How do you fellow cooks/picklers handle food wimps?

I ask because I get tired of being nice about it sometimes. Speaking as a nose to tail consumer, I eat everything. I eat everything in the garden too, including the snails. Certain things I understand; okay if you are Kosher no crab or pork, being celiac is a real condition, lactose intolerant I'm a skeptic, and as much as it pains me I understand that for genetic reasons some people can't taste the full flavor of cilantro. After that it just gets fussy, wierd. Example, my sister used to act as gatekeeper for my mother, and insisted that Mom didn't like beets. Turned out Mom did like beets it was my sister who didn't like beets. So now my sister gets anchovies in everything I cook for her---payback. What I'm getting at is that as a cook you have standards that you don't want to dumb down. I cook hand cut fries but you won't find ketchup in my kitchen. But the wimpolas are a fact of life. Love to hear your thoughts on how you handle this, especially if you are married to or partnered to someone who hates this or that.

  • Posted by: pierino
  • March 7, 2011


Smaug November 12, 2016
Speak roughly to your little boy, and beat him if he sneezes- he only does it anyhow because he knows it teases.
petitbleu April 10, 2012
Usually, I consider cooking for picky eaters a challenge. I try not to go too far out of my way to make everything super safe, but at the same time I try not to freak people out. You want them to enjoy themselves, and, at best, you'll stretch their minds a little and give them food for thought.
For instance, I brought my parents a bunch of ramps last week. They'd never eaten them before, and were put off by their strong smell. But when I suggested sautéing them and adding them to shrimp and grits, they were very enthusiastic. When I introduced my family to goat cheese, I did so with a garlic-dill flavored chèvre because I knew they'd enjoy that flavor combination.
Basically, don't let naysayers get you down. Don't be afraid to challenge them, but do so thoughtfully and discretely.
Anitalectric April 9, 2012
When I get excited about something, other people get excited about it, too. So, if I have a picky eater over and they act apprehensive about a dish, I kind of gush about it until they give into curiosity and give it a try. Usually, they are pleasantly surprised.

