Changing Tastes; Broadened Horizons

shrimp-feta-ck-222198-lMy little sister won’t eat her food all mixed on one plate (she prefers multiple plates) though, as my dad tells her “It all mixes in your stomach anyway!”.

My husband doesn’t like “mushy” foods like oatmeal or pudding — yet he eats enough bananas to put Chiquita out of business.

About a half dozen of my friends (mostly male, but some female, too) won’t eat tomatoes in their pure form — but love salsa, tomato sauce, ketchup.

Are these people disordered eaters? No, not at all. They are just particular about what they like. It’s a personal preference, a choice.

Similarly, I have always been drawn to brainy, computer science/engineer guys (I married one!) who are my stark opposite in terms of “right brain/left brain”. He’s the yin to my yang (with me being the more creative, artistic of the two of us). That’s my “personal preference.”

Anyway, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to expand my palate where food is concerned.

I was a picky kid, and my obsession with food on WW only made me pickier as an adult. Instead of genuinely not liking something as I did when I was a kid, I’d tell myself I didn’t like it so it was then “off-limits.”

Like I’d say, “Oh, I don’t like muffins,” when in reality I love the crunchy tops of muffins (Panera makes “muffies”), but wouldn’t want to waste 500 calories on a muffin! So I trained myself to think, “I don’t like muffins.”

Now, I see things differently. Some things are just not “worth it” to me (most salty snacks, fried foods) and others (cheesecake, chocolate) totally are.

Now, I’m trying not to be so limited by food choices themselves, but rather limited by how much of said choices (i.e., a moderate portion) I eat. I think that makes sense; enjoyment within moderation.

Some tastes are based on outside factors — such as DE driving the “likes” train.

But even regular, non-DE tastes change over time.

I was just sharing with a friend who doesn’t eat seafood how I only started eating seafood a few years ago. My mom’s allergic to shellfish and my dad’s not too into seafood, so we didn’t grow up on it.

But one day like five years ago, my husband convinced me to just try it , at an ocean-front restaurant high on the cliffs of the Pacific Coastal Highway (CA-1 in Central America) in El Salvador.

I was nervous at first to order fish, fearing I wouldn’t like it … but it was a white fish sauteed in garlic, lemon and olive oil, and it was delicious.

I surprised myself with how much I loved it. Now, there’s very little seafood I don’t like! (OK, I don’t like oysters, mussels, clams, calamari). In this case, I didn’t know, and just assumed I wouldn’t like it – so glad I gave it a chance!

(In case you’re interested, my fave seafood recipe, Baked Shrimp with Feta Cheese, can be found here, as depicted in the photo at the beginning of this post.)

Likewise, our tasted can be influenced by texture/color. For example, a friend of mine won’t eat green vegetables. He just won’t.

When I was sixteen, my aunt made me try grape leaves when we were in Greece. I gagged, and haven’t had one since.

And my husband once asked me to try a type of cheey, grayish mystery meat that he loves at a Brazilian churrascuria in San Salvador; he didn’t tell me til I’d swallowed it, but it was chicken heart!! (Hence, the gag reflex once again).

And I used to dislike bananas because of their texture. But over time, I’ve realized that so long as it’s a really ripe banana, it’s a great pre-gym energy-booster and it’s delicious stirred into oatmeal (esp with a dollop of PB, “Elvis-style”).

Though I’ve broadened my horizons over the years, I’m still a pretty picky eater. In Spanish, the word used to describe someone picky like me is “pilosa,” a word I find myself using — and apologizing for — when I’m ordering in Latin America.

My usual line before ordering is always, “Le disculpa, soy muy pilosa, pero … “ Excuse me, I’m sorry, but I am really picky …” and then I proceed to decline beans and rice (to my Salvadoran husband’s chagrin; I have never liked beans, rice, or tortillas!), add extra veggies or cheese or something.

I’m like Sally in When Harry Met Sally, for better or for worse.

I’ve pretty much always been a picky orderer and that hasn’t changed much now, even with my progress. While pickiness in the past lent itself to some disordered eating behaviors (being so black and white about food choices), I try to roll with it a little more now.

