Adult Picky Eaters UK

For Picky-Eating Adults in the UK and worldwide

Operation Fruitalicious Part III: Raspberries November 12, 2008

Filed under: Personal Stories,Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 6:59 pm

Luckily for those of you who are enjoying my Operation Fruitalicious posts, I happen to live very near to a fruit and veg market of world reknown. Which means (oh joy of joys) there isn’t really any excuse not to keep pressing on with my mission.

Now, you may remember I still have a pear which is ripening in my fridge as we speak. To be honest though, what with all this fruit excitement, I didn’t really feel up to it. For all I know, it may be gone off by now anyway. So by way of a displacement activity, I decided to choose something else from the vast array of fruits with whom I have yet to become acquainted.



After some deliberation, I chose raspberries.  I would have gone for strawbs, but they didn’t have a lid.  They look nice, don’t they?


The thing I thought was good about berry-type fruits is that they come in bite-sized pieces.  This means that if you want to try them, you don’t have to commit to a whole great big thing, you can just try one, with no harm done.  I must say though, that close-up and personal, raspberries are rather funny strange things.  I think they might even be hairy, if that is possible. From a visual inspection, one can see that not all the raspberries are the same, but of course, one has no means of telling a good one from a less good one, so you’ve just got to take pot luck.  And if you inspect them too closely, they all look potentially revolting in one way or another.   

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I popped one in my mouth, albeit I had to pop it out again almost immediately.  Now, like with the orange, what you find is that the thing is basically sealed, so it’s quite hard to get a feel for it just by having it in your mouth.  Again, too, you’ve got to be careful to keep it only at the very front of your mouth, to minimise or postpone the wretching as much as poss.  You can taste some taste of raspberry from the inside at the top, if you try, but what overwhelmed me was the tasting of the outside of it.  Because of course you’ve got all the plantiness and none of the juiciness.  Still, I kept trying.


I’m afraid I didn’t get very far in terms of biting raspberry.  I mean, I did try, but I was getting pretty close to being sick again (not my most favourite pass-time).  I have to say that I am still amazed that what my instincts told me as a toddler (that such things would make me vomit) is as true as it has so far turned out to be.  Still, I thought, there has to be a way to get to grips with the inside of a raspberry, so I took one and cut it in half, and popped that in my mouth.  I’m sorry to report that this caused instant vomiting.  The texture/structure is what did it.  An hour later I went back and tried again.  You know, just to see.  I had to spit it out almost immediately, but the post hoc recollection of that juicy raspberry feeling was that it was actually quite nice.  Something wholesome and wonderful that’s been missing from my diet all these years.  And it did taste a bit like raspberry jam, only purer.


So, I didn’t manage a swallow this time.  Maybe I am getting slack and lazy, and losing my verve.  But I would definitely try these again. 

The more I do this, the more I am convinced that it’s all about gaining familiarity.  And even having tried just these three fruits so far, the trying of things in general is becoming a more familiar thing to be doing.  I’m learning how to try things just as much as I’m learning about the specific fruits in question.  I’m beginning to think that once I’ve got the hang of the trying, the whole thing is going to suddenly get much easier.  If that should be true, then we might have a “cure” on our hands…


Operation Fruitalicious Part II: Orange November 4, 2008

Filed under: adult picky eating,Personal Stories,Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 2:55 am

They say that oranges are not the only fruit, and I’ve got to say thank heavens for that. I did not enjoy my orange encounter. In fact, after this, that apple I tried seems positively delicious. I drew a line under the orange about an hour ago. Thinking about it still makes me nauseous. Let me tell you about it.

Remember my orange? Here she is:


So far, so innocuous. Now, I wasn’t sure how to approach the eating of this thing.  I seem to remember at netball matches they used to hand out sort of slices to you at half-time.  I always declined.  And I also seem to remember people at school peeling the things and eating the segments.  I decided to go for the latter.  I’m perfectly au fait with orange juice (no bits), so sucking the juice out and throwing the rest away seemed like it would be a cop-out.  Normal people can chomp their way through one of these babies, so that’s what I want to aim for. 

