Adult Picky Eaters UK

For Picky-Eating Adults in the UK and worldwide

Ok, I Want To Talk About Christmas December 30, 2007

Filed under: adult picky eating — Claire @ 1:12 pm

Specifically, I’d like to talk about peas.  And onion.

In a bold move this Christmas, I served some peas onto my Christmas dinner plate.  Just a few, maybe nine or ten.  It made me feel nice to have them there.  I know some picky eaters couldn’t even bear to have them on the plate.  I guess for those people, that would have to be the starting point.  My family, they offered me carrots, when they saw what I’d done, but that would have been a bridge too far.  Thinking back, I probably should have done it, just to see how it felt, but my instinct was against it, and the peas were quite bold enough for my liking.

I think when you’ve been brought up with people who lived through the War and/or rationing, the wasting of food is a factor one can’t help considering when going through the trying of new things.  If I buy, say, an apple to try, I have to accept the likelihood that 99% of it (if not 100%) will go in the bin.  Which does seem a fearful waste, and puts me off doing it.  I think it makes me less gung-ho about trying things off my own bat, so to speak, as opposed to dealing with a pre-dished-up dish as in a full-on social situation.  So it didn’t seem right to take any carrots when I knew full well I wouldn’t eat them, whereas with the peas, I knew I’d manage to at least try.  It might be lazy or self-indulgent, but I didn’t want to blight my Christmas dinner with too much novel-food-trauma all at once.

But back to the peas.  I ate three of them.  I’ll tell you what it’s like.  You know how it is with Smarties, that there are different ways you can eat them?  And sometimes, even though you might have a whole tube of Smarties, sometimes it can be difficult to decide which way to eat them each time.  Well, for me it was like that with the peas.  The first one, I just hid him inside mashed potato.  Now on the one hand, I was tempted just to swallow it down and focus my mind on the mashed potato, and try not to notice the fact that there was a pea in there.  But I know that is not the way to learn new foods.  Or at least, if that’s all you do, then you won’t progress terribly much. 

You have to pay attention and notice its presence in your mouth as much as you can.  Of course, the danger then is that you will notice it too much, and the spirit of you will feel upset about it.  Then you are edging into gagging territory.  Which is the level I got to with the third pea, so there I had to stop.  It seems to be a very fine balance that one has to strike.

Now, the Christmas dinner was in amongst the bosom of my family, and so, for me, benign in terms of eating pressure.  But on Christmas Eve, we went for dinner at some friends’ house.  When we went to sit down to eat, it smelled delicious, but I did feel anxious, so I went up to the hostess as she was dishing up, and I asked her “What is the name of this?”.  Came the reply “Shepherd’s Pie”, and I knew I could fundamentally relax, that I’d be able to eat a fair 50% at least.

On the plate, there seemed to be no vegetables in it, which I think you sometimes get?  So that was fine.  But the lighting was dim, and I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I realised too late that there were large pieces of onion in it, of a centimetre or even more.  At first in my mouth I thought maybe it was potato that wasn’t cooked well.  But it was not.  I realised I would have to concentrate.  I realised I would have to shout down the urge to gag or spit it out.  It’s dreadful when one’s instinct and comfort is socially unacceptable.  For me, I think this fact has confused me somewhat as to my place and value in the world.  But that’s by-the-by.

Now with big pieces of onion, you’ve got a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, they are big enough to avoid if you are careful, and if you don’t mind being seen to pick through things.  But on the other hand, they are not small enough to eat without gargantuan effort.  Teensy pieces of onion (I like to cut them to a couple of millimetres), are too small to avoid, but then they are small enough to wash down without too much upset.  Me, I do not like the stripes on big onion pieces, or the translucent shininess, or the way I know they will feel if you accidentally bite them.  Sort of slide and skid and crunch. But my adulthood forces me to try and be less squeamish about this in such a situation.  So I avoided what I could, but triumphantly I report that where my avoidance inadvertently failed, I was able to reassure myself enough to get through. 

These things I know are just not a big deal for a normal person.  But I don’t seem to have to pretend anymore that it’s not a big deal for me.  And I know that unpleasant and dangerous as the stealth onion onslaught was to me, it is experiences like these that take me a step further along on my journey.

Merry Christmas one and all.  Got any Christmas food stories to share?


