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In Defense of Picky Eaters

Barbara recently posted about how picky people are a huge pet peeve of hers. She was inspired to write about this by Amy, who wrote about how picky eaters make her a bit crazy. There was even a recent Washington Post article which implied that picky eaters are rare and suffer from some sort of disorder or childhood trauma. It always astonishes me that some people are so intolerant of the food preferences of others.

Barbara did explain in a later comment that it is people’s behavior with regard to their food preferences, and not the fact that they have those preferences in the first place, which actually bothers her. Her further explanation makes her view even clearer. That is a stance I entirely understand, because poor manners are unpleasant to be around no matter what their cause may be. But I do not understand feeling put out simply because the people around you like eating some foods and not others.

This is a conversation that comes up often in my household. My partner, Dave, asked at least one of our guests at our housewarming party whether they had any “eating disorders.” By this, he mostly meant that he wanted to know if they were vegetarian or kept kosher. I was a bit concerned, seeing as how we did have one guest who not only kept kosher but also had a history of bulimia. But even she was relaxed, and just laughed at his choice of words when she overheard him.

Mind, he is perfectly happy to keep track of people’s culinary likes and dislikes and cater to them. He was thinking of programming a database to help us to do so when we host large meals. He himself is probably as picky as I am, in different ways – he won’t eat cheese at all, or eggplant, or most pasta (Japanese noodles are the exception), or potatoes in most forms, or most salad, or olives, or raw tomatoes, and I have had to work at introducing him to more and more vegetables that he can enjoy.

What upsets Dave are not picky eaters, but people who have dietary restrictions with no basis that he happens to consider understandable, and which get in the way of social interaction via shared meals. He considers sharing a meal to be extremely important in developing friendships and bonds with other people. Feeding people is what he does. And when something gets in the way of that for reasons that he can’t understand (say, religion), he feels like his offer of friendship has been in some way rejected, which bothers him quite a lot.

But mere pickiness based on tastes and preferences? He sees those the way I see all sorts of dietary restrictions – as a puzzle we can enjoy solving in order to create the best possible dining experience for our guests.

As you can see, this is something that we end up discussing quite a lot, even as he spoils me by dissecting the fat off of bacon or picking all the mushrooms out of my portion of the food. He is very indulgent, my love is.

I once accused him of only keeping me around because I offer him a challenge in feeding me.

“I love you for other reasons, too!” was his reply.

See, I may be a creative cook and an adventurous eater, but I often describe myself as picky. I can’t stand the taste of peanuts, or oranges, or avocadoes, or pineapples, or pickles (of the used-to-be-cucumbers sort), or mayo, or anything that tastes like licorice. I don’t eat mushrooms, eggplant, or nuts because I find the texture to be unbearable – though I’ll eat things made with mushrooms that are big enough to eat around, and ground nuts in things (or pecan pie, where the nuts change texture dramatically) are fine with me.

The smell of canned tuna fish truly makes me feel physically nauseous. I was stuck on a boat out on the wine-dark sea last summer, with the captain smoking at the bow and everyone else eating canned tuna fish at the stern. I spent an hour or so out in the center of the boat, just below the mast, getting a fine sunburn while trying to breathe.

I tend to avoid olives, uncooked tomatoes, salads, and strong cheeses, because I usually don’t like them, but I will try them anyway on the off chance that my tastes have changed or that the one being offered is an exception. I used to say I didn’t like pork except in Chinese food, but by being willing to try it when people cooked it for me, I discovered that I can actually enjoy it in just about any formation except for pork chops. And I recently learned that I enjoy a salad of mixed baby greens with roasted beets, mild chevre, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

I try to avoid acting like a jerk or a child when it comes to these things. If someone asks for my food preferences, I’ll let them know. I personally want to know my guests’ food preferences, so that I can be sure to make things they are more likely to enjoy. I can order from the menu almost everywhere I go, and if I order off-menu, it’s only to the extent of asking for no nuts or no mushrooms on top of some dish. I can usually just pick around the stuff I don’t like.

I don’t sit around going “Ewwwwww” about things. I did that as a child, but I grew out of that phase eventually. I just avoid the things I don’t like and eat the things which I enjoy.

Thing is, my preferences are my preferences, and I’m allowed to have them, and I don’t really understand why I should feel bad over having them. I have a fairly wide palate, and I’m very adventurous and into trying new things. If you have been keeping up with this blog, that should come as no surprise to you. But there are things I have tried and not liked and feel no desire to eat again, and I just don’t see anything wrong with that.