Also, sometimes it is fun to consider someone's preferences and make it a challenge for yourself. Some of the best discoveries I've made were outside my comfort zone.
HalfPint April 9, 2012
Love betteirene's last parting words because it says (or rather asks) a bit about any eater. Sometimes it feels like some of these picky eaters are brandishing the title just to get their way. Sorry, but your only food option what I serve you. I am not a restaurant and I don't do special orders. If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it, but I cannot and will not be making anything else. Ponder that before you accept my invitation to dinner. Thankfully, I have not had any picky eaters at my dinner table.
Midge April 9, 2012
Great thread, thanks again for another great pickle, pierino. I agree with healthierkitchen. Few things make me happier than cooking for people who appreciate food and as someone else mentioned, I appreciate the challenge of cooking for vegetarian friends or those who have to avoid certain foods for health reasons. If I want to hang out with people who aren't into food or are otherwise high-maintenance eaters, I'll meet them at a restaurant. I'd rather not waste time trying to convert them. For example, I've got a friend who doesn't like onions (!?). I cooked for her once; now we meet for long walks.
WJF April 9, 2012
Eat what is put in front of you. Do not wrinkle up your cute little nose and ask, "what's this", and "what's that". Why do you need to know? Don't be such a!!
If you truly have a medical condition or food alergy...come out and say so.
Your gracious host will not poison you. If the fish is served with the head and tail still on...shut up and eat it! Humans have been serving fish this way for centuries.
If your boorish palate cannot handle a variety of foods, then get right on down to MacDonalds or Burger King or Taco Belle and feed yourself all the fat, salt, and sugar you can handle. Do not bring Ketchup to my table...if you want ketchup slathered on all that you eat, do it at won't kill you to forgo the ketchup this one time. Do not complain about "the texture"...ohhh, the texture! A fully fledged adult human should never come off like an immature child by complaining about the food someone has taken the time and effort to serve. It's funny, those "picky eaters" are always up for french fries, hot dogs, and ice creame...but never seem to be that enthused by actual nutricious food. Get over your prescious little self, shut up...and eat.
Blissful B. March 15, 2011
I stumbled across this post on the Yummy Mummy's blog. It's hilarious & will resonate with anyone who has children who are picky eaters:
healthierkitchen March 9, 2011
Also hate cooking for people who just don't care about food and what they eat. They might be lovely people and polite too, but it's hard to muster the effort and have it just be fuel to them.
ChefDaddy March 9, 2011
Well, again I owe some thanks! Thanks HLArmour. That was funny! Thanks pierino again for posting this. After reading many of the responses ( blissfullbaker, AntoniaJames) I have taken with me that cooking for picky eaters could be viewed as a challange and that matching rudeness with rude people is not a mature way to conduct yourself. Sometimes in life I forget the things my mother taught me. And how do you define picky eaters is a good question. Thanks! And all the rest, great input and funny stories!
hardlikearmour March 9, 2011
This web show completely reminded me of this thread, and I think some of you will enjoy it:
tellmeaboutfood March 9, 2011
I have a very similar experience to Susancooks, with a husband who swears he hates nuts in dishes or desserts and can’t abide spinach or mushrooms. One night I had the girls over for dinner and made spinach, feta and pine-nut tarts and a carrot cake filled with nuts, then covered in icing that was sprinkled with nuts too. I didn’t even realize what I’d done until he came sheepishly into the dining room asking if there was anything for him to eat. I felt like a pretty crappy partner, making a whole spread of foods he hated, but he said he’d try one of the tarts, loved it and ate a second. Later, he found out he really loved the cake too (it was a Dorie Greenspan, so who wouldn’t?) And the kicker was, a few months later, when contemplating what to bake for a dinner party, we simultaneously came up with the idea of making “that carrot cake” again, and I asked if he’d like me to omit the nuts on top this time? He said no. You don’t mess with perfection. I’m hoping one day he will simply realize he doesn’t hate all those foods he thinks he does.
cookbookchick March 8, 2011
In re-reading many of these thoughtful, lively (and sometimes sassy and even contentious) posts, I'm thinking this thread has less to do with "wimpy eaters" and more to do with good manners or the lack thereof. My experience of cooks -- that would be most of us who use this website -- is that we are a generous bunch who love to share (our recipes, our food, our opinions) with others and to please them, as well. I suspect most of us would, as betteirene said of her husband, "..very politely swallow what's in front of him in a way that you, the host, won't realize that he hasn't chewed one bit of what he's bitten off." Perhaps we should extend the same gracious manners to those who post here -- whether or not we agree with them.
testkitchenette March 8, 2011