The thing is, we all have our own “schticks.” I think it’s good to be experimental, to challenge ourselves to try new things, to not let calorie counts or Points … or preconceived notions about a food (like my fear of fish) deter us from giving it a shot.

So long as we’re not using a “preference” to mask disoredered eating behaviors, as I talked about recently in relation to vegetarianism being the new ED for teens

There are still some things I don’t like that I know everyone loves and I know are good for me: namely, hummus and avocado. I just can’t do it. I love me some tzatziki and pita, but for all my love of Mediterranean food, I just can’t stomach hummus. (Meanwhile, my husband loves it and makes it from scratch!)

My little brother is living in South Korea for the year, and he’ll try anything when it comes to food. He’s eaten fried grasshoppers, all kinds of interesting (unappetizing!) things. But he is immersed in a new culture and giving it a shot. He is excited to try octopus next — it’s not fried like calamari — it’s almost raw, he claims, like a ceviche,, my husband’s other fave. (He and my bro can go toe-to-toe for their food choices!)

I hope to set a good example for our children someday, where I continue to try new things and be open-minded. But I am still a creature of habit who loves eating the same things over and over, and always has.

I might never reach the levels of experimentation my brother or my husband have, but I am proud of myself for giving things a chance and not always ordering “safe” chicken on a salad every single time I go out to eat.

How about you? Are you willing to try new foods? Does DE/ED hold you back from trying something new? Or are your choices based more on a personal preference, as in, where you don’t like XYZ?


12 thoughts on “Changing Tastes; Broadened Horizons

  1. I love this. I am the same with “pure” tomatoes–hate them but love most tomato products! And I too married a left-brained techie 🙂
    I have never tried to convince myself that I don’t like something when I actually do, but I am definitely guilty of not trying new foods if I have it in my head that I don’t like them. I should try to be more adventerous. Who knows…maybe my taste buds have changed since age 5 and I actually DO like a juicy tomato on my sandwich?!

  2. Over the years I have tried to expand my food repertoire. I remember the day I decided hummus was good, not gross. I remember my embrace of the falafel, raw onions, raw tomato, and sushi. Now these are some of my favorite foods. I still can’t stomach linguas (tongue) or bull testicles or any of those, in my brain, monstrosities, but then again I’ve also stopped eating pork and non-“kosher” cuts of meat for personal and religious reasons. So then… I’ve still got a long way to go. But I’d try just about anything once. I always have my dad’s insistence in my head: “Try it! You MIGHT like it!”

    Now if I can get my husband to eat lentils…

  3. My friend commonly refers to me as “Sally” too! Sometimes it’s funny, but other times it’s not. I feel like there is a fine line between ordering your dressing on the side, and asking exactly what is on top of a salad, then getting most of the items eliminated because they “sound scary.” It’s a hard balance to strike.

    I always find myself saying, “oh I don’t like that” in reference to cookies, or treats, or some fried foods. No, I don’t LOVE these items, but I don’t think some of them taste all that bad. My ED taught me to HATE fear foods, therefore I automatically say I dislike them, when I really don’t. It’s taken a long time to realize that ED controlled these thoughts, not me. Great post!

  4. This is an interesting topic for me. I’m always trying to decipher between a “preference” and something eating disordered. Like you, I look around and I see people with “preferences” everwhere. My sister is exactly like your little sister. I don’t like tomatoes by themselves, but I’m fine with sauces, ketchup, salsa. I can say that’s a preference. But, I’m not so sure about other things. I say I don’t really like chocolate, but, come on, is that really true? The key is to experiment. I’m pretty open to trying anything. It’s a good test for me. The only things I’m queasy about are shellfish, beef, and pork. Those go way back though, way before my eating disorder…so I can safely say those aren’t “tainted” preferences 🙂

  5. That is an interesting point….for example, I always tell people I don’t like fried food, because it’s been known to mess with my tummy. But I FEARED fried food for so long – sometimes I don’t know if I like it anymore? It’s easier with things like cookies, I guess. I feared them for so long but I KNOW that I love them. 🙂

    I absolutely always order the same thing at restaurants. I am to the point where I’ve been doing it for 12+ years now, and really, I’m scared to try new things. Plus I always know how my “usual” is going to turn out! I would like to try and be a bit more adventurous, but it’s still a little scary to me.

