Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Picky Eating: The Food Lists

The farmer's market at Copley officially closed yesterday, leaving me wistfully wondering why I didn't take better advantage of all that homegrown bounty while I had the chance. One reason: I get nervous when confronted with cooking a strange, new vegetable. Another reason: my husband doesn't like a lot of those vegetables and fruits, and I tend to cook and buy for two. So while taking a cooking class might help me with the former, I'm still cooped-up by the latter.

I'm thinking that it is time to list all the things the spouse and I won't eat, and try to conquer at least a few of them. I'm glad he eats mushrooms; that would be a deal-breaker, given everything else that he's wary about. He will offer to try things on his list if I beg him, but he likes it about as much as cats like pills.

As for me, since I got IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) eight years ago, there are many foods I love that I now cannot eat. When those gustatory avenues closed, I decided it was time to open new ones. So I resolved to be adventurous and try to eat, or at least taste, anything and everything that I can eat.

This proved to be an exciting experience on our trips to Italy last year, where I vowed to eat anything that was put in front of me. I had superb octopus and squid, and batter-fried fruit.

Just because I have to be a careful eater doesn't mean I need to be a fussy eater. We live in an unprecedented time of abundance, and while we don't have to love all of it, I feel we should at least try it before we reject it. Sampling foods should be an adventure; it should not turn an adult into a panicking, distraught 5-year-old. I ate my octopus like a man. And found it yummy.

Here are the everyday, ordinary foods I don't like:
  1. Green peppers (they taste soapy to me)
  2. Raw onions, except red or sweet ones, ones in teeny amounts (they burn my mouth)
  3. Liver, brains, sweetbreads, pig's feet, and other stray parts of the pig or cow
  4. Cilantro (tastes like soap suds)
  5. Mint ice cream (unless it's quality sorbet or gelato; otherwise, it's frozen toothpaste)
  6. Gummy candy, including licorice, jelly beans, and Dots
  7. Anything soy; it strikes me as more of a craft material than a food
  8. Half-cooked bacon; it has to be brown and crisp
  9. Cherry Coke, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi
  10. Coffee
  11. Spicy-hot food
  12. Salmon and swordfish
Here's what I can't eat because it triggers IBS:
  1. Alcohol (except prosecco in Italy and French champagne. I don't know why, but I'm grateful)
  2. Cream (Alfredo and other cream-based sauces, Indian kormas, cream cheese, cheesecake, crème brûlée, bread pudding, ice cream, whipped cream.... are you weeping in sympathy yet?)
  3. Spicy food
  4. Greasy, oily, or fried food, except in small quantities. Olive oil is okay. Asian food usually isn't.
Here are the everyday foods my husband doesn't like. I hope you'll agree that his list limits a farmer's market–loving cook. It features many foods I love: namely all the produce, olives, goat cheese, and grains:
  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Whole grains, served with a meal, including wild rice
  3. Sundried tomatoes
  4. Roasted garlic
  5. Autumn root vegetables, except for carrots, but including red beets and parsnips
  6. Fish (except canned tuna)
  7. Shellfish, except for clam chowder and lobster
  8. Raw and cooked onions, except onion rings and French onion soup
  9. Eggplant and squash
  10. Polenta
  11. Goat cheese
  12. Many fruits, including peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, mangoes, and figs
  13. Cabbage and sauerkraut
  14. Leafy greens, except for lettuce and spinach
  15. Liver, brains, sweetbreads, pig's feet, and other "weird" parts of the pig or cow
  16. Cilantro (tastes like soap suds)
  17. Mustard
  18. Rye, pumpernickel, sourdough breads, and onion rolls
  19. Olives
In the past year or so, here's what I've eaten experimentally (I limit this list to meat and fish; I don't consider eating any vegetable, fruit or grain a challenge. Except for molokhiya, a slimy green cooked vegetable dish that's popular in the Middle East. It's scary):
  1. Squid
  2. Octopus
  3. Goat
  4. Wild boar
  5. Venison (this was a while ago; I've sampled brains, liver, and pig's feet in the past, too)
  6. Mussels
  7. Shrimp (the teeny ones are really good!)
  8. Chilean sea bass (food of the gods)
  9. Every type of cured meat from the Emilia-Romagna region (more god-food)
  10. Oysters
Here are tasty but unhealthy things we like but limit:
  1. Deli ham with nitrates (we'll buy Italian pepper ham every couple of months)
  2. Fried chicken (once a year of less)
  3. Pepperoni pizza (once a year)
  4. Hot dogs (Parisian-style from Petit Robert, once a month at most)
  5. Potato chips (twice a year in a restaurant for me; spouse eats them more often)
  6. Bacon and breakfast sausage (on vacation in Maine)
  7. Donuts (almost never)
  8. Red meat (one steak, steak burrito, or cheeseburger per month, or so)
  9. Onion rings and French fries (with the burger or hot dog, once or twice a month)
  10. Double- or triple-cream cheeses (two or three times a year)
And finally, here's what I never (or almost never) buy because it's unhealthy or better made from scratch:
  1. Movie popcorn
  2. Snack foods that come in noisy plastic bags (Doritos, Fritos, chips, Little Debbie's, Tastycakes, etc.) My husband sometimes buys pretzels; they're low-fat, at least. I buy low-fat baked tortilla chips when I make guacamole a few times a year. Chocolate-covered pretzels are an unfortunate victim of this rule and are really more like candy than food, IMO, so I'll get them once or twice a year.... Oreo cookies are another exception; I wish they sold them in tubs
  3. White bread
  4. Pop-Tarts, breakfast bars, and cereals that aren't high in fiber and protein
  5. Frozen entrées, pizza, dinners, and desserts
  6. Canned and dried soups; I love making soup
  7. Most packaged cookies (except for those Oreos). Healthier exceptions include Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps and their all-natural Florentines
  8. Frozen or refrigerated cookie doughs, pie crusts, breakfast and dinner rolls, biscuits
  9. Bottled salad dressings
  10. Non-diet drinks, except orange juice and cider
  11. Crackers, except for multigrain varieties with fiber. Crackers are surprisingly fat-laden
  12. Energy bars. I used to live on these until I realized that they aren't exactly.... food
You'll notice that this list doesn't mention cake, cupcakes, homemade cookies and brownies, or candy. We figure that by cutting out the other junk, there's room on the top of our alleged food pyramid for a modest dose of one (or two) those. Chocolate is non-negotiable.

What is your list like? I'd love to know!

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