Sense Memory: Confessions Of A Picky Eater

In this month’s column, Denise Sakaki interviews Adam, a self-confesser picky eater.
By Denise Sakaki

I used to eat nothing but hot dogs and scrambled eggs. It’s true. While as a baby, I had no qualms about eating whatever food my mother would serve (fish eggs, eel, you name it), but as you get older, you develop a sense of choice when it comes to hunger. My sustenance scope narrowed to hot dogs and scrambled eggs, and I officially became a picky eater for most of my childhood. Thankfully, my palate widened over the years, mostly due to appreciating the effort it takes to prepare a really well-done meal, plus a little bit of guilt from seeing so many friends unable to eat what they like due to food allergies – I have no health barriers, why should I elect to hem myself in? I now dutifully have double the amount of shellfish per serving – this oyster’s for my homies.

For most choosy eaters, unless there’s a reason for eating habits to change, it’s not something people elect to focus on. While the culinary world would just as soon shun picky eaters, why not go to the source and see where eating habits form, and possibly gain some insights into what people choose to have or turn away from their plate?

I had the opportunity to interview one picky eater, an artist in the video game industry named Adam Perin, in Seattle, Washington. As you can understand, for a busy professional, especially in the game industry where there is no standard 9-to-5 workday, being conscious about every meal choice is a luxury when you’re on a deadline. He is a great lover of cheese – and really, who isn’t? And when it comes to the subject of food, while we think picky eaters don’t think enough about what they’re eating, Adam is the opposite, being very analytical about it, which can actually become a factor in making food unappetizing (I still have a hard time eating shrimp because they look like bugs!). So, read his information the way you would approach a unique delicacy — be open, understanding, and take something new away from the experience.

Have you had a negative experience with food and do you think that’s what contributed towards your particular likes/dislikes? I think the biggest contributor to me being a picky eater comes from having grown up in a house with a not-so-great-cook (I’m going to make my mom cry!) and also growing up on a farm with a very close relationship to where our meat came from. Surely, this has helped persuade me to be a vegetarian. Also, I have an issue with blood and guts which I think has further contributed to my meat dislike!

What do you typically eat in a  day? I eat out a lot! I usually grab a coffee and a sweet pastry on my way to work for breakfast. When lunch rolls around, me and the fellas at work grab some food from a nearby foodery. This is usually a burrito or some form of mac and cheese. Once I get home I have couple of options I choose from. Sometimes I will make veggies like an artichoke, asparagus or brussel sprouts. I might also have some of this with pasta.

What’s your favorite food and why? Cheese! ‘Cause its amazing! This is a little weird for me, as I have a real issue with milk, it kind of freaks me out. But cheese is too good to pass up on. Cheese for me makes almost everything better, is great all on its own and has a lot of variety.

Name some of your least favorite foods or food groups, and explain why you dislike them.
Eggs are one of the worst offenders. I don’t mind when they are in things like baked goods but on their own I can’t handle them. LIQUID CHICKENS!!! They have a really bad texture for me and I just really don’t like how they taste.

I’m not a crustacean fan either, as they are insects of the sea! Again a lot of this is pretty similar to eggs. Seafood in general is something I dislike. Things like mollusks and squid and many other sea creatures are not appealing to me largely because of their unusual texture and, quite frankly, how they look before they are prepared into food.

Is there a food that you like eating now, that you originally disliked but learned to appreciate? I like a lot more green vegetables than I did as a kid. I think I ate a lot of poorly prepared, over-cooked veggies growing up. The big difference is just that I have a lot more chances to have well prepared fresh veggies now, and have therefore found them far more enjoyable.

Do you accept that you are a particular eater? Yeah, of course. I’m not offended when people tell me I’m overly picky… I am, and hopefully slowly I will get a little better about this. That being said I’m sure I will always continue to be picky to some degree. I’m just an overly picky person.

While people’s preference or avoidance of certain foods will always persist, it’s interesting that it’s often from childhood that our early food memories become hardwired. If we have negative experiences with food as adults, it’s easier to argue why it wasn’t positive, that maybe it’s a texture one isn’t used to or perhaps the kitchen was just off its game that night, and we’re more likely to give that food a second chance. Adam’s insight and honesty helps bring to light a simple truth that is often repeated but not always engaged — the foods we grow up with are the foods we grow old with. By introducing a wide variety of flavors and textures to children, they’ll be less likely to stay in the same range of ingredients, and hopefully be more open towards being adventurous eaters through adulthood. As for me — while I won’t turn away a plate of jellyfish or stinky, melty cheese, give me hot dogs and scrambled eggs anyday.

Denise Sakaki

Denise Sakaki

Denise Sakaki is a freelance food writer and photographer who is always searching for the connections between food and personal experience. She is the creator of the food blog Wasabi Prime and contributor to Serious Eats, 425 Magazine and Drink Me Magazine.

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1 Comment
  1. I have a guest in my house now that touches her tongue to the food before she eats it and she is in her twenties. I think it is funny but I know she takes it seriously!

    My kids always had a variety of fresh, well prepared food (most of the time anyway) and as young adults they will try and eat almost anything. My son never grew out of certain texture issues, like eggplant is sometimes a challenge for him.

    If we are honest, we all have some picky issue. Nice article.

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