It took me about 20 minutes to peel the thing.  This is not an easy job, in fact it’s fairly painstaking, because I didn’t want to accidentally hurt any of the segments.  Plus the stuff inside the actual orange-peel part, that is a devil to get off.  On top of this, it is also vaguely a messy job.  Still, the smell is pleasant, and you feel quite authentic, like a real fruit-eater, while doing this part.  I got there in the end:


The next job was also quite tricky. Whatever happened to “tap and unwrap”? It’s not like a chocolate orange at all! I really really didn’t want to break or burst any of the segments, but every time I tried to separate them, it threatened to happen. What I learned is that you just have to be bold. Eventually, I managed it.


Next, I chose one segment at random, peeled him off, and cut myself a little piece.


Because the segments are kind of sealed, and because orange juice is not a stranger to me, there was not much problem with putting this in my mouth. I also used what I learned from the apple, keeping it just at the front of my mouth. I still wanted to immediately spit it out, however. The thing that makes me gag on this seems to be different from when it happens with apple. It wasn’t the flavour, or the surface texture, more the structural tension of the thing.

In the trying of these things, when one stage is easy and fine, I feel I’ve got to take it to the next step. A piece of orange which is sealed on all sides bar one was relatively easy to just have in my mouth. So then I tried moving it around and exploring the feel of it. Not pleasant, and had to fight the gag reflex, but bearable. I did this with a few pieces, starting again each time the reflex overpowered me.

And then I went beyond the pale. The next piece, I tried biting into it while it was in my mouth. Ew, that was nasty. Like an upsetting organic explosion. It feels like you’re hurting someone. I had to fight to not throw up. I was so right about the structural tension. The resistance, and then the bursting of each membrane is just upsetting, and so detailed as you do it. I tried it a few times, to the eye-watering point of near-vomiting. The orange-juiciness aspect of doing this is actually perfectly pleasant, and I can suck the juice out. But then what you’re left with is like a fruit corpse, and an ugly mutilated one at that. That is the part that I cannot stomach. I was so near to throwing up, I knew I was on a knife-edge there, so I didn’t even bother trying to chew or swallow it.

Maybe next time.  I feel sick.



UPDATE:  I wasn’t very happy about being defeated by an orange.  So I just went back to it with a drink of water.  Determination is a wonderful thing.  I decided if I pretend it’s an aspirin, and don’t chew it, but just swig it back with some water, I’d be able to swallow at least a tiny bit.  I know it’s cheating, and I had to concentrate very hard, and it took me 3 attempts, but I’m pleased to report that I managed it in the end.  I think it’s important in terms of preparing for the next time, to get as much orange-experience under my belt as I possibly can.  Perhaps I’m optimistic, but I envisage it getting easier with experience.


Operation Fruitalicious Part I: Apple November 1, 2008

Filed under: adult picky eating,Personal Stories,Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 12:26 am

“Apple” is a nice word, isn’t it? It mek you feel happy when you see it. I don’t know if it’s a nice food item though. Until today I never even tried one. Until today.

Yes dear reader, I have achieved Part I of Operation Fruitalicious (II and III to follow, god willing). Here’s how I did it (do try this at home, boys and girls):

Step one is to obtain your chosen fruit item – in my case, an apple, a pear and an orange. I managed this by attending my local market, and requesting said items from the marketeer. It cost less than a pound. I’d say that was pretty good value, as life-changing experiences go.

As you can see, this is to be an illustrated post. I’m very happy to concede that a fruit’n’veg stall in a market is an aesthetically pleasing thing, as the image below will hopefully confirm. If you are like me though, none of the items for sale (barring potatoes) actually count as edible, never mind desirable. As such, however, approaching a fruit and veg stall is perfectly non-traumatic. Since I rarely have cause to do so, in fact, it’s actually a bit of a novelty. All the more so when one is actually to make a purchase. So far, so exciting.

I chose a Royal Gala apple, a Conference pear, and a generic Orange.  Having procured the necessary equipment, the next step is to take your purchases home, to the comfort and safety of your own surroundings, and get a feel for them.

