To say I am a picky eater might be a bit of an understatement. In fact I am fairly certain that if you asked my mother about my childhood eating habits she might cringe in memory. She has every right to do so. I was a ridiculously picky eater.
Now I was not the most picky eater ever. I still ate. I ate a lot actually, but my choices were limited. I have had cousins who when they were young wouldn't eat at all. I had a friend who when she was 5 or 6 turned into a little germaphobe hypocondriac and refused to eat anything but peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches. Of course she refused to eat those unless she watched her mother open a fresh loaf of bread and a brand new jar of peanut butter and jelly. She outgrew that phase quickly at least.
Still I was no picnic to feed as a child. When I was little the only green vegetable I would eat were green beans. I would only drink strawberry flavored milk. They found that other than a hamburger, which for the longest time was ketchup and pickles only but morphed to cheese and ketchup only after a near drowning incident*, the only way I would eat red meat is if it was served with Arby's Horsey (horseradish) sauce. Onions and mushrooms were straight out of the equation. I had serious texture issues with my food as well.
Once I decided I liked something that is what I would eat. That is all I would eat. I ordered the same thing at Chinese, Mexican, and Italian restaurants no matter what. There was no such thing as deviation in my dining habits. I loved food, but really only the food I was familiar and comfortable with.
Then something changed.
I was sitting here looking at the lunch I packed myself and I had to wonder what had happened to me. I know for certain 10 year old me would be horrified at my lunch. To a point 25 year old me would be disapproving as well.
I have a beautiful salad full of green and red onions, baby peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and baby spinach, with a lovely red pepper Italian dressing. Growing up salad for me was iceberg lettuce and tomatoes with ranch dressing. There were no other options. Sure I eventually branched into Italian dressings and Caesar salads, but that was as adventurous as I got.
Now? Raw mushrooms? I only came to terms with eating cooked mushrooms in the last six or seven years. Raw red onion? Are you kidding me? Don't even get me started on raw spinach as my green in the salad. I really just put whatever was in the crisper drawer into my salad. This entire concept is foreign to me.
What changed you may ask. Well honestly I have no idea. I can't tell you when or why I became more adventurous in my eating. I know that sometime at the end of college I started experimenting more. I chose safe things like expanding my vegetable intake. I now love pretty much all vegetables. I am not a huge corn fan, and things like beets still haven't made their way into my comfort zone, but brussel sprouts? Asparagus? Zucchini and squash? Yes please!
Then in the last year or so I started just trying things. I would see a recipe that looked good or sounded interesting, and I would try it. I was using food combinations and preparations that quite frankly scared me. It was way out of my comfort zone, but I didn't care.
My mother probably turns a little purple in the face any time I tell her I am eating something weird or exotic, even if it is just weird for me. I can imagine her thinking back on all the times I refused to eat something simply because an onion was present and getting a little frustrated and angry that now I eat the things raw.
I think what happened is I realized how much I truly enjoy food. I enjoy everything that comes with eating, the preparation, the socialization, the sense of community, the sense of accomplishment; but also I enjoy the food itself. I was denying myself so much enjoyment and pleasure by being afraid of new things.
It might be a small thing to most people. It certainly is not sky diving or bungee jumping. It is just some edible fungus and raw vegetables, but food is my adventure zone. To me toasted hazelnuts are a crazy and wild ride.
It might not be your definition of adventure but to me it is. Delicious satisfying adventure!
* When I was very young I got dropped in the deep end at a pool party by an adult who thought I could swim when I could only barely tread water. I was upset at the time, though I never became afraid of water despite nearly drowning. As a reward for surviving and to try and appease me someone went out and got me fast food. They came back with Burger King which was doing a three pack slider thing at the time. The person got them with cheese and ketchup not knowing I despised cheese on my burgers. To me it looked like mustard which I hated, and so I assumed it would taste bad too. That day I was so tired and upset I just ate them. I loved them. After that I would only eat a burger if cheese was involved. It is amazing how nearly dying makes something like a food you feared become so inconsequential.