  6. I’m pretty adventurous – I pretty much don’t say no to any kind of food except fried stuff – and even then I’ll always have a bite if it’s THAT good. The only foods I couldn’t eat as a child were whipped cream and pickles – two things I’ve learned to enjoy now.

    I have never met a vegetable or type of seafood I don’t like, and I especially LOVE unusual combinations in restaurants (sweet meets salty are the best).

    I like to make my same old dishes at home on repeat (salads, omelets, grilled fish, super healthy oatmeal concoctions) but when out in the city I will eat anything once. I LOVE marinated seafood any style (whole octopus! delicious).

  7. I guess my point is one bite of anything won’t kill you and you only live once!

    if going out to eat is not an everyday thing, it can be unsual, exciting and delicious to try new things – no matter how much cream sauce, butter or oil it’s cooked in.

    it’s all about balance!

  8. LOL Lara, seems we both love our techies!!

    Pearl, that’s a great motto to embrace: Try it, you MIGHT like it. I am Jewish but don’t follow the dietary restrictions of keeping kosher, but I know people who do! Good luck with the hubby and lentils!

    Jenn, I get annoyed sometimes but then I realize, “Hey I created this monster.” No food should be “scary” — but I know if I want a cheeseburger, I’d prefer to make it at home with 96% lean beef and RF/FF cheese … def. a tough balance to strike. Because the same could be said for a salad with chicken — I could get that at home, too.

    Hi Kim, LOL — that they aren’t “tainted” preferences. Mayo is one of those pre-DE foods I’ve always loathed, pre-tainted!

    Holly, I have IBS and the last time I ate something fried (a french fry) was at the beach in El Sal like 5 yrs ago. I know not to mess with grease … but it also becomes an excuse to fear other greasy/fried things … 1) I don’t know how my stomach will react and 2) I don’t want to spend that many calories! (Cheesecake — diff. story!!) Like you, I like “safe” things I know no one can mess up. Simply grilled meats/fish, veggies, 1/2 potato.

    No kidding you’re adventurous, Cathy — I saw that pic of you eating octopus – you need to meet my bro! LOL — I’m a ReddiWip (fake stuff) FREAK and always end up with friends’ pickles if they don’t like them. You’re right, a few bites won’t kill us. It’s hard sometimes to distinguish between DE telling me I don’t like something b.c I know other choices are healthier … versus my actual disdain for the food or preparation.

  9. I’m SO glad I’ve allowed myself to try some new things over the past year and a half. I think the majority of the desire to do that stemmed from trying different diets, not WW. I was very limited because if I ate this x number of foods, I knew how many points each contained so I was safe. Now, I don’t really follow WW and I’ll try just about anything and I’ve really expanded my food horizons! I now WILL eat tomatoes where I would not previously, however, I still won’t eat ketchup. 🙂

    I hope, too, that CJ will see me trying new things and will learn that he can and should do the same because he just MIGHT like it. Good topic!

  10. When I was a (naturally very thin) child, I was also very picky about my food. Hit puberty (and weight issues) and everything started tasting good…and it hasn’t stopped! I didn’t eat any grasshoppers in Korea but I have at least taken a bite of anything put in front of me since I got to Japan (I just don’t ask what it is, it is better that way!) and liked *almost* all of it. The only food I really can’t stand is coconut shavings. Blech!!

  11. I’m glad you like tomatoes now too, Staci 🙂 I

    LOL Yas — you’re probably right, it’s better not to ask. When abroad, I’m usually more nervous about what’s in my food, not from the health standpoint so much as the “OMG” factor of “I just ate chicken hearts!” I wonder if I didn’t KNOW it was chicken heart, I might have liked it. No, actually, I think I still would have gagged …!

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