Monday, September 17, 2012

Cooking For Mr. Picky

My hubs hates onions. Also pickles. Also mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. If you wonder what his burgers look like, he always orders lettuce and tomato only. Yes, the guy behind the counter usually frowns, but the hubs is immune. If counter guy asks “Dry bun?” the hubs simply nods.

I wouldn’t characterize my hubs as an unadventurous eater. It’s not that he won’t try things—he’s perfectly happy ordering unusual things on the menu so long as they don’t involve any of the foods he hates. I should add that he despises horseradish so much he can’t even be around it (the smell gets to him) and that he dislikes most (but not all) vinegars.

So how do you cook for someone like this? Largely by experiment (which is appropriate since the hubs is a scientist). We’ve reached a compromise on mayonnaise, for example, which he tolerates if it’s 1) Incorporated into a sauce or dressing, 2) Tastes fresh, and 3) Not Miracle Whip. I can get by with onions if they’re thoroughly cooked and unobtrusive; however, he won’t order anything in a restaurant that’s garnished with caramelized onions no matter how yummy they smell.

Fortunately for us both we share some food fetishes. Like him, I can’t stand thousand island dressing on a hamburger (whose bright idea was that, anyway?). I’m not big on pickles, although I like them on sandwiches. I use ketchup for fries but not much else. Our biggest sticking point is mustard, which the hubs really can’t stand. Unfortunately, it’s pretty standard in vinaigrettes since mustard’s an emulsifier. The hubs, ever the helpful chemist, points out that a drop of dishwashing liquid would work just as well.

Having trashed the hubs’s eating habits I should admit that I also have my own food fetishes. I’m not a big fan of sweet/sour combinations, for example—I’ve never found a sauerbraten or a caponata that I liked. And if an Asian recipe involves brown sugar, I’m pretty sure I won’t try it. Then there’s tofu, which I’ll eat if there’s nothing else around but which I’ve never found particularly tasty. I try to like beets but I usually fail, and to me pumpkin is just a pale imitation of butternut squash.

The thing about all of this is I’m the cook in the family, so I get to choose what’s prepared. This explains why my kids did not grow up eating a lot of tofu or why I’ll sometimes try to sneak a teaspoon of Dijon mustard into my vinaigrettes. My mantra to my somewhat picky kids (the older wouldn’t eat mushrooms and the younger rejected all potatoes except for French fries) was always if you don’t like what I cooked for dinner you can make yourself a sandwich but nothing else will be prepared for you.

Fortunately for us all, I don’t find the hubs’s food fetishes all that onerous to deal with, and fortunately for me, he only eats liver in restaurants (cause no way is it ever showing up in my kitchen). And I think that’s the way you have to work it. In any groups, familial or other, you’ll find people who won’t eat something and other people who can’t get enough of it. But finally, it’s the cooks who make the rules.

So what about you? What foods will you absolutely refuse to eat? Any family disagreements about what belongs on the menu?


Eva's Flowers said...

I cannot eat any type of seafood, except for tuna and even then it has to be tuna salad, with lots of stuff in it. I just don't like fish, it tastes...well...fishy to me ;) My sister can't stand mustard either, she'll gag if she even gets a hint of it in a salad or it's in a sandwich she ordered. One of my nieces will not eat any meat other than chicken. And that's just a few of them, but with 7 brothers and sisters, lots of nieces and nephews, we do all come together during family dinners or cookouts, if we're picky with food then we have to bring our own entree and maybe a dessert :D

Kristy Atkinson said...

Asparagus and mushrooms are two things I refuse to eat. Asparagus just tastes yuck. I just don't like it. The rest of my family do, so I do cook it occasionally.

Mushrooms I refuse to cook. I am NOT cooking fungus and serving it to my family. I HATE them and can't stand even a little bit in a dish. Gross. Blech.

I'm lucky that my kids eat pretty much anything. When my son was 2 we lived in Canada and his favourite foods were olives and pickles :/ Strange child. We don't eat a lot of pickles here in Australia, so to me the pickles thing was really bizarre. He did get me hooked on pickles though!