What an interesting "pickle". From reading all of the responses, it is clear that we all have dealt or currently deal with people with intense food opinions. I would say that people are products of their environments and many food like and dislikes (warranted or not) come from when we are young. Some of us have outgrown and moved on to having wider and more adventurous palates, while other people have not. It is frustrating sometimes to cook for those with wide swinging like and dislikes. Cooking and baking is how I show my love for others and often I will placate a guest's request or cook something I know they will like. My tolerance is pushed though when I am requested to cook for an event (at my in-laws) and even though I honor the request and cook what is requested, I always make some other things which include vegetables and/or legumes, which they don't eat. These "side dishes" are almost always met with disdain, wrinkling of noses, and distinct "ewws" when I describe the contents of my roasted cauliflower and wheatberry salad with chickpeas, or some other dish. They can't help it I guess (maybe someone didn't teach them proper manners) and they always compliment the main dish, but, they always make comments regarding me and think that I eat "too many" vegetables and fruit. This comes from those who polish off a pint of ice cream (diabetic too) and will eat a pound of bacon with 4 eggs for breakfast.
Wow, didn't mean to vent like that. Not to make them sound completely horrible, they have tried and have liked some of the vegetables and fruit that I have prepared but it still is annoying to me. But, I love them and will keep preparing what they want and what I want and hope that their minds will open and that I can be more tolerant.
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
Tant pis-That's an answer I would expect.
pierino March 8, 2011
To answer BlissfulBaker's question, in my mind a picky eater aka wimp is not someone who has an allergy or a religious objection to certain foods. I'm fine with that. My problem is with people who "hate" things they've never tasted or else who have suffered a weak impersonation like pizza anchovies and now have banned the whole speculum. "I don't like tongue." "Ever tasted it? Well it was in that salad you just devoured."
usuba D. March 8, 2011
Pierino reminds me of the time I was 19 apprenticing in a Swiss restaurant. Large party comes in and one of the guests sends back his dinner, something was wrong (my German was not up to snuff yet to hear the problem). The head chef takes one look at the plate; takes a fresh plate and puts it on top, holds the two plates together, flips them over; removes the old plate and sends out the meal, now upside down. The guest was most pleased to have his complaint addressed and complimented the kitchen for the quick response. Some people just want to be the centre of attention!
pierino March 8, 2011
Ah! See, this is what it was all about in the first place. We all confront this every day. My pal ChefDaddy-O and I come from the same planet. He and I might disagree on technique but we both want to serve the best food we can. That's paramount. Usuba Dashi cited a great article in the NY Times, which was in part an inspiration for my original question. You don't need to inflict pain on your guests but you shouldn't feel obliged to pamper them either. I cook it this way because I think it's the right way. And I always want to challenge people to try something they would never have thought of tasting. Part of the game is not telling them what it is until after they've enjoyed it. "Oh yeah, that was the Roman veal tongue".
usuba D. March 8, 2011
I think some of us are not talking being a food snob, but the rude way some guests express their dislikes . . .such as one neighbor of mine came into the kitchen while I was cooking and berated me for adding onions to a dish I was cooking, because he did not like the texture of onions, not caring that the other guests love onions . . .but it was all about him and his issue. Instead, he could have said nothing and quietly picked them out while eating. . . I would have not had an issue with that. There just seems to be a loss of civility towards dining manners, where ever one may be eating.
ellenl March 8, 2011
TiggyBee and ChefDaddy----not true and tant pis.
Angela @. March 8, 2011
To BlissfulBaker's comment, it's a good one too. - I'd rather have someone at my table who doesn't like seafood or something else than someone who puts ketchup on everything. One the other hand, ketchup guest isn't refusing what he or she has been served. I enjoy sharing food from my kitchen and I am happiest when it is well received but it doesn't always work out that way. What I like most is friends hanging out and talking so whatever it takes, even if it means stocking up on ketchup ;-)
Blissful B. March 8, 2011
To answer your question Pierino: "Do you dumb it down or do you smart it up?" I think serving excellent real food that picky eaters enjoy is the ultimate show of smarts. Now a question for you: how are you defining picky eaters? There's such a big range, from someone who doesn't like seafood (for example), to someone who adds ketchup to everything you cook.
innoabrd March 8, 2011
cookbookchick: I'd be appalled if a guest in my house did that. I make a real effort to stock up on stuff for house guests when I have them and I'd definitely take it as a comment on my hosting abilities! Its one thing if you've got someone with a particularly serious medical issue ( I once had a house guest who was recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous tumour in her throat, for example, and she needed a lot of that liquid nutrition stuff) and they don't want to put you out and so bring some stuff. Its another if they don't like your choice of milk brands.

