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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in musing | 1 comment

If you are or you have a picky eater

If you are or you have a picky eater

I have learnt about the food culture here in stages.I was introduced to the concept of ‘canned’ vegetable/fruit/meal’,’meal in a box’,’frozen food’ to name some…

After marrying my very American husband one of thing which i learnt is,”meal is not complete here without meat” and by meat it doesn’t have to be finger licking ribs or a bold piece  of steak.’Meat and Potatoes’ are sort of classic American fare for many here growing up.

After having kids, my knowledge in food department increased and reading the list of ingredients became the part of grocery shopping.I became more aware of  ‘Food Allergy’. Though it wasn’t until that our kids started school that I have been reminded of  dominance of  ‘food allergy’ at every class party, end of the game snacks and any get together.I became familiar with very strategically marketed ‘kids meal’ and have been forced to think why chicken nuggets/hot dogs/mac and cheese are identifiable with kids meal?As a mom my responsibility to serve healthy meal  to my  family and challenge of ‘picky eaters’ is as real to me as it to any mom.My kids don’t like everything I cook, heck even I don’t like many things that I cook but I have taken cue from my parents and keep that in mind to conquer the ‘picky-ness’ to prevent our family from becoming ‘picky eaters’.

I grew up in big family.Five siblings.So it wasn’t always that we liked everything my mom cooked but now that we are all grown up and living our life,we all miss my mom’s cooking and even those food which we know we absolutely didn’t like growing up.No,it is not mere nostalgia that all of a sudden we are liking and craving everything reminiscent of old mom days.I do not think that,you can feed that kind of nostalgia to your taste buds.This is what I think could have happened to shape the taste buds of all our siblings.

We liked the food because of the way it was ‘seasoned’.Boiled,steamed food is good for you but because of its blandness,it fails to excite the taste bud easily.I have this theory,no matter how good and healthy food is,if i don’t eat it,it is no good to me.Making it fun by seasoning it, helps.It does not mean that you need ten different spice mix.It means, knowing  few spices and using it creatively.So for example, Onion and Garlic are immediate taste builder.Cumin and Peppers add just the right kick.Turmeric perks up the food and makes it pleasing to eyes.

We liked the food because of the way it was cooked.There are a list of vegetables which I didn’t like growing up.Are you surprised?Okra, Bittermelon, Turnips, Spinach, Cabbage, any kind of green leafy vegetable in general.Different produce need different kind of pampering but one thing which works for most  is,every vegetable love to spend time in heat and oil and get little tan.Know when to add water and when to cover and let it cook in its own steam.

For example, i don’t like okra, when it is sticky, so my mom started sauteing it at high heat to get rid of that stickiness. Bittermelon is very very good for you but very very bitter.It is an acquired taste, so my mom would use raw mangoes/dry mango powder, tomatoes, lemon juice, lots of onions to cut through the bitterness.Turnips have to be sautéed at high heat quickly,should be  very lightly seasoned to cut through the slight bitterness.Spinach must have lots of garlic and sautéed at high heat  first, to develop the depth of flavor, before it wilts.Cabbage and Cauliflower should not be smelly.Roasting/Sauteing takes care of that.Tomatoes should not stay chunky in the dish.

Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper

Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper

We developed the liking for the produce which we didn’t like initially and then we did like eventually.How does that happen?Say for example,Zucchini.I did not like Zucchini growing up much but my mom and dad did.So it was regular vegetable in our house during the season.So if you know it is good for you and you like it,then make it for the family,even if they don’t.It may take number of repetition before a kid can develop liking for it,which can translate to eons.Repetition helps.

We developed the liking for the produce  which we often see in our plate.Growing up,my mom or dad bought vegetables from the common road side vegetable market.Never cared for those vegetable/fruit which didn’t make it to our plate.So for example,to this day I do not like ‘sweet potatoes’ or ‘pumpkins’.I have experimented with it in different forms and I like them in only some very specific way,with hesitation.I think it is because,we rarely ate them growing up.My parents didn’t buy ‘sweet potatoes/pumpkin’ regularly because they themselves didn’t like it as much.When they did buy them and my mom prepared it,she got average/below average review I might add, collectively from all of us siblings.But what if they kept buying and making those vegetables regularly whether we liked it or not.Could we have  developed the love for them?I would like to think positive but I  would never know.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Did you say Onion?I have heard this so many times,‘I am allergic to Onion’ and it perplexes me and challenges me because of the ‘large number’ of people i hear it from.It makes me think,so it means they can’t eat Mexican, Latin, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Cajun,Southern, any soup outside the home because it will all have onion in some form.Very limiting.

With the exception of ‘Jains’ who because of their religious belief did not eat Garlic and Onion,I have never heard of this allergy before but then I have not heard of many other things.I get the impression that  there is misplaced dislike for this most versatile and ‘good for you’ vegetable.Those who do not like it,either have seen served ‘raw/barely grilled’ onion on the top of the burger.Who likes  that crunchy top?Other popular form it is served here is as ‘Onion rings’ or as crunchy top of ‘Green Bean Casserole’ or something like that.Not very flattering way to eat onion.Onion/Shallot is a base of most all delicious meal around the world.Key is caramelizing the onions or cooking it in a way that it dissolves as it cooks.If it is not caramelized/dissolved,dish built on that will most likely be not happy.

Our Taste buds matures as we do,so keep challenging it.You must have read about ‘lentil’ /’Dal’,I brag about on my blog.Let me tell you,I despised this everyday dish .I must have frowned,made faces in disgust and murmured,how  distasteful and useless it is,every day during lunch time back then.My mom did not stop making it because she knew it is good for us,richest source of protein in everyday Indian meal.But what a difference decade makes,I love this simple dish now.Key is even if I didn’t like it then,because I was exposed to it so regularly,I made an effort to make it decade later.Apologies lentil for all the rudeness you had to suffer in my early days because of  my immature taste buds.



Go Global Back when I was growing up,we ate only Indian food,North Indian,regional precisely.South Indian food once in a while was luxury,since it wasn’t available to us easily.Now that I can use my fingertip and power of internet to reach the remotest corner of the world,I look around to see how would Chinese,Latin American,European would eat the same vegetable/Fruit? For example,I was introduced to ‘avocado’,by Tex-Mex culture,in savory dishes.But do you know people in Brazil consider it a fruit and make sweet avocado smoothie for breakfast?

Keep Trying There are still fruits and vegetable which I do not like as it is.Yes most common would be apple and grapes.Surprise,surprise.I  like apples with peanut/almond butter or cooked in some way.Grapes I would eat in fruit salad.Key is i keep trying to eat it in different way.My strategy has always been,no matter what,I will KEEP TRYING if it is GOOD for me and my family, even if it seems like eternity to develop the liking.I hope it helps to shrink the list of ‘disliked good food’ just a little bit.

1 Comment

  1. two lessons i’ve learned from you are:
    1) how to season properly! I never thought to ‘cover’ the entire surface with seasoning.
    2) how wonderful onions can be when cooked properly!

    Thank you dear teacher!!!!!

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