The next step is to place your item(s) on a plate, just as if they were food. This too, I found easy and fun, because of course they’re not food, they’re just artistic objects:

Now then, this is the point at which the fun begins. I decided to take things one step at a time and start with the apple. If it’s good enough for Eve, it’s good enough for me. Now, my instinct is fairly strongly against any actual interaction with a fruit. But I’m perfectly capable of cutting things up, I tell myself. (Obviously, I have no intention to actually bite into the thing). So the next step is to select my favourite knife, and cut a side off this apple. I believe it’s ok to not eat the core, and also, I didn’t want to scare myself by assuming I was going to try and eat the whole thing. Like I said, this is just a getting-to-know-you exercise. So I didn’t cut it down the middle, I just cut off a nice little section from one side. Even that looked daunting to me though, so I cut a smaller piece off it. Ok, so far, so good.

As a first move, I picked up that small piece nearest the front, and I licked it. I don’t mean that I just touched it with my tonge, I actually licked it, like you might lick a delicious ice-lolly. It was strange. On the one hand it was quite pleasant (it tastes just like an apple flavoured Opal Fruit), but on the other hand, the sides of my tongue didn’t like it at all. Which is not to say that it tastes unpleasant (it doesn’t), but that when the sides of my tongue taste it, I start to get the inkling of a gag response – not uncontrollable by any means, but definitely there.

Still, I was emboldened by this little foray, and I decided to take the next step: To place some apple in my actual mouth. To prepare for this, I knew I’d need to cut it up a lot smaller, like this:

Can you see that nice little triangle near the front? I picked him up and put him in my mouth. Now, what happened next was actually quite amazing to me. Most of the things I can’t eat, I’ve never actually tried. I’ve just always known instinctively that I didn’t want to eat them. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a vague feeling that it would make me gag, but since 90% of my inedibles have never been put to the test, I suppose on some level I didn’t really believe it would happen. Which is silly, really. When I’ve had to force things down in a social setting, the gag reflex is the major problem. And the last time I tried a solitary tasting like this (with peas, 20 years ago), I didn’t get beyond the reflex. Very frustrating as I recall. So I shouldn’t have been, but I was, quite amazed at how quickly I had to spit it out, this tiny tiny piece of apple, and how I continued wretching and spluttering even after it was gone.

“Could have been a fluke”, I said to myself, and tried again. Same result. I have to say though, it’s very good doing this alone in the privacy of one’s own home. It is such a great relief to be able to freely and swiftly evacuate the offending food item, and to know that your reflex action won’t offend anyone else.

Still, I wasn’t prepared to give up that easy, so I kept repeating the attempt. What I found is that if I keep it in the very front of my mouth, it’s just about tolerable. It’s when you let it be in your mouth like any other food object would, that the sides of the mouth rebel into gagging territory. The thing that made me actually sick was when I thought I would just pretend it was food and try and chew it. That was a mistake. The result was immediate and uncontrollable. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to prepare the sink for in case of an emergency, and to stand beside it just in case.

“Ah well”, I thought, “At least I tried”.

Twenty minutes later though, I felt inspired to give it another go. I wondered what would happen if you dissociated the biting from the mouth-tolerance. And I found, not very much. I still felt sick, and I still had to fight the gag reflex, but I managed, using just the very front of my mouth, to bite several pieces in half (and take them out again, obviously).

It’s quite a feeling, biting apple, if you’ve never done it before, let me tell you. After a while, I decided I’d put myself through quite enough for one evening. Before giving up the ghost though, I took one last piece, and keeping it in the front of my mouth, I sort of chewed it, just at the very front. After a while it became a swallowable texture. Well, it’d be wrong not to, wouldn’t it? I swallowed it. No problem. A good note to end on, I figured.

It’s surprising how traumatic it is, though, just to manage this tiny victory. I didn’t feel afraid at any point (only the social context causes that), but I really felt like I needed comfort afterwards. I had to go and order a pizza straight away.

On the plus side, after tonight, I can now see how a person would love apples. If it weren’t for the gagging thing, I could definitely get to finding them delicious. If you could eat apples, I don’t see why you’d ever need to bother with a Mars Bar. I wouldn’t. You know all those people who say we’re missing out? They’re so right, and now I’ve had a taste of what I’m missing.

But I also think I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that I can apply on my next attempt. One: don’t rush it; Two: front of mouth only, to start with.

