Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fussy eaters.

I'm sure you are all expecting a post about children being fussy eaters. I'm sorry to disappoint you. This one isn't. I'm very glad to say that, despite a difficult year between the ages of 2 and 3, Marie is not a fussy eater at all. We have managed to convince her that you need to taste new food 7 times before you get to like it. So, even if she doesn't particularly like something, she still eats it (eventually she loses count of how many times she's eaten it anyway). As for Noelie, well, this one eats everything and anything in sight, her new shoes seem to be a firm favourite on her list of food.

No, I'm talking about adults. I find adults that are fussy eaters quite infuriating challenging. See, I come from a different country with a different diet (all hail the Mediterranean diet!). My mum and dad both love good food and, growing up, I have often times been the guinea pig for their culinary experiments (think Heston Blumenthal gone wrong). Some have turned out to be lovely dishes, others not so (tip: do not decide to make spaghetti in the same water you have just used to make foie gras thinking it will give it a lovely taste. Think about the salt/water ratio used in the foie gras recipe first. 100 gr of salt for 1 litre of water makes for very very very salty, as close to inedible as you can get, spaghetti). I was made to taste, eat just about anything and everything. And no, I'm not exaggerating, I swear. Did your mum ever come home from the butcher's with ostrich meat, kangaroo meat and crocodile meat, just so see what it tastes like? Didn't think so. Well mine did! And I don't remember it that much, so it mustn't have tasted that horrible. My grandfather was a butcher, so (weaker stomachs look away now), I have eaten every part of any (normal) animal you can think off. Yes, even those parts. And, please, don't laugh, it's not funny. I was lured into it. I didn't know what it was until the next day so that I couldn't even throw it up.

Since moving to Ireland, I have come across a lot of adult fussy eaters. I'm not talking about people that are allergic to certain things or vegetarians and the likes. I actually consider cooking for them a different type of challenge, a pleasurable one. It gets me thinking outside of the box and I like having to be creative for them. I am talking about reluctance to try new things, or even plain stubbornness or defiance even.

Thankfully, Mr Foodie is willing to try new things and will taste anything I put in front of him, no matter what it looks like (and I have to say that sometimes my dishes don't look like they are worthy of gracing the dog's bowl!). Whenever we have people over, I try and curb my enthusiasm and cook tasty, yet quite unoriginal food. And I have noticed that the older the people, the harder it gets as they are unwilling to step away from their usual diets. They are not adventurous at all, although I don't think that it would be considered very adventurous to eat a tomato once. I have even heard from somebody that vegetables make them physically sick. I tried to reason with them that it was all in their heads but to no avail of course. What good is it to try and convince somebody who, for the best part of the past 50 odd years has refused to eat vegetables? Somebody also once told me that they hated garlic, could not stand the taste of it, could not eat it etc. This happened about 2 weeks after they had dinner at ours during the course of which I served a chicken stuffed with about 10 cloves of garlic and some roast potatoes with garlic on them too. And they had second helpings! So how much of it is in their head? A lot I would say.

But what happens when somebody like that has to change their diet for, say, medical reasons. How do you educate somebody in what is a healthy diet when a) they are not aware (or pretend not to be) that their diet is not healthy, b) are unwilling to change their lifelong dietary habits no matter what the consequences are, c) refuse point blank to try and eat something different? Unfortunately, this is the situation we are faced with at the moment with one of Mr Foodie's relatives. They have to change their diet after being diagnosed with diabetes and a high level of cholesterol a few months back. We all (and that includes a nurse!) explained what could happen if the changes were not made and, sadly, what we had predicted happened, a heart attack. Thankfully, the person is now on the mend but we still feel that not enough dietary changes are happening. It is extremely frustrating to know what can be done to minimize the risks of other heart attacks happening and be met with a wall of denial ('the meds will do it'), defiance ('no, I will not listen to the doctor and eat vegetables'), and a lifetime of bad habits and miseducation. I went as far as considering buying the Jessica Seinfeld book where she sneaks vegetables in everything so that children will eat more of them. But then again, where can you sneak pureed vegetables in the following: mashed potatoes, meat and peas? We're at a loss as to what to do and short of somehow force feeding them vegetables and good stuff, there is only so much we can do. It is quite terrifying since we know what the consequences will be, all we are unsure of is the time frame.

Has anybody ever have to face such a situation? How did you deal with it? Did you manage to convince them to change? How?

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