After reading a bunch of threads about various ethnic foods and various polls asking about what we’d be willing to eat, it’s come out that a large chunk of the population is very unadventurous when it comes to food. As in, someone in this thread mentioned an acquaintance who said that “Pizza Hut was too exotic to eat at.”
What I don’t understand is how that thought process works. It’s completely and utterly foreign to me. I grew up in a house that wasn’t the most adventurous, but wasn’t entirely fixed on one or two dishes. When I saw the outside of the cave, as it were (prodded and aided by an adventurous Aunt of mine), there was no going back. I realized there was a big world of all sorts of strange and wonderful dishes, foods and ingredients, and I wanted to try them all.
Yet I know people who when faced with terrific Tex-Mex order a burger, or who go to Italy on vacation and say the food wasn’t very good.
How does this work? It just doesn’t compute. Is it a taste thing, a risk aversion thing, a texture thing, or something else entirely?
I have observed some relatives and I have my own quirk on this issue, so I have some working theories.
I have relatives that are very boring eaters. I think they just have it in their heads that they know what they like and just have no interest in challenging their assumptions. For example, if I were to buy a rotisserie chicken at a Safeway: no problem. But a pollo a la brasa? :dubious: They won’t say anything, but the questions in their mind are obvious: what’s a Peruvian rotisserie? Why is the skin charred? What’s with these two little sauces that come on the side? Is the chicken from Peru, too? I don’t like those thick-cut French fries. This cole slaw looks funny. Why are there those banana looking things as a side – that should be in some sort of dessert. What did they do to this chicken? Why does it look different? What’s wrong with the chicken from Safeway? I don’t trust this other place. I’ve never even been there. Well, maybe I’ll just pick at it and have a peanut butter sandwich later…
WTF, people. It’s a rotisserie chicken. Seriously, that’s all it is. But it’s made in a Spanish-speaking restaurant. It’s just a rotisserie chicken… but they know what they’re getting with the Safeway chicken, so it’s a big deal.
But I have my own quirk: when I was young I hated tomatoes, like slices of them on sandwiches. Now when I have good tomatoes in well-made dishes, eh, no problem. When I travel, I have no problem eating dishes that feature tomatoes. But when I simply go get my routine lunch, if there’s accidentally a slice of tomato on the sandiwich – yeech. It reminds me of the sliminess of the tomatoes that I had as a kid that turned me off. There’s something powerful about the memory of not liking something that is just an instant turn-off for some foods.
I’m not a picky eater: I’ve eaten crickets, guinea pig, dog, weird sea-things. But tomatoes on sandwiches are yucky, and I think I would need psychological counseling to break me of that view.
My sister and I have pretty much never agreed to travel to Europe because of disagreements about food and lodging. I’d want to eat at McDonalds and stay at whatever they call a Super 8 out in the suburbs, she’d want to eat at a cute French café and stay at a cute hotel in the city. Even in America I refuse to try anything more ethnic than Taco Bell.
For my it comes down to I know what I like at Burger King, and I view eating as utilitarian rather than an experience. . I never get tired of Whoppers with Cheese. If I go to a café in Paris would they have anything I like? Would they even speak my language? Would they even like tourists? I’d just as soon stop at the Paris McDonalds and get out fast so I could have more time at the Louvre. Also I hate dressing up even the slightest, and some foodie places might frown on casual dress.
So yeah, risk aversion, taste, as well as how I want to spend my time.
In my experience, the european restaurants that frown on “jeans and T-shirt” are the kind where you need to get a reservation months in advance. Any that’s in an area where tourists should be expected won’t have a problem with an open hawaiian shirt over a wifebeater, shorts and flip-flops.
I’m not necessarily talking about picky eaters, or at least what I define as “picky”, which is people who are very particular- pbbth qualifies- things that are ok when diced, but not ok when sliced is picky.
People who aren’t really picky, but who don’t branch out in the presence of obvious alternatives are the ones I’m curious about. And, I’m not necessarily talking about traveling either- my brother-in-law is the classic example I think about- he’s as Midwestern as they come, and will order a burger at otherwise good Tex-Mex places, and just won’t do anything other than meat & potatoes, relatively bland American food. I think I’d have a hard time getting him to go to a German place, even though it’s right up his alley. He just doesn’t realize it and isn’t willing to find out.
I just can’t quite get inside his head- is it literally a matter of “Why?” vs. “Why not?”, as in when I’m confronted with something new, I think “Why not?” and try it, and he thinks “Why?” and doesn’t?
I’m a somewhat picky eater, I keep meaning to start what would basically be a companion thread to this. “What’s it like to be able to eat anything”. If I’m going to go to a new restaurant, I’ll check their menu online first so I can a)make sure they’ll have something I like* and b)not spend 20 minutes looking at the menu when I get there. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be able to walk into any restaurant without having to worry about finding something you’ll like. Be able to eat at someone’s house and just gobble down whatever they toss in front of you…it just never worked for me. Too essentially just say ‘food? sure I’ll eat it’.
*I may be a picky eater, but I like to think I’m not a boring eater. I’ll try new stuff so long as it isn’t full of stuff I already know I don’t like.
Comfort zone. They don’t want to leave it. They’re satisfied with what they have, and their perceived risk of ‘not liking something’ overrides any sense of curiosity.
