One factor that seems to be important in the domain of picky eating is texture. Texture has a lot to do with whether or not I’ll be ok with a particular food item. Of course it’s not the only factor. Things like structure complexity, cost-benefit balance, mood and meaning also play a role for me (in descending order), with actual taste or flavour, or quality of cooking being fairly far down the list of priorities.
But it strikes me that one of the upsetting things about accidentally getting a piece of a vegetable in your mouth is the particular kind of crunchiness. Now, I know it isn’t crunchiness per se that’s the problem. I can eat other things that are crunchy – CornFlakes I can eat no probs, and crisps too, and crackers and biscuits, and crunchy toast (though I like it less that way). But I notice two things about these kinds of crunchy foods:
They are thin
They are dry
I think the thinness is incidental to things. I think this because a) I like Crunchies and b) even if you sliced an apple wafer thin, I still would gag on it. So what this boils down to is a dry crunch is ok, but a wet crunch is not. These are different kinds of crunchiness, aren’t they?
Now, what do I know about other picky eaters? I know that some of them only eat dry stuff (nothing mushy), and others only eat wet stuff (nothing crunchy). Whichever one of these groups you fall into, fruit and veg are likely to be excluded, because of their combination of texture features from both categories. Neat, huh? Even if you can do both of these categories, if this is the dimension along which you categorise and understand your edible foods, then a wet-crunch will still be excluded, because it falls between two stools, so to speak.
Something like this sort of a theory would also be consistent with the link with autistic-spectrum disorders. I understand there is some evidence that high-functioning autistic people process or attend to similarities and differences among stimuli in a way that is different to the rest of the population. Relevant? I don’t know.
But this makes me think of a new idea. If fruit and vegetables are excluded because they are borderline members of one’s existing food categories, could it be possible to make a conceptual leap and focus on their similarities to one’s existing food categories rather than their differences?
So, if I did slice an apple very thin, couldn’t I just pretend to myself it was a juicy biscuit? Of course, there’d be the taste to get used to as well, and a juicy biscuit does seem like an oxymoron, but I wonder if it would work…