I don’t know what any of this tells us, but there it is: a full and frank account.

ps If anyone else tries this, I’d love to hear any similarities or differences in experience.


Procrastination October 31, 2008

Filed under: Personal Stories,Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 7:57 pm

Do you remember when I thought about buying an apple?  I did buy one in the end, but I never got round to doing anything with it, so eventually it went in the bin.  The same fate befell my second fruit attempt (also an apple), and my third (ditto).  And then last week, I rather daringly purchased an apple, a pear and an orange.  What I’m planning is a Freaky Eaters style fruit-eating session, or at least an attempt at one. 

That is to say, it is not to be a part of any meal, just a getting-to-know you exercise.  That fruit went in the bin last week as well though.  However, I still thought it would be a really good thing to do.  And the idea of blogging it dilutes the fruit-eating-ness of the whole thing, so that’s what I’m going to do.  I bought another load of fruit today, and since (I imagine) it’ll be at its best the sooner I try it, it would appear that tonight is my fruit-eating night.  I’ve been putting it off though for the last hour.  It’s not logical, I know, but I really really don’t fancy it.

Still, what’s the worst that could happen?


Chocolate I March 18, 2008

Filed under: Chocolate,Personal Stories — Claire @ 10:44 pm

Chocolate is one of my very most favourite and stalwart foodstuffs.  I can’t be exactly sure, but I don’t think I have lived a single day of my adult life without eating chocolate.  That is chocolate as in the substance, not the flavouring, though I’ve been known to appreciate that too 🙂  It is so central to me, I can’t believe I haven’t posted on it before.  And it is so dear to me, I think it warrants more than one post.  So here is Part I:

When I was born, the first thing my mother did was eat a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, thereby entering chocolate into the equation of my very first feed.  Whether this is relevant or not is anybody’s guess, but so goes the folklore of my story.

When I began refusing food, there was one thing I would eat.  Heinz Chocolate Pudding.  In difficult times, I have tried eating this as an adult, and let me tell you, it is rank.  But it was the only baby food I could be persuaded to eat at the time.  As a result of this, I think I might have been fed rather a lot of the stuff over my first three or four years. 

But the thing is, as portion sizes increased with my age, I came up against what I call the Excessive Texture Problem.  I cannot eat large amounts of one soft texture without other stuff to go with it.  I cannot swallow it after a certain point, it makes me gag.  And so, kindly well-meaning people would present me with an adult chocolate mouse, thinking they were doing me a great kindness, but actually filling me with dread. 

Because it’s one thing to refuse foods that people know you don’t eat, but how to turn down something that they’ve made for you especially, and that they’ve been told is the one thing you will eat?  Even a four-year-old knows that’ll look inconsistent, illogical and petulant.  At that point, I stopped eating it entirely, ditto for chocolate Angel Delight.  It is only in the last few years that I have been able to broach an adult chocolate mousse, and only then by pretending it is cake.

Around the age of three, I one day walked into the kitchen where my mother was eating something I’d never seen before.  I asked her what it was, and she said it was Chocolate Spread on Ryvita, and did I want some?  Well, that was totally yummy.  In those days (1977), Cadbury made the most wonderful chocolate spread.  It came in a round white margarine-type pot, with orange swirls on it, and the stuff itself was shiny, black and treacly. In sandwiches, on thin white sproingy bread, it was fucking delicious.  I’m sorry for the f-word, but that’s the only way to describe my nostalgia for it, and my sense of loss that they do not make the stuff anymore.

The world can seem like a treacherous place if you have an SED.  Around the age of 7, I was playing at a friend’s house, and her mum asked me if I like chocolate spread.  Assuming she was referring to the Cadbury’s stuff, I said yes.  I can only say I was horrified when we sat down to the results of my affirmative response.  It was sheets and sheets of brown bread, spread with some sort of pale simulacrum of what I would have called chocolate spread.  Yes, it was that devil’s food, Nutella.  I had to eat it, but it made me want to vom.  It was a miserable struggle to get through an acceptable amount of it. 