The closest I've come was some folks whose older kids (old enough to know better) arrived and promptly started going through my cupboards and fridge, and even the freezer. One of them was dis-satisfied with what was on offer for dinner as well. He whined and went back to his little electronic game thing. I just ignored him, figuring if he was really hungry, he'd get over himself.

As for pierino's original question, re-phrased, if it's a real issue (religious, medical, a serious, specific aversion), fine, accommodate. If it's a general, "well, I don't eat anything too strange or exotic," I say damn the torpedoes, full-speed ahead! If they don't like it, they can be polite and then stop at McDonald's on the way home.
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
Oh, Stephskitchen or lifestooshort? What happened?
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
Thanks stephskitchen- Just wanted to point it out. Pierino is a great asset here as well as a very funny guy. Check out his blog (eggs in purgotory) and you'll what I mean. Good luck to you and see you out on the pickle!

P.S. It is vey hard to get your sense of humor across in type. I myself have been viewed as being rude here when I was attempting to be funny. It takes practice I guess.
lifestooshort March 8, 2011
My apologies for any offense, ChefDaddy and Pierino. I did not mean to be unkind--a lot of what I wrote was tongue-in-cheek--but upon re-reading my comment I can see what you mean. Sorry.
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
I think most who are participating in this thread understands pierino and his writing style as well as his dry sense of humor. I have been here awhile and haven't seen too many unkind foodpicklers except for one post on this thread that was down right rude and bordering on mean. Pierino was just asking a question to see if he was alone in his feelings on the subject. In my opinion that post was very rude to him and pointed your post directly at him. And you want a more friendly food pickle? With out your posts I think we will be just fine.
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
Thanks Tiggybee, you took the words right out of my mouth!
TiggyBee March 8, 2011
@ellenl: all you ever seem to add to the conversation on food52, is to correct someone's spelling or grammar. Just sayin' it's so annoying..
pierino March 8, 2011
Let me say that I don't mind being called a food snob, in fact I'll willingly wear that chevron on my shoulder. Do I eat eyeballs, not usually but only because the lens has a texture of broken glass. I don't eat car fenders for that matter. But when it comes to real food....
My original question get's down to this: do you dumb it down or do you smart it up?I always go with the latter and Devil May Care. And he's driving my car.
lifestooshort March 8, 2011
No! If that's how my comment came off, I'm terribly sorry. I was just trying to militate for a kinder, gentler foodpickle...sorry if I did exactly what I was saying one shouldn't do. Hmph.
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
Did Stephskitchen just call us a bunch of snobs and one-uppers?
lifestooshort March 8, 2011
When did food become a game of one-ups-manship, a gauge by which to judge friends or neighbors or family? One thing I really like about this site is the sense of community--this great group of who-knows-how-many people from such diverse backgrounds united by a common love of cooking and food. It’s a bit disappointing, I think, when it fragments into a foodie hierarchy, where people are judged by an ideal of culinary machismo that reminds me a lot of Anthony Bourdain’s cranky (but undeniably funny) one-liners on Top Chef. But we’re not on Top Chef, and I think labelling people as ‘wimps’ if they don’t share our sensibility about food distorts the sense of sharing and community that cooking can create. I think we ought to step back and remember that we all exist somewhere on a spectrum, and our place on that spectrum depends on a number of different factors, like experience, personal taste, and how much time and energy we have. OK, so you eat the snails out of your garden and aren’t averse to consuming offal, but I’m sure if we tried hard enough we could find some even more ‘sophisticated’ individual who eats things that you wouldn’t find palatable. And would it be fair for that person to disparage you, because s/he exists further down the spectrum than you do? (I have a very clear memory of being offered a cow’s eyeball once, a huge ball of firmed-up goo with wisps of brown gunk hanging off of it, which made a really distinctive sucking noise as it was popped out of the head--was I a ‘wimp’ for politely claiming to be too full to eat any more?)

My love of cooking started in college, when I cooked things like chicken sauteed with cooking sherry (oh dear) and a chunk of bad 1980s grocery store brie melted in (are any of you starting to hyperventilate yet?), and one of my most consistently successful meals was Shake-n-Bake chicken (THE HORROR, THE HORROR). Let’s just say I’ve evolved since then--but the look-down-your-nose-at-others commentary that shows up from time to time here certainly would have turned me off in my Shake-n-Bake phase, and maybe my love for food would never have developed in the way that it has. Maybe this is a bit too idealistic, but shouldn’t we all be encouraging the love of food in this community?
Angela @. March 8, 2011
Sam1148 makes a good point too. I have at least one friend who thinks a few in our circle spend too much time (and money) on food, she may be right. She just wants to share time and space with people. Worth thinking about.
Angela @. March 8, 2011
Great topic and conversation. I always serve family style or buffet so that people can decide themselves what goes on the plate. When I invite people over I ask "Any food allergies or aversions I should be aware of when planning the meal?" and plan accordingly but this does not mean that I plan exclusively for any one person at the table. Most of my vegetarian friends are happy to eat bigger portions of side dishes if I chose to serve "flesh". When it comes to kosher and serious allergies no one I know is unwilling or unable to share a table with people eating whatever they chose ... this is good. If someone I like to spend time with is a REALLY picky eater I let them cook for me, pick a restaurant and in some cases we spend our time together without food ... movie, hike, museum. It works.
Panfusine March 8, 2011
I'm absolutely fine stocking up the fridge with essentials like lactose free milk etc. While I would have no problem accommodating some dietary preferences, I don't think I'd appreciate it if anyone decides to stock up my fridge with their personal choice, completely over riding the hosts selection, organic or junk! It seems kinda rude! I most certainly wouldn't do it when visiting them, Its like questioning (or even insulting) the hosts hospitality.
ChefDaddy March 8, 2011
Qoutes that befuddle me:

The entire point of cooking for people is to please them. Not to be passive aggressive.