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27 Responses to “In Defense of Picky Eaters”

  1. Josh Jasper says:

    I think I see things similary to Dave – I love coming up with meal palns for people with a wide array of dietary restrictions. Yours are fairly easy to work with. You’re not gluten insensitive, or worse, you don’t have a corn sensitivity. Corn products are in practivally everything mass produced in the USA.

    I tend to take a 3 year plan on all foods I think I don’t like – I’ll try them every 3 years, and see if I like them. Usually this works. I don’t think the 3 year plan is for everyone, but I do take pleasure in being an omnivore.

  2. Jess says:

    Wow. Um, I find not liking cheese WAY less understandable than keeping kosher. Cheese is delicious. This is, in my mind, a damn good argument for respecting others’ preferences … as long as those preferences are made politely and accommodatingly. Me, I don’t put myself into situations where I have to make a fuss; I’ll invite people over for dinner instead of, say, letting them take the semi-kosher chick out to an oyster bar.

    I’m also a fan of Jeffrey Steingarten’s “eat it eight times” rule; if it’s kosher (or theoretically so), I’ll happily try it eight times no matter how much I hate it. After that I refuse to feel guilty about never eating it again!

  3. Kitarra says:

    I followed the link from Barbara’s site! And I agree with you. Though I find Amy’s choice of working to be better. She calls eaters like you and your SO PARTICULAR and that is probably a far more fair way of putting it.

    I think both Amy and Barbara have a problem with people who use food to be manipulative. The same way that children use food to be manipulative. They use picky in the childish sense.

    I am right there with you on being particular. Texture is a huge part of why I don’t like things. Though I tend to challenge myself by trying to figure out ways of cooking things to get around that. Pate is a good example of overcomming a texture issue with liver.

    But the difference between people with strong food preferences and people who are “picky” is that people with food preferences tend to be polite about it. If possile they don’t mention their dislikes. They will find something at the table they like and will eat and go with that. Or they find ways of enjoying other aspects of the dinin experience. They don’t try to bully the host/ess or the waitstaff with their dislikes.

    But thank you for posting a good defense for those of us that are particular!

  4. Barbara says:

    Yeah, I think that it all comes down to manners, or the lack thereof.

    I have no problem with mannerly people who are particular in one way or another or even several ways, about what they eat.

    But I do have big issues with rude people who use their food likes or dislikes to be a pain in the tuckus to other people, to manipulate or to gain attention for themselves. That is really unhealthy, in my not very humble opinion.

    You made a lot of great points, both on my essay and here in your own. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Julie says:

    Oh dear. I hope the fact that today I lightly spanked those who hate winter squash didn’t tip me into the column of those who are totally picky about picky eaters. I too actually enjoy catering to the finicky upon occasion: making dinner parties with lamb for a lamb-loving friend, while making a separate chicken entree for a lamb-loathing friend; creating vegetarian entrees for my SIL, since all the rest of us like rather meaty meals, and, most of all, cooking around some of my darling partner’s many, many food prejudices while trying to wear away at others (with some significant success). My squash rant was really just something of a device to get my post started.

  6. Scott Lefton says:

    This pushed a major button of mine. I’m known for cooking wildly experimental and occasionally challenging dishes, but at the same time I’m a very picky eater. Anyone claiming that picky eaters are rare or suffering from some sort of disorder or childhood trauma has a major disconnect with reality. Virtually everybody I know has some perfectly normal food that they have issues with. Our household hospitality includes asking our guests “What are your food issues?” with the expectation that just about anyone will have some food that they can’t/won’t eat for reasons including allergies ranging from inconvenient to potentially fatal, religious observances standard and nonstandard, genetic quirks (coriander tasting like soap and things like that), or just plain dislike for whatever reason. And this dislike isn’t necessarily an indication that they’re just a difficult person. For example, I’d be thrilled to wake up one morning and discover that avocados tasted good, rather than like I imagine chalk would taste if it was able to rot. And I’d love to have parmesan cheese smell appetizing and not like vomit. Artisanal foods? I adore the craftsmanship and snob appeal of them. But no matter how rarefied and artisanal the goat cheese, it’s still going to taste like someone just shoved a stack of pennies into my mouth. And no, I just can’t identify any childhood trauma to match to these, since none of these items were ever part of the childhood menu but plenty of others also missing from that list have become main favorites. Sorry, next theory. Basic hospitality includes matching your menu to your guests’ food issues to enough of an extent that everyone can find something they enjoy eating. Being a good guest includes communicating well and being as flexible as possible. Being a drama queen about food doesn’t fit into either category. Food may equal love, but love takes work.