Jack, This One’s For You December 18, 2007

Filed under: adult picky eating — Claire @ 3:38 am

I was just responding to some comments, and I came across a remark from Jack about PX beer.  Which reminded me of this song, which I gather is Leadbelly, but the version I know is Pete Seeger.  I love this song because it has a flavour of the school-dinner experience about it, but also, perhaps a broader recognition of how my life has felt like in some ways. 

I don’t really make much link between my eating and how my life has been like thus far in terms of ups and downs, and the feeling of it, but perhaps that’s a mistake.  I wonder what anyone else thinks – has your eating had an impact on your happiness, your success in life, your self-esteem, in either direction?  Or do you feel all these things have some common cause with the eating thing?  Or is the eating unrelated to everything else in your life?


Do I Dare To Eat A Peach? December 7, 2007

Filed under: Picky Eating in Popular Culture — Claire @ 2:17 pm

Do I dare to eat a peach?  In a word, no.  I’d sooner disturb the universe than dare such a collossal ghastly thing.

Following on the literary tradition from the previous post, I thought I would make a little nod towards T.S Eliot’s Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock.  As I believe most commentators have understood it, the line “do I dare to eat a peach?” is a contrast to a preceding piece of self-doubt earlier in the poem: “do I dare disturb the universe?”  To most people, it seems self-evident and blindingly obvious that the latter is a larger question, by orders of magnitude.  To a picky eater, though, if anything, the contrast is in the opposite direction: the peach is by far the bolder challenge. 

In some ways, though, I would be inclined to say this juxtaposition is not a contrast, but a simile.  I think even for fruit-eating people, a peach still represents a challenge – from somewhere I get the idea that a peach can be somewhat a messy, socially difficult thing to eat.  Especially for a man in the context of women who arrange pillows and talk of Michelangelo.  Is Eliot underlining the extent of his existential crisis by being even scared of a little thing like eating a peach, or is he saying that such a thing can be (as it is for picky eaters) in fact equivalent to disturbing the universe? 

I say it is the latter, though maybe it’s just me, and the exponential crisis that picky eating entails.


Rice Pudding December 1, 2007

Filed under: Picky Eating in Popular Culture — Claire @ 2:43 am

Hate rice pudding – love this poem: Rice Pudding by A.A. Milne 
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s crying with all her might and main
And she won’t eat her dinner – rice pudding again –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I’ve promised her dolls and a daisy-chain,
And a book about animals – all in vain –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well, and she hasn’t a pain;
But, look at her, now she’s beginning again! –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I’ve promised her sweets and a ride in the train,
And I’ve begged her to stop for a bit and explain –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well and she hasn’t a pain,
And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?


As a child I loved this poem, partly because of being pressured to eat the revolting-looking stuff at school (if it wasn’t rice pudding, it might well be semolina, or tapioca pudding instead – same thing in my book). How fabulous it was to see rice-pudding-refusal sanctioned and validated in this cultural way.

But I loved it in a broader sense as well. In a world where food refusal met with disapproval and sometimes punishment, in a world where it was treated as an aberration, a freakish anomaly, the rice pudding in this poem took on a metaphorical status for me. It stands for all non-food foods. As Mary Jane beautifully demonstrates, dolls and daisy chains really don’t mean shit when you’re up against a plateful of non-food food. You’re not not-eating it because you want a better reward. You’d sacrifice anything before you’d eat it, just because of the way you’re made, and so it seems so unfair to forego the dolls and daisy chains through no fault of your own. It’s enough to make anybody cry.

E.Shepherd’s lovely illustration of the child freaking out in her high-chair seemed to express on my behalf something of how I felt, seemed to reflect a part of my experience that was never accepted or validated or understood by anyone around me. It was one of very few things in the world that gave me the faintest hint of not being entirely alone in not being able to eat things. And because it was in a book, other people could see and read it too. Sometimes an adult would read it aloud, which I loved, because it meant that the phenomenon must be mutual knowledge after all. Adults would tend to read it with some feeling – I think because they identified with having to be the feeder, not the feedee.

I’ve just discovered that it’s meant to be a humourous poem – Mary Jane’s aversion to rice pudding is implied to be due to the repetition of the dish, and the joke seems to be the narrator’s insensivity to this fact, and consequent ignorance as to Mary Jane’s distress. Personally, none of that ever occurred to me, and personally, even now that I’ve thought about it, I don’t think it’s very funny at all. Story of my life, too close to the bone, and no, it’s just not funny.