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?


Self-Help For Picky Eaters September 30, 2008

Filed under: adult picky eating,Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 10:29 pm

I have had an idea about how we might be able to help ourselves. 

To this end, I would like to propose, in the first instance, a real-life gathering here in London for picky eaters (apologies to those too far afield for this to be feasible).  No-one will have to eat anything if they don’t want to.  The idea is just to meet up and talk.

UPDATE (16.11.08):  This event took place yesterday.  I’d call it a success. Many thanks to those who made it.

One of the ideas that came out of it was that it might be a good thing to have a regular time to meet up online.  Obviously, this would negate the problem of people being scattered all over the world (notwithstanding time-zone differences), or people having to travel, or being anxious about meeting in real life.  And it would mean we could chat in real time.  What do you reckon, should we organise it?


A Juicy Biscuit? January 16, 2008

Filed under: Reducing Pickiness — Claire @ 12:45 am

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:

  1. They are thin
  2. 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…


Haggis and Similarity November 13, 2007

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.