  7. Jessica says:

    Hey Danielle,
    I read about picky eaters in Chow, where one guy didn’t know whether to call himself a vegetarian, because he loves bacon. Then there was a debate about how he was rude because he told dinner hosts not to cook him meat, except to also include a bacon dish. I got really paranoid about my food habits (vegan except for dessert and the occassional REALLY special savory dish). I was worried when I RSVPed for your potluck, but to my relief you were nice about it and listed your food habits, which were more specific than mine. Phew!

    A note to Dave: I’m still dreaming about the fleur de sel on your garlicky focaccia. The Queen of Sheba cake was divine. If my tastebuds don’t deceive me, did you use Scharffenberger chocolate and cacao nibs? I’ve never liked their chocolate, but it worked wonderfully with this cake. Mmmmm. I overheard you say you tried Alice Medrich’s recipe? She is my favorite dessert cookbook author. Isn’t she GREAT?

  8. Selena says:

    I think that my own issues with picky eaters come primarily from two sources: firstly, those who do not think to tell me their preferences in advance, because they’re sure I will never think of cooking with their one Kryptonite, and secondly, my own previous low-income times. In many ways, I have adapted a culture both of poverty and of fitting into alien ones-no matter what is served you, out of hospitality, you take at least one bite. If you are hungry, you eat: you do not spurn what for them may be a crowning achievement that they have sacrificed to give you. I felt the shame of this intently while in Korea-an American friend allowed a Korean couple, who made the equivalent of perhaps fifty dollars a month, to treat us to a day out. Yet when they bought us food, proudly spending their hard-earned money so that they could feel rich, he turned up his nose due to its foreign appearance, thus making them feel less proud than they would have. That sort of behavior offends me. This may tie into Dave’s feelings on friendship-while I don’t feel that someone who spurns my offer of food and drink is spurning my friendship, I do feel a little on edge: they have refused to accept my hospitality. How safe can they really feel in my home?

    If picky eaters were only willing to come with lists, that they could email in advance, I would be more than willing to plan meals around them. It’s what, to some extent, you do with a family on a daily basis, after all. But the problem is that many people do not think of the items they don’t like until they’re already staring at them in the food, at which point they give a long-suffering sigh, and insist that no, they’re perfectly content starving, really, they had no intention of eating, no, don’t bother getting them something else, they don’t want to be a bother, etc. etc. Which is not nearly as tension-avoiding as it is passive-aggressive how-dare-you-not-know-my-food-preferences.

  9. Nicole says:

    I am a fan of the “no thank you” helping and a couple of bites when encountering foods I don’t particularly like and while a guest. Even when it comes to cumin, which will actually make me sick if I eat a full meal that has it in it, I will still take a few small bites to say thank you for the preparation, for feeding me.

    Having been poor enough when I was homeless to eat only every three days, and only having the food that others gave to me, I have a relatively limited tolerance for the picky eater. I will try and cater within reason, but if I have 8 people comeing to dinner, while I’ll make sure that everyone has a couple of dishes to eat, I won’t make single person entrees for people. The example above of the reader who would make a lamb entree, a chicken entree and a vegetarian entree is not something I would do. I might make two of three (the lamb hater can eat the vegetarian one) and if they don’t like it, they are free to go to the corner after they leave and get a slice of pizza.

    My home isn’t a restaurant. As much as I like to pretend it is sometimes, it simply isn’t. I have had simply awful meals at another persons house. What I did was have a bite of everything, and filled up on what was palatable.

    And I said thank you for their generosity.

  10. Danielle says:

    Josh – You seem to be very tolerant of people not liking to eat certain things, but you’re somewhat intolerant of people liking other things (it’s the snobbishness, and I only use that word because have explicitly stated that it is what you aspire to). It’s really funny, actually.

    Jess – I was intrigued when I first read about that 8 time rule. There are things I think I could try it with (pork, I did, sort of), and things I just can’t bring myself to (say, eggplant).

    Personally, I don’t differentiate between keeping kosher and not liking cheese, in terms of my tolerance of other people’s restrictions.