What the fuck is wrong with plain old chocolate spread?  To the point where you can’t buy it anymore?  Cadbury stopped making chocolate spread at all for most of the eighties (I know, because I made enquiries), and then they introduced a pale, Nutella-esque version, for which I am supposed to be grateful, I guess, but it simply is not the same stuff at all.  I try to pretend to myself that it is, but the only thing it’s good for really is on pancakes.

Around the same time, I one day was looked after for some hours by a lady across the road whose children were older than me.  When I came in from playing in their wicked garden, the mother told me that her eldest daughter (aged 13, but seeming to me like a very sophisticated giant) had made some brownies, and did I want one.  Well, in the same way that you can tell by looking, that Nutella’s gonna make you want to hurl, you know straight away that anything called “brownies” can not be good.  When I saw them, however, they looked like they could be a sort of cake, and when she mentioned the word chocolate, I figured I’d give one a go.  Again:  it was fucking delicious, and remains one of my very most favourite things to this day – if done correctly of course: some people and places put nuts in them and all sorts.  And some places call it a brownie, when actually it’s a cake, and a rubbish one at that.

As a result of my liking for many things chocolate, an outside observer might be forgiven for assuming that I will like all things chocolate.  Not so.  Some chocolate cake is good, and some bad.  Every bit as bad as a non-food.  Which is unusual for me.  Mostly, I am prepared to overlook quality as long as the food in question is in my “edible” category.  I will not complain on the whole if things are cooked or made badly.  I will just be grateful that they are not in one of my Forbidden Food categories.  But not chocolate things.  If you go to France, you will know that some crepes au chocolate are fantastic, but some are totally revolting, and make you wish you’d never been born. 

It’s tough out there, you know?  You can’t just order something chocolate and know it will be nice.  There’s always that chance that it will not only be not nice, but will be actively revolting instead.

Similarly, I will never eat a cheesecake, even if it does have chocolate in the name.  Chocolate mousse, I’ll avoid if at all possible.  And a black-forest gateau doesn’t usually work for me either.  For chocolate cake, I’d say you want a middle price-bracket.  Anything too up-market, or from a fancy patisserie will tend to be trying too hard, and will consequently be yuck.

For me, the domain of chocolate is like a microcosm of the broader food world.  Seemingly without rhyme or reason, certain subsets of it are acceptable to me, while others are totally verboten.  I can’t explain it to someone, or tell them the rules.  I don’t know how I know by looking or thinking what is going to be disgusting to me, but I certainly do know it, that much is certain.  On top of this complexity is a certain degree of fluidity in my tastes over time.  Chocolate things can go in and out of favour at the drop of a hat.  Like I say, it’s tricky.

This post is inspired by Dan over at ChocEat.  If you haven’t checked his blog already, you should do.


Diwali November 13, 2007

Filed under: Personal Stories — Claire @ 4:12 pm

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Diwali party in Edinburgh, at the home of the parents of my cousin’s partner.  I should say first of all that it was a lovely party, and  our hosts were very friendly and welcoming.  But I would just like to share my experience if I may, amongst people who will understand, of what I went through on the food front.

Obviously, it being a Diwali party, the food was Indian.  And vegetarian.  Not something I am able on the whole to manage.  I should have asked my cousin in advance to explain my “problem” to the hosts so that they wouldn’t be offended.  But I didn’t.  And I think perhaps because I don’t generally tend to make a fuss or a big deal about my eating, I just get on with it (or not) quietly and unobtrusively, he may not have realised the potential nightmare scenario that this party might represent for me.

First of all, the father handed round a plate of Indian sweets.  In my sheltered life, these were entirely novel to me.  My instinct is to say no thank you.  But I understood the social exchange that was being initated, and that the correct response was to accept with interest.  Which I did.  And then I was in the situation where I had to eat this totally novel thing (as it seemed to me) without displaying any fear or caution about it, or heaven forbid, distaste, for fear of offending.  Luckily, it was actually very nice.  But what I find is that my eating issues are not especially based on whether a particular food tastes good to me or not, but more on its novelty.  And if I manage to try something, it doesn’t matter whether it’s nice or not, it’s still a novel food, and I can’t just leap into consuming great quantities.  For normal people, I think, if you try something and don’t want more, it’s because you don’t like it, you don’t think it’s nice.  But that is not how it is for me.