There’s a guy I know who eats nothing but fried/deep fried chicken. He has his own deep fryer. When we go out, he won’t go anywhere that doesn’t have wings or fingers or nuggets.
An old friend’s sister-in-law is like this. We went to this little brunch type place in Seattle, amazing food. She got the blueberry pancakes, which I’d had before, and I knew they were great. When they arrived at the table she just sat and stared at them. When she was sked what the problem was, she replied ‘Well, these are real blueberries. I was expecting the artificial kind.’ Mind = blown.
I’m the opposite. I’ll try (almost) anything once. The old friend I mentioned before and me used to play candy roulette at the big Japanese grocery there. When we were checking out we would each grab something from the candy display by the registers and hand it to the other person. It was all in Japanese, so we didn’t know what any of it was. Sometimes you got gum, sometimes cough drops, sometimes you got something really good. We would keep those wrappers and go back and get more.
That’s me. Frankly I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on your side of the table and actually have to worry about finding something I can eat. There’s nothing that’s fit for human consumption that I wouldn’t try. This served me well when I used to travel in the far East.
I am not a picky eater and love exploring new cuisines. Did some cool Uzbec stuff not long ago. Stuffed, baked cantaloupe was especially yummy.
Tex-Mex, however is, more often than not, an abomination. I used to live out west and we had a small restaurant run by a Mexican family. Best Food Ever. So it isn’t that I don’t care for good Mexican food. Tex-Mex isn’t any of the three, good, Mexican or food. Tex-Mex in my experience is the worst of American diner dreck with a can of habaneros dumped in.
So, for me at least, someone saying they don’t eat Tex-Mex does not make them a picky eater, just sensible.
I think it has a lot to do with social class, and ethnicity. For example, here in the NE, the “old money” likes terrible food (bland, non-spicy, tasteless). This is because they all went to prep schools, where they were fed such slop.
Also, for many people, eating is a task, not a pleasurable experience-so it doesn’t matter what you eat. Which is why dishes like “boiled dinners”, salisbury steak, and apple crumble were invented.
I’m a boring eater. Always have been. I have pretty much no sense of adventure when it comes to food. I like what I like (which is varied, just boring: pizza, chicken, steak, various types of seafood, various types of pasta, etc.) and I’m not really all that interested in “discovering new food” unless it fits into the same sort of categories I like. I’m fine with this, and I can always find things I like at restaurants, or I just skip going to the sorts of restaurants where I can’t find anything. I don’t like fruit, raw vegetables, and a lot of cooked vegetables, and I hate spicy food (I like “gringo” Mexican food and “white people” Chinese food–the boring stuff they serve to Americans).
It’s been a problem occasionally when my work group wants to go out for something like Indian food, but even there I can usually find something I can deal with (and I nibble a lot of naan bread!) My friends and coworkers tease me a little, but hey, everybody’s different. I used to work with a guy who literally couldn’t participate in group food functions like pizza parties because he couldn’t stand eating anything that anyone else had touched. At least I don’t have that much of an issue. Who cares if I get a burger while everybody else is jockeying to see who can order the most exotic dish on the menu? They’re happy, I’m happy, it’s all good.
Fortunately my spouse isn’t much more adventurous than I am. He loves spicy Mexican food and likes salad (which I don’t) but aside from that we’re pretty compatible.
If you’re going to be a picky eater, I respect you more if you just come out and say it. My husband and I know a couple who blame their food pickiness on each other (“oh, he/she won’t eat that, we’ll bring some hot dogs” from both of them separately in response to a German food cookout invitation at our house), and it really gets old when they won’t just suck it up and admit they aren’t eating brought-with hot dogs and macaroni salad at our outdoor parties merely out of solidarity to their spouse’s pickiness.
I’m a vegetarian so some say I shouldn’t be casting stones or anything, but I easily make do with eating. Plus I’ve eaten huitlacoche on purpose and would do so again, so hey.
I understand food aversions, too; I had a bad encounter with onions as a little kid and have spent years as an adult slowly increasing my tolerance for onions, but raw/semi-raw ones are still out due to texture and that awful sulfurousness.
In my case, it’s about sticking with what I know. Growing up, my family meals were basically a rotation of the same dozen or so things. It usually meant chicken or beef, mashed potatoes, and canned vegetables. Also, I was very picky about texture, and the different foods on my plate touching each other, for some reason(I’m over that).
So, yeah. When I go out, I usually end up with a burger or some kind of chicken. However, if someone tells me I absolutely should try something, I will, unless it has ingredients I know I’ll hate. For instance, LOTS of things have mushrooms - that’s a dealbreaker.
Sometimes when I go out I’ll order a big ol’ bacon cheeseburger regardless of the restaurant–not because I dislike the other menu items, but because I never, ever make myself a big ol’ bacon cheeseburger at home, and I love them so.
My ex-SO is a boring eater. He makes a particular breakfast (oatmeal, cranberries, toast, fruit, coffee, peanut butter, honey) every single day. Different menu for lunch (ham and cheese sandwich, vegetable blend, fruit), but the same thing 7 days/week. Dinner, same deal (ham and cheese on grilled bread with egg, 1 potato, fruit, toast with pb and honey). When he goes out, he gets a steak, baked potato, salad. If there’s a buffet, he gets the exact same items in the exact same order, every time he goes. He has done this for decades. I would die of boredom. He finds some kind of comfort in his ritual.