    But, let me try to explain a little more about Dave’s perspective. It’s definitely better if you choose restaurants where you can eat or have people over rather than putting yourself in a situation where you have to be rude – sounds like you try to be courteous and take care of your needs yourself, and that’s always great. But being able to actually cook for people is so important to him. It hurts him to be denied the chance to cook for his friends, because it’s such a big part of who he is and what he does for people. Does that make any sense?

    I think this bothers him more than it bothers me, because I am used to people who keep the sort of kosher where I can at least cook for them in my kitchen, so long as I avoid [shellfish, pork, mixing milk and meat, &c] and buy my meat from a kosher butcher on Avenue M. He’s used to more Orthodox Jews, whereas I was raised Conservative.

  11. Danielle says:

    Kitarra – I can get behind that distinction. And I don’t like people who use food preferences (or anything else!) as a way of being manipulative, either. Poor manners are poor manners, end of story.

    Barbara – Thank you for posting, and for explaining what it was you actually disliked! This has been an interesting discussion, and I was surprised at how emotionally charged the responses I’ve been getting have been as well.

    Julie – Oh, no! I don’t get not liking squash, either. I mean, I can respect it in that we all have different tastes and that’s okay, but oh, how I love squash myself. The project of wearing away at an SO’s food issues is both fun and frustrating, I find. Dave eats so many more veggies than he used to, but there is no way I will ever get him to touch cheese. He doesn’t even like my rugelach, which everyone else compliments like mad, because there is cream cheese in the dough. Of course, I frustrate him sometimes in his quest to get me to eat mushrooms.

  12. Danielle says:

    Scott – Basic hospitality includes matching your menu to your guests’ food issues to enough of an extent that everyone can find something they enjoy eating. Being a good guest includes communicating well and being as flexible as possible. Being a drama queen about food doesn’t fit into either category. Food may equal love, but love takes work.

    Yes. That. Thank you for stating it so perfectly.

    Jessica – I know a vegetarian-except-for-bacon, too! I’m dying to take her out to eat at Momofuku, where just about every dish involves bacon grease. It would be perfect for her.

    I liked the way everyone detailed their food preferences when they RSVPd. And I really liked that no one worried too much about them. No one expected to be able to eat everything, no one killed themselves trying to cook only things that everyone could eat, and everyone was relaxed, happy, and satisfied. That’s the way it should work, I think.

    I’ll be posting Dave’s recipes for the cake and the bread at some point. He did use Scharffenberger, and we used Venezuelan Carenero Superior cocoa nibs from Chocolate Alchemy to make the whipped cream.

    Medrich is one my favorite cookbook authors of all time. She has never led me astray. I make her rugelach constantly, and even her plain chocolate cake for layer cakes is delectable. She has changed the way I think about working with chocolate, and all for the better.

  13. Danielle says:

    Selena – That Korea story is awful and painful to read. That might be the only sort of situation where even I would try to choke down some eggplant, and keep a smile on my face while doing so. But that’s not about food dislikes so much as it is about being unwilling to sacrifice your comfort for the sake of something that is such a large sacrifice for you on the part of your hosts.

    And yes, I’d vastly prefer that all guests send me their food preferences in a list in advance so I can plan around them. I always try to remember to ask for that, actually, when I am inviting people over for dinner.

    Nicole – Making sure that everyone has at least something that they will eat is all it takes, I think. I never worry about making sure that everyone can eat everything I plan to serve; I just want everyone to have at least something that they will actually enjoy eating. Your example of making two of the three dishes to serve the three different people sounds like the more reasonable accomodation, yes.

    And I agree, it is good manners to find something you can have at least a few bites of and compliment your host for making.

    I just think that if Dave and I are over at someone’s house for dinner and they make a cheese-laden risotto and some sort of chicken dish with mushrooms, there is nothing wrong with Dave not eating any risotto, and me picking the mushrooms off my chicken to put onto his plate, and both of us thanking the hosts and complimenting them on the food they prepared. That’s pretty much my whole point, in a nutshell (eww, nuts! (kidding!)).

  14. Selena says:

    This is very true. I suppose I don’t mind if people are picky as food, as long as they are willing to move past that when necessary. I have no patience with people who are willing to be horrifically rude, or starve themselves, simply because they are not being offered the food they like. At its basis, though we make it an enjoyable experience, food is about surviving. If you refuse to survive, or refuse to let others help you survive, to the point of being willing to perish or put yourself into unhealth…you have gone too far into your pickiness.

