Picky eaters: Just try it!
Before coming to college I never considered myself a picky eater. I consumed each helping of vegetables and chicken my mom placed on our kitchen table without protest. For the first 18 years of my life I believed myself to be quite educated and open when it came to the world of food. I couldn’t be compared to my home friends who, years after the acceptable phase of elementary school when macaroni ruled the average diet, still wouldn’t touch anything green. No, I was better than that. I ate protein and dairy and fruits and whole grains. I would soon discover, however, the vast array of foods I had never touched—foods that my overzealous roommates used against me to insist that I was indeed one of those picky eaters.
Tuna was only the beginning. “Why,” friends would ask me with demanding fervor, “won’t you at least try some?” Well, I had a very long list of reasons why. The smell. The texture. The color. The smell. The smell. The smell. And so I refused to pair my sushi with the disgusting pink stuff or to try the white glob with crackers or to put the stinky mush on my sandwich. Until one day when my defenses were low and I couldn’t refuse any longer. I tried the tuna. This fact in itself was not something I easily came to terms with—my family is still unaware that I gave in to the peer pressure. And so you might imagine that allowing myself to recognize my taste buds’ reactions to the carnivorous fish was a difficult feat. Six months later, I can admit only this—it wasn’t bad.
Tofu was next. Do I really need to list the reasons “why not?” for this one? The bland-looking, misshapen squares didn’t exactly make my stomach growl with excitement. But after much pushing and prodding, I was swayed to try the vegetarian obsession, knowing in advance that I was never going to view tofu in the same positive light my animal-loving friends did. The idea that I might enjoy tofu carried with it greater implications that stretched into the scary world of other tastes and smells I won’t dare to try. No, if I accepted tofu I would have to acknowledge too many possibilities. And so I pushed my stomach’s cravings away and announced confidently that the tofu was at best subpar.
In asserting my certainty that I had not missed out on the foods I despised from afar, my identity as a girl who knows what she likes remained intact. But, as I was reminded to no end, college is of course the time to try new things. Do your own laundry, live with someone you’ve never met before, learn about another culture and eat the food you so desperately want to avoid. My fellow “picky eaters,” I would never ask you to let go of the preconceptions that hover like steam above the bowl of unidentifiable goo. But, just try it! No need to fear that you may end up kicking yourself for living without the food for so long. As you force the cottage cheese past your quivering lips, the words “eww” and “gross” will float through your mind so many times that you might just forget you tasted anything at all. Sometimes even the strongest taste buds can’t overcome stubbornness. So to all those oatmeal lovers out there who I’ve refused again and again—I’ll try it, but I’m not going to like it.
Alissa is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail [email protected].