Meant to also say: food should always be joyful and healthy, never punitive or a weapon.

How Can food be a punitive or a weapon?

If I don't care for people who are picky at my table and I don't accommodate them am I being passive agressive?
AntoniaJames March 8, 2011
Cookbookchick, I have no problem whatsoever with guests buying and bringing in whatever they feel is necessary to make them more comfortable. I don't take offense, and I don't make any comments, because that would be rude and I'm not rude. That said, I do appreciate some cooperation in making room in the fridge, maintaining order in my tiny kitchen, etc. Rudeness and complaints result in permanent banishment (graciously, i.e., without comment, of course) which is their loss. Fortunately, in my extended family, no one assumes that they are invited or are entitled to any special treatment, which works out just fine . . . . people coming into town request to stay as they would with a non-family member acquaintance. It may sound strange to some, but it actually works out very well for all concerned. But the golden rule (which works in all aspects of our lives) is that there is no excuse, ever, for rudeness, even when one is the subject of it. People used to call that being a lady, or being a gentleman. Yes, it's old school. But it works. ;o)
cookbookchick March 8, 2011
Thank you all for a wonderful read and plenty of (pun alert) food for thought! :-) betteirene, you made me laugh out loud -- I wish we were neighbors! Now here's one for you all -- how about house guests who immediately upon arriving, go out and buy their own groceries? (Think: whole foodies -- nothing but what they deem to be "organic" food can be allowed to pass their lips..) I've also had pretty much the opposite circumstance -- a houseguest with kids who went straight out and loaded up my pantry with junk food and soda! Different perspectives, but from similar motivations -- what you have on offer isn't good enough for me or my kids.
pierino March 8, 2011
Well, this has been fun! Thanks for so many thoughtful responses. Sounds like most of you think like me. But it does get complicated---I'm ultra-careful about people who may have nut or shellfish allergies which might kill them; that's not being a wimp. A restaurant owner I know used to serve wonderful "killer shrimp" except that I couldn't even taste them himself, he just knew how to do it. And then on the other hand I have my Jewish friends who count among the greatest afficianados of pork that I've ever known.
The kitchen committee I participate in had a meeting for a "solstice" dinner where the menu called for prime rib and I was in charge as lead cook. I had to source the beef. Someone asked, "is it grass fed?" And that came from a vegetarian who wasn't going to eat it anyway. Now that's a wimpola!
innoabrd March 8, 2011
I will admit to having a few vegetarian friends I’ll accommodate. Not many, mind...

Perhaps my pickiest regular guest is also a dear friend, so I do accommodate her. She does eat fish (but not if it comes with a head or a tail, and not squid or shellfish), but no meat or poultry. However, she's perfectly happy to have, say, paella, and pick out the bacon, chorizo and shellfish and ignore the chicken stock. She also makes an exception for my Jewish Chopped Liver, and usually takes a bit home as well. Mind you, she’s also the sort of person who will throw a party and, recognizing that most of her guests are carnivorous, will cook and serve a few beef tenderloins in addition to the roast veg and couscous salad.

If someone has a genuine issue, well, OK I’ll accommodate and I always ask before someone new comes over. I guess I learned this in India where not only do you have to do veg and non-veg sides of a buffet table, but also various people are constantly on various fasts (no eggs, no grain, etc.). I mean, this is part of being a host and I often look on it as somewhat of a challenge. However, that doesn’t generally mean I’ll make the whole meal to suit them. Indian is great for this because I’ll make five or six dishes and if someone can’t eat one or two, well there’s still plenty for them to eat.

However, I cannot abide people who are sanctimonious about their food choices. There used to be a yoga teacher in Cairo who was a strict veg. A friend had his wife over and she refused the biscuits (cookies) she was offered, claiming she could “smell the blood in them.” I’m sorry, but that person would never be invited back, and, with luck, might have already left by the time I stopped laughing.