    So really, it’s all about EAT EGGPLANT OR DIE?

  15. Gella says:

    Wow. Okay:

    First of all, I want to tell you how grateful I was for the care that you and Dave took in the labelling of foods at that party and the concern that you showed for those of us with restrictions.

    Food is, as you can imagine and have some experience of, quite a complex issue for me. In my family, it was regarded as a character flaw to not like any kind of food, and a punishable offense to not eat something because you didn’t like it. What I learned from my childhood was the “eat it anyway, and try to like it” rule. As traumatic as this was at times on the extreme end (if you choked or gagged on something that you really didn’t like, you were likely to get hit for it) the general rule has served me well, and there is now almost no food of which I cannot in some way appreciate the taste and texture. So, I would characterize myself as very much NOT a picky eater.

    On the other hand, I keep (Conservative) kosher, as you know. In light of the disapproval of pickiness with which I grew up, I tend to get somewhat defensive, insulted, and honestly a little scared when I feel that my adherence to kashrut is being likened or equated to pickiness, when it is seen as hurtful or insulting. what is most difficult about it is that it is not easily explainable or justifiable. It is not, on the face of it, logical. And historically, it has served as a means by which we as Jews have kept ourselves separate and distinct from gentiles, and that in itself may understandably seem very insulting. After all, food is love for us too, and it follows logically then that we reserve our love and only take love from other Jews.

    However, (and I’m just coming up with this off the top of my head, so don’t expect it to be too extensively thought out) for those of us who are… I shouldn’t say “flexible” but, less stringent in our practice of keeping kashrut, those of us who will eat vegetarian or dairy food in a restaurant or in the home of a friend who doesn’t keep kosher for example, it can be seen as sort of a litmus test for that sort of “exchange of love” if you will… being Jewish is something that non-Jews may or may not tolerate in any given time or place. If someone cares enough about offering their love and hospitality that they are willing to make accomodations for a completely non-logical system of dietary restrictions, and if we are willing to set aside some of the stringencies to which we strongly adhere in our own homes, such as the strict separation of dishes etc. then you’ve got a pretty good foundation of trust and mutual respect from the get-go. We as (moderate, as described above) kosher-keeping Jews struggle on our own with ingredient substitutions and checking labels and kosher meat prices and sources etc. You get used to it but it never becomes “easy.” The imposition on a host is no more, and is in fact far less, than the imposition to which we subject ourselves daily. It’s not as though we refuse bacon in your house and then go home and gleefully eat it in the privacy of our own kitchens laughing about the hoops that we made you jump through.

    You know all of this… but it is interesting to me to hear and explore people’s reactions to folks with special food needs, and to hear the different ways in which people view their own restrictions. Like the vegetarian who eats bacon… I’m fascinated by that sort of mentality. Where I come from, it’s “God help you if you’re in any way inconsistent” because then you’re just inviting trouble. That is why I never ever say that I am vegetarian, even when making clear that I have need of a vegetarian alternative. It has become in my mind almost criminal to overstate or to expand your restrictions to the unnecessary (and kashrut the way I practice it is far less restrictive than strict vegetarianism)… and there might also be fish available.

  16. Nicole says:

    Danielle: I believe we may be in violent agreement :)

    Gella: When I have had kosher friends, I usually ask them about the degree to which they keep kosher and then I try and cook to that degree.

    As for the bacon eating vegetarian….

    I don’t get it at all. If you are a vegetarian for health reasons, no bacon. If you are one for animal rights, NO bacon. IF you are doing it for no reason at all, bacon, I guess.

    But if you are going to eat bacon I don’t see hte point of avoiding meat. It’s the least healthy, least ecological, and least animal friendly of all the meats. And I say that as a bacon lover.

    Color me utterly confused.


  17. novalis says:

    Gella, let me explain a bit about the kosher thing.

    When quantum mechanics was first discovered, people totally wigged out. “What do you mean, it’s random?”, they said, or “God does not play dice with the universe.” For a while, people thought that the weirdness could be localized — that it only mattered on the small scale. But Schroedinger’s Cat and other similar thought experiments (and, later, real experiments) showed that in fact quantum weirdness can have macro-scale effects.

    When someone keeps kosher the way you do, I can just treat them as vegetarians (or fishatarians, or whatever). They’ve got an invisible friend, but they don’t expect me to talk to them. But when someone starts talking about the history of certain pots and pans, or boiling water or aluminum foil, then I have to start thinking about the invisible friend, which annoys me, since I like to pretend that my friends are rational people.

