nugget/Kentucky fried varieties. Roast chicken on the bone was completely fine. I never used to eat things like steak, or roast beef until I started looking at them as what hamburgers are before they get ground up. I started enjoying other types of fish beyond the stick, or battered-with-chips variety. I started liking other seafood like shrimp and crab.   
Ketchup was no longer my only condiment. Mustard, mayonnaise and barbeque sauce started making their way onto my food. I also discovered the greatness of gravy. I realized that gravy is just the drippings of whatever food you are about to eat anyway. So why object to flavoring a food with its own flavor? I was so glad that my Grandma lived long enough to see this change in me. To finally be able to sit down to an elaborate holiday family meal without a single hot dog, or bottle of ketchup in sight. 
My girlfriend eventually became my wife. Being married made me want to learn how to cook proper meals. As I started learning recipes, I began including more and more foods. Nothing surprised me more than when I started liking broccoli. I have gotten so good at cooking now, I’m the go-to guy for cooking the turkey at Thanksgiving. 
My wife is Filipino, and she started introducing me to her native dishes like pancit, lumpia and lechon; these are all things that I like now. When all that’s said and done, I’ll admit that I am still rather picky. It’s not like I’ll eat whatever is put in front of me anymore.  I don’t know if a fussy eater really ever comes around fully; but I’m certainly a lot less embarrassing at dinner parties. Of course…my family never lets me forget the way I used to be (*insert ketchup joke here*). 
Looking back on those days now, I feel nothing but sympathy and remorse for everything I put my parents through. It couldn’t have been easy for them to deal with. All the food that got wasted because I refused to eat it (food that I now have no problem eating). All the hours of their time I wasted as they stood there with me at the kitchen table trying to make me eat, when I’m sure they had other things they’d rather be doing. All the money they wasted constantly buying me “fast foods” that are more expensive than cooking from scratch. Fast foods that I now try to cut back on now that I’m older, and I know how unhealthy they are. 
My parents did eventually get the ultimate revenge on me. In a classic example of poetic justice, I was gifted with a son who is just as fussy an eater as I was, if not more. I 100% own up to my childhood fussy ways, but my son is fussy in ways that even I can’t understand. 
You may think it’s weird to only eat hot dogs at Christmas dinner in your Grandma’s house. But at least I put them on a bun, and added ketchup. My son will only eat a hot dog plain, with no bun, cut up into little pieces, and the skin peeled off. Do you have any idea how long it takes to peel the skin off of a bunch of cut up hot dog pieces? Ten minutes…minimum. Plus a five minute cool-down time before peeling, or else you’ll burn your fingers. That’s a long time to get a hot dog ready in the age of microwaves. 
A large portion of his diet consists of different varieties of fried chicken, chicken nuggets and popcorn chicken; and he likes barbeque ribs. His side dishes include French fries, plain potato chips, corn and steamed rice. This is basically all he eats. The strangest thing of all to me is he doesn’t like ketchup. How can a son of mine not like ketchup? When I was a kid, I think my blood was 10% ketchup. 
He turns his nose up at foods that I can’t even imagine not liking when I was his age. Bologna sandwiches? No. He basically won’t eat any sandwich except Nutella…with white bread only (the only time I ever see him eat bread). This made things rather difficult once he started school. It’s hard to come up with lunches to take to school 5 days a week when you don’t eat sandwiches. Nutella sandwiches are banned from his school because of peanut allergies. We end up buying a large popcorn chicken from KFC every week, and giving him small portions of it every day with some rice. At times I am in disbelief of the lengths we go to so we can accommodate his fussiness. 
He’s even fussy about pizza. My first and forever favourite food. Admittedly, I only liked the pepperoni and cheese kind, but that’s pretty standard for a lot of people. Our family had a tradition of making our own pizzas every Friday night, and I wanted to continue that with my son. But what does he like on his pizza?...Just tomato sauce. JUST! FREAKIN’! TOMATO SAUCE!!! Occasionally, if it’s a takeout pizza, he’ll eat some of the cheese, but if any chucks get pulled off when he takes a bite, he leaves them on the side of his plate. That behavior can be the most infuriating; refusing to eat something when he’s already eating it. 
The only time I ever saw him actually get convinced to eat a new type of food was last year when his Catholic School had him go through the process of having his first communion. My son won’t eat a slice of bread without having it covered in Nutella, and cutting the crusts off, but threaten him with eternal damnation and he’ll eat that bland little wafer every Sunday. Can’t the church do something more useful and get him to think that eating his vegetables would be good for his soul too? 
I try my best to stay optimistic, and I’m hoping that I will find some way to get him introduced to new foods. I’m an adult. I’m supposed to be able to out-think an 8 year old. If I’m lucky, my son will start dating at a much younger age than I did, so that might speed up his turnaround the same way it did for me. 
For all those parents who are dealing with fussy eaters…I feel your pain. Keep fighting the good fight. I’m starting to think that forcing, starving or bribing with dessert are not the right approaches. I think the trick may be to just keep them aware of other foods. Keep offering them different things. When you sit down to family dinner, give them the foods they like, and put a little of what they don’t like on their plate. See if you can convince them to touch it, smell it, lick it, take a little nibble, take a big bite, or let them spit it out after if they want. I think it’s a victory if they are willing to tolerate a new food in any way. Even if it’s just them letting it touch their plate. 
In closing, I’d like to say one thing to two very special  parents who had to raise a fussy eater…My Mom and Dad: 
I am so, so, so, so, so very, very, very, very, very sorry for every frustrating moment my fussiness caused you. I love you both. 
Thank you so much for putting up with me.

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