As I’ve stated elsewhere, my picky eating has improved slightly over the years, and I can now eat and enjoy some things that I truly did not count as food for twenty or thirty years, and which I would rather have died or cried than go near.
In thinking about this, I notice that it tends to happen one of three ways:
The first is that it is a food or food substance that is served in, with or on one of my few staples and which, despite one’s best efforts, is difficult or impossible to remove entirely. In this situation, I found I got used to the homeopathic amount of said foodstuff remaining post-excavation. Being picky, I could probably have detected ketchup in a concentration of one part in a hundred billion. But you get used to it, because inevitably (or not, depending on one’s sensitivity to peer pressure) there will be social situations where one can’t avoid it entirely. And then I started to find that I missed it when it wasn’t there, and that I wished there was more when it was there. Ditto for mayonnaise. Ditto for fresh cream.
I suspect this route to liking hasn’t worked for HP Sauce or Branston Pickle (still never tried either), because they are far less ubiquitous and very easy to avoid. Raisins in scones haven’t yielded success for me either, for the same reasons.
The second way I’ve found I’ve started liking things is in a revelation, when people who know my pickiness recommend something to me, and this has given me the confidence to try. Foods in this category include bagels and candy floss, both of which I loved instantly, and couldn’t believe I’d needlessly avoided them for so long. Both of those however, do fall into broader food groups (breads and confectionery) of which I could already eat other items. I’m not sure how it could ever happen with a fruit or vegtable.
And finally, there are other foods which I’ve forced myself to eat on one or two occasions because of social pressure. A minority of these I’ve found myself not feeling too repulsed by to ever go near again. What I find with these types of experiences, is that the first thing I learn is that I did manage to eat it once, and from this I then know, if ever I have to eat it again, that I am actually capable, even if only just. Your feeling as to how likely it is to make you gag is then informed by actual experience, rather than instinct. And as I try the food again in my own time, in small amounts, I start to get the feeling that even though I don’t like it myself, I can begin to understand how other people could like them. In this category, I would place smoked salmon. In that instance, the understanding how other people could like it then developed into an actual liking of my own.
I am hoping this is now going to happen with spicy foods, of which I have only four experiences. The first was entirely accidental and unexpected, with some sort of treacherous sauce in a restaurant, at 14, on a “date”. I decided from that experience “Never again. Never ever again”. But then when the second encounter arose three years ago, which was an authentic curry cooked by some lovely Indian friends, I did know from experience that I could manage it. And so I was able to weigh up the equation between the unpleasantness of the experience for me, and my desire to fit in and share and not offend them. And I did manage it.
And then I was in a restaurant and the only thing I could order from the menu was jerk chicken. How spicy could it be? I asked myself. At the end of the day, it’s just chicken. And that’s what I convinced myself, and actually, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. In fact, I think I’d order it again, just to see. I wouldn’t say I actually like it, but I’m beginning to get a feeling of how other people do like it, and I’m thinking that is probably a good sign.
So this is just a few thoughts on how I’ve managed to improve. If you’ve got experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.