  18. Danielle says:

    Selena – I would never go up against an eggplant unless death (or dishonor) were on the line.

    Gella – Well, both of us know what it’s like to have things you don’t eat, for whatever reason. Scott’s parties always have the food incredibly clearly labeled, and we were echoing that.

    I do still consider myself a Jew. An agnostic Jew who doesn’t keep kosher, sure, but no less a Jew.

    That sense of discrimination, of some Jews only wanting to share love (or respect, or time, or whatever) with other Jews, is part of what bothers Dave. He was born and raised Jewish, but when he encounters Jews who discriminate against non-Jews, he does his best to have them define him as not Jewish in their minds. (This did not go over well with my mother, as you can imagine.)

    It is fascinating to me that this discussion stems so naturally from a food blog post on picky eaters. The food we eat has such a huge effect on the people we can spend time with and grow close to. Could anyone who didn’t like sushi or dim sum ever fit in as well with our crowd from high school? I never fit in with the part of the crowd then went out drinking instead, because I don’t much like alcohol.

    Anyways, I like your point about everyone going out of their way a bit to create a way in which they can eat together. That indicates tolerance all around, which is a good basis for friendship.

    But what about our Orthodox friends?

  19. Kelli says:

    Wow, this discussion is lots of fun.

    I don’t consider myself a particularly picky eater, and I’m willing to try new stuff lots of the time. But there’s a lot of social pressure to not just try, but to like, things that people make when they cook for you. I get really anxious about being in a situation where I can’t honestly say I really liked whatever was made for me, since it tends to make the host feel bad about not doing their best, etc etc. (I am similarly anxious when receiving gifts that people bring me. Luckily, it turns out that the friends who adore me enough to bring me presents from the places they visit know me well enough to pick ones I like, so I haven’t had any crises in this area recently.)

    So, basically, I tend to do more hosting than visiting, and I try to be a good sport when eating in my friends’ homes, and it goes okay. But I’m frequently pretty uneasy when they’re not people I’m super close to.

    It’s a little odd, too, since *I* am generally not upset if people don’t like parts of a meal, as long as they’re able to make a complete enough dinner out of what’s there.

    But the food as love thing is big, and it’s interesting to see different perspectives on this. I think it was a good year or so before Cara (who I refer to as (one of) my adopted sister(s), having gotten her family to take me in over the last few years) was really comfortable with the idea that I was happy to feed her whenever she came over. She felt like she was imposing for a really long time, and it took quite a while for her to really come to terms with the fact that I was happier if I *got* to feed her.

    PS, I’m still trying to imagine a life without cheese. It’s just so weird to me.

  20. Isn’t it interesting how food preferences can stir up so many emotions? When my husband and I first met he was (and still is) a commited vegetarian, while I was a lifelong carnivore. I tell ya, more than once we almost broke up because he couldn’t taste a treasured family recipe! But in the long run I think it’s been good for me and has even inspired me to become VERY creative with recreating all the dishes I grew up loving.

    Very interesting post. :)

  21. Holly says:

    I don’t eat mayonnaise, which is occasionally awkward and which I was feeling slightly guilty about until I read this. And this morning’s reading (Chiquart on cookery) brought an appropriate 1420 discussion of how to deal with fussy guests at a royal feast:

    “Since at such a feast there may be very high, mighty, noble, venerable and honorable lords and ladies who will not eat meat, it is necessary to have similar amounts of sea-fish and fresh-water fish, both fresh and salted, and these in as varied preparations as can be.

    And because the dolpin is king of all the other sea-fish, it will be put first, then congers, grey mullet, hake, sole, red mullet, John Dory, plaice, turbot, lobsters, tuna, sturgeon, salmon, sprats, sardines, sea-urchins, mussels, eels, bogues, ray, calamary, weever and anchovies; the eels, both fresh and salted.

    Of fresh-water fish: large trout, large eelse, lampreys, filets of char, great pike filets, great carp filets, great perch, dace, pollacks, greylings, burbots, crayfish, and all other fish.

    Because there are at this feast a few great lords or ladies, as was mentioned before, who will have with them their Chief Cook whom they will order to arrange and cook particular things for them, that Chief Cook should have supplied and dispensed to him, quickly, fully, generously and cheerfully, anything he may ask for or that may be necessary for his lord or lady, or for the both of them, so that he may serve them as he should.”