I also take issue with people who clearly just don’t like food. I think that’s what a lot of picky eaters are, and they just aren’t fun or interesting to share a meal with or cook for and generally don’t get invited back. I can’t think of a guest I’ve had like that who was over the age of ten since some aid worker we had to dinner in Cairo. Someone my wife had gotten friendly with. Didn’t like this, didn’t like that, etc. She was a bore and neither of us ever saw her again.

I can’t imagine marrying someone like that. My first really serious girlfriend thought Olive Garden was exotic and would actually choose to eat McDonald’s over, say, a homemade meatloaf. For that reason alone, I knew the relationship could never go the distance...

Though perhaps not as obsessive about it as I am, my wife really enjoys good food and is an appreciative audience. My kid too, though I live in fear that her teenage rebellion will be to go veg, just to torture me.

Voted the Best Reply!

drbabs March 8, 2011
Well, aren't we all picky eaters? pierino, you're a "nose to tail" consumer who "eats everything." Do you eat canned asparagus? Wonder bread? Spaghetti-o's? Have you ever been somewhere where that's what was served? The challenge for all of us--picky or not--is to be loving and gracious to those who serve us--no matter what the food is.

I think that if we label people who have strong preferences "food wimps," we're missing the point of what we do. Do we invite people to our homes because we want to show off our great skills, or because we want to share ourselves with the people we care about? It can be challenging to meet a lot of people's specific needs, but strong preferences and especially food allergies, should be respected if we can.

And to those who are rude to us? I say smile and let it go. After all, one day we're going to be invited to someone's house who serves us Wonder bread and canned asparagus. And even though we might not eat it, we can be gracious and grateful and treat our friends the way we'd like them to treat us when we prepare a meal.

In the end, it's all about love.

ellenl March 8, 2011
Weird is not spelled wierd.
betteirene March 8, 2011
My kitchen, my rules. Rule #1: You git what you git and you don't throw a fit. With six sons, if I ran my kitchen any other way, my photo would be in the dictionary next to the word "stir-crazy."

Their father, a hillbilly from a hollow in W. Va., is big and burly and so good with tools that it's scary, but talk about a food wimp--he's so petrified of rare meat that he won't touch corned beef because "it still looks raw--I ain't eatin' it" even after he's been watching it boil itself to death for half the day. And the only things he'll eat that are green are lettuce (if it's on a taco) and jalapeno peppers. But if you've invited him to a lunch of reuben sandwiches or to a vegetarian dinner, he will very politely swallow what's in front of him in a way that you, the host, won't realize that he hasn't chewed one bit of what he's bitten off.

Son #1 will turn 40 this year and has absolutely positively never eaten mashed potatoes for the past 38 of those years. Son #2 hates snickerdoodles (!), #4 won't eat butter unless it's melted, #6 only eats female (no nuts) chocolate chip cookies or brownies, yet he adores pecan pie. I don't consider them to be food wimps because they all eat guacamole and turnips and bleu cheese and beans and we fight over chicken livers.

If you're an acquaintance--a co-worker or a neighbor, say--I will not invite you over for dinner unless I've thoroughly scoped you out. If I don't think I'd be comfortable catering to your food preferences, you'd be invited over only if it was potluck. If I'm cooking for you because you're related to me by marriage (like the first 'other grandma' who gags on mushrooms, or the second 'other grandma' who thinks whole grain bread is Third World food and who swears that Hormel chili is a godsend--miraculously, my daughters-in-law are normal), I will accommodate your tastes because I'm a gracious hostess who realizes that without you, my beloved grandchildren wouldn't exist, so one of the frittatas will be lacking mushrooms and you will have a choice of white or wheat blueberry muffins at Christmas brunch.

I like to think that people, related to me or not, enjoy eating here because I have "a way" with food. Most of the time, anyway. I'm not afraid to admit my mistakes, and I can handle a fair amount of criticism. (I am able to hear "Needs more pepper" or "Just once, could we have a roast chicken without lemon?" and "What's this green stuff?' without retorting, "Shut up and eat it.") And I'm not averse to making a last-minute substitution or even withholding a dish that I think is less than okay.