Anyway.  Then at a certain point, it was announced that food was ready.  It was a buffet, which in some ways is a good thing, because you have some degree of control.  Assuming there is something there that you can eat.  But where everything on the table is beyond your experience, and where it is vegetarian, this poses a problem for me, and I’d sooner not partake.

However, my hosts had obviously spent a lot of time and effort preparing the feast, and to refuse would have clearly been churlish and rude.  It was a dreadful situation for me.  On top of this, they were very attentive, as good hosts would be, and my not eating did not go unnoticed, as I’d hoped that it would.  I wanted not to offend them. I wanted to accept their generous hospitality. I wanted to be appreciative.  But my little-known “condition” prohibited me.  It was dreadful.  Actually I wanted to cry.

I realised I had two options.  I could try to explain myself, but I knew that it might be misinterpreted as an elaborate excuse for rudeness, not to mention, too much of a personal self-disclosure for the context, and possibly attention-seeking.  My other option was to attempt to eat something. Which as you all will know is a big risk.  Either I might gag – big no-no, especially as it was home-cooked.  That would be like saying that the cooking was bad, even though my gag-reflex has nothing to do with food quality.  Or, I might end up with a plateful of something I cannot eat.  Which would look like I’d tried it and didn’t like it.  Also a no-no.

Luckily, my sister who had eaten, offered to get me a plate of things that she knew I’d probably be ok with.  What would I have done without her.  She came back with some potatoes and rice, and a small round thing sort of like bread or pancake.  Anything that’s like potatoes I can eat, and anything that’s like bread.  So that was fine.  Potatoes nearly blew my head off, though I gather they were “very mild”.  I even managed a little rice, though ordinarily that would be a no-go area for me.

So I got by, but not without trauma.  As fellow-picky-eaters will know, it’s dreadful that good manners are bound up with eating things.


Haggis and Similarity

Filed under: My Progress,Personal Stories,Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 3:23 pm

A dreadful thing happened to me the other day.  I had to eat haggis

Now, for those of you who don’t know, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, which is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with the heart, liver and lungs, minced with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt.  Mmm, delicious, I hear you cry.

My flatmate was cooking, and she asked if I wanted to have some with her, to which I replied that it was probably too way-out for me – she knows about my pickiness.  But I just don’t think that non-picky eaters can really understand.  Because she said “oh, but you will try some?”  Now, I don’t know what happened, but I found myself agreeing.  I didn’t want her to be offended.  And I didn’t want to seem like quite the freak that I actually am.  So I said I would try a tiny bit. 

Now, to me, trying a tiny bit means just that.  A homeopathic amount.  An ant’s mouthful.  But to my horror, I realised I had given her the go-ahead to serve me an actual portion, albeit a small one.

I was somewhat relieved, or reassured to see what it actually looked like on the plate, which was mince.  It just looked like very finely minced mince, except with black bits and white bits in it. 

So what I did, was I told myself “it’s just mince, it’s just mince, just a different type of mince”.  Because I can eat mince, you see.  And although I’d never actually eat oatmeal, the idea of it just seems very benign.  I made sure I kept any thoughts about the source of the mince right out of my head.  It took quite an effort, but in this way, I managed to actually eat it.  I did feel quite upset afterwards.  It’s not like it wasn’t an ordeal or anything.  But I managed it all without gagging.  It’s actually quite tasty.  Wouldn’t do it again though.  And I certainly couldn’t do it without plenty of potato to help it down.

What I find with trying new things, is if I can convince myself that the thing is similar enough to something I already can eat, then I might find that it’s do-able. Even if the thing is actually quite different. First time I saw Red Leicester, when I was about 6, I didn’t think I’d be able to eat it.  But then it occurred to me that in all respects apart from colour, it’s just like Cheddar.  And it worked.  I even managed the same trick as an adult when confronted with Brie at someone’s house.  Now I know there’s a world of difference between Brie and Cheddar, but by focussing on the similarities, and just thinking of it as a strongly-tasting, softer version of Cheddar, I managed it quite fine.  In fact, I rather like it.  I’ve even moved on to be able to eat Philadelphia cream cheese in the last year or so, using the same trick.  Couldn’t eat it in quantity yet, but it’s progress.