  22. Your blog is great, I can’t believe I didn’t find it until today. Barbara’s post annoyed me, I’ll admit it. I mean, isn’t the point of having friends over for dinner making something for them that they’ll actually ENJOY?

    I have no problem with picky eaters, probably because even though I’m not one (I have very few foods I categorically dislike) I am often treated as one because I can’t eat gluten, have reactions to dairy and soy (though I do eat these in small amounts) and am trying to keep kosher in a low-maintenance way.

    I do some of my best cooking within the constraints of other peoples’ food restrictions/preferences. It inspires creativity.

    What does bother me is people who act rude or entitled or like princesses about their food preferences. I have zero tolerance for that. You need to give me advance warning, and in a considerate way, if you want me to accomodate you.

  23. Danielle says:

    Kelli – That anxiety you mention is interesting. I tend not to worry about it much, because it never bothers me when guests don’t love everything we serve. Our cooking is far too prone to experimentation for me to expect it to always be great, and we warn all our guests that that is the case. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least it’s always interesting.

    Ari – It’s great that you managed to see that as an excuse to learn and grow in the way you cook!

    Holly – Have any other guilt you would like to me absolve, while I’m at it? Also, I think it would be sad to have a chef who would cook for me wherever I went. I’d miss out on so much variety.

    Gluten-Free by the Bay – Thanks, I’m glad you like the blog!

    I mean, isn’t the point of having friends over for dinner making something for them that they’ll actually ENJOY?

    I think you put your finger on it, actually; that’s what jumped out at me, too. But I can see how if your guests are rude about it, you might not feel the urge to go out of your way to make them happy. At this point, I think that Barbara and I are, as Nicole put it, in a state of violent agreement on being fine with food preference but minding poor manners.

  24. Kelli says:

    The anxiety definitely isn’t always there. With my ten favorite people, it’s a total non-issue. But there are a handful of people in my life (my officemate being the most obvious one at the moment) who I’m friends with, but not super close to, who have a lot of emotion tied up into making people happy in social situations. It’s the sort of thing where, to me, the love evidenced by the effort is enough, and for him, he wants things to be totally perfect if he makes me something.

    It’s not all-consuming or anything, but it makes me kind of nervous to be in a situation where one possible outcome is that a friend is a little sad because I wasn’t 100% thrilled with the outcome. And it’s not like I’m a jerk about it; I’m pretty good at playing grownup, but I know better than to declare my undying love for something I don’t actually adore all that much.

    Eh, I’m eager to please? I think it’s definitely the sort of thing that gets easier as friendships get stronger, since there’s a lot more confidence that so-and-so loves you for lots of reasons, not just because you do perfect things for them.

    Or maybe I hang out with too many perfectionists?

    I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by cooking with another friend. He’s pretty perfectionist with most of his life, but he’s pretty willing to experiment in the kitchen. Better still, he’s absolutely fine with me nudging recipes to make them more to my liking, despite the fact that he’s a pretty religious recipe-follower.

    Finally (no, really, I’ll stop rambling!), I was reminded last night that I really am way more comfortable in general with being the hostess than a guest. I was at a party last night, and without a list of things I need to be running around doing, I was kind of lost. I think it’s my introversion showing through.

  25. Phil says:

    Hi Danielle, it’s nice to see a more balanced view and reasoned responses after reading through Barbara’s and Amy’s blogs.

    One theme that comes through in much of the feedback is this notion of just eating a bit of something out of politeness. The problem is that if your food aversion is so severe that doing so would induce vomiting, that’s really not an option!

    I must say the comments about the guy in Korea struck a chord – I would probably be much the same. However, you’d think he would’ve already known he was going to have problems eating local foods and found some way to avoid going to dinner in the first place – I know I would.

  26. [...] Danielle and her partner Dave were gracious hosts, respecting everyone’s food preferences, from no meat to no olives (but olive oil was fair game). There was too much good food to be had, so I regretably didn’t have a chance to try everything. The menu for the night: [...]

  27. Retnan says:

    “I’ll happily try it eight times no matter how much I hate it. After that I refuse to feel guilty about never eating it again!”

    Why the hell would you feel guilty about not eating something? What is wrong with you people?

    BTW maybe I can understand trying something you hated for a second time but eighth? That defies everything that is logical and sane.

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