How traveling cured a picky eater
Growing up, I was a picky eater. It’s an awful side effect of being an only child. I would only eat bananas and cucumbers if they were “thinly sliced.” I refused most green vegetables. In high school, my mom demanded I write a list of the vegetables I would eat–and the very short list is still posted on my family’s refrigerator (see above). I didn’t like spicy food, fish, anything burnt–the list goes on and on.
Watching the kids on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution made me extremely worried about the future of America, yet I could see myself in the chubby hands demanding chicken nuggets. While I played sports and luckily had a fast metabolism, I threw away the healthy lunches my mother lovingly packed for me and bought greasy pepperoni pizza or french fries for lunch. I mastered the art of pushing things around on my plate long enough so that I could be excused, and then would insist on a bowl of cereal before bed.
When I was 16, my mother sent me to live with family friends in Provence for the summer. For the first time, I couldn’t pull the “picky eater” card to get out of finishing my plate. That summer, I tried avocados, escargots, zucchini, figs and endives for the first time. I fell in love with eggplant and cheese other than cheddar (including Brie, Camembert and Rocquefort).
In short, I was forced to try new things–and I benefited from it. Even so, I stopped short when #TNI asked what the most adventurous food that I ever tried. Adventurous? With food? Me? I mean, I really like sushi. There was my escargot adventure in Provence. I try to buy a new vegetable every time I go to farmers market. But as I read the list of answers, I was disappointed in myself for not trying more. If I hadn’t opened myself to trying new things, I never would have discovered les moules marinière in Nice, Hungarian goulash in Budapest, truffles in Italy. So why haven’t I tried oysters, scallops, olives?
The great thing about travel is the chance to try new things. It’s a chance to see what other cultures enjoy and what they consider delicacies. Meals are also a key bonding time, an opportunity to prove yourself to natives–like when I took shots of homemade apéritif (otherwise known as the strongest liquor known to man) with a group of French teenagers my first summer in France.
Even if you don’t have a chance to travel, try something new. Order something off the menu that you haven’t tried before. Go to farmers market and find a vegetable you’ve never seen before, and ask how to prepare it. Don’t get sucked into a world of chicken nuggets, pizza and the chicken-and-veggies staple you rely on five out of seven nights for dinner.
What’s your favorite food you’ve discovered while traveling? The most adventurous? Any interesting foreign mealtime stories to share? I’d love some words of encouragement before I embark on an adventure to try new things–including, perhaps, Vegemite.