Conversely, I have had free meals that I thought were disappointing, but I would never think to disparage the food and the cook. Ages ago, I accepted an invitation to have lunch at the home of a Catechism student. I was anticipating a "ladies who lunch" type of spread. Mom served deli ham sandwiches on white bread without a condiment of any sort, cottage cheese, potato chips, milk. Also ages ago, I was served grand, wonderful meals with odd (to me, at the time) ingredients, like squid and daikon and smelly fish sauce, in primitive huts and stately homes on Japan and Okinawa and the Philippines. People serve what they like to eat, and I can state unequivocably that hosts the world over hope upon hope that their guest relishes their offerings as much as they themselves do, so I try very hard not to be a lousy guest. I try very hard to be the guest that I would like to have at my table.

I think it boils down to this: Is it possible for a wimpy eater to also be a great guest?
AntoniaJames March 8, 2011
With kindness, courtesy and respect. The way I treat everyone. But people who complain or are otherwise difficult are not invited back. Period. ;o)
monkeymom March 8, 2011
Before I had kids, I think I had feelings much more along the lines of what you describe. Then, I got a big dose of karma or something. I honestly don't think I could have tried harder to expose my kids to different taste, textures, ethnic cuisines, etc. That said, I came to realize that people are human. They have likes and dislikes for whatever reason. They also have limitations that I cannot control, much as I dislike, disagree, or am frustrated by them. Therefore, sometimes take satisfaction in the pure pleasure of meeting someone completely on their terms and cooking to their tastes. They are happy. That makes me happy. However, that is just some of the time. That is because doing it that way all the time sucks the life out of me as a cook and eater. Therefore, I also realized that sometimes I must cook what I want and how I want it. It is a bit of a balancing act - the scales might tip one way or the other at each meal, but over the course of a week we get our way some of the time. Either way, I can sit down with my loved ones and share time and food. We just are able take time to enjoy each other's company. I think is really the main point and a joy in life to be savored.
betteirene March 7, 2011
tiggybee. . .if that was the case in my house, I'd be putting too much oregano in everything, including his favorite lemon meringue pie.
Blissful B. March 7, 2011
I think it depends on the situation. If I'm cooking for friends or family who only visit a few times per year, I cater to their tastes (no matter how picky). It's one of the ways I welcome them into my home & express my love for them. I try to make this easy by asking about food preferences in advance. If I share my home & daily meals with a picky eater, that's a different story. I don't mind if someone dislikes one or two things; that's easy to accommodate. If someone dislikes everything, I welcome them to cook their own meals. (As a kid, I was very picky & I learned early how to make my own PB&J whenever Mom cooked something I didn't like. A fair solution.) Now rudeness at the table is another issue altogether & has more to do with manners than picky eaters. Frankly, if someone criticizes my food, disrespecting the effort I put in, I call them on it, plain & simple. (My brother-in-law once criticized the appearance of my homemade chocolate cake which had sunken in the middle. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him he couldn't have any. Let's just say he never criticized my cooking again.) One last thought: I think there's such a thing as a picky cook, and they're not that different from picky eaters. Both people want to control the food that's put on the table.
Sam1148 March 7, 2011
....and on the other end of spectrum are dedicated 'foodies' that complain that a dish isn't exotic enough, or mundane. I'd rather deal with a picky eater than a self appointed food critic.

Like Latoscana said food should be joyful.
hardlikearmour March 7, 2011
While I'm not a super picky eater, there are a few things I just can't stomach. If someone cooks dinner and one of those things happens to be on the menu, I just don't eat it. I don't want to make them feel bad, because I know they put effort into cooking, etc, so I just let them know I'm weird and really just don't like that particular thing. If it's something that won't literally make me gag, I'll just eat it. Typically there are enough sides, etc... that it's not a real problem. Seems like an easy solution to me. If someone does have a true dietary restriction I'll cook around it, and I'll cook vegan for a good friend of mine. Other than that I make what I like!
latoscana March 7, 2011
Meant to also say: food should always be joyful and healthy, never punitive or a weapon.
latoscana March 7, 2011
There's a widely cited idea that you need to serve a food 8 times before a resistant child might give in and try it. Wonder if this holds true for adults, too? It's true that children and young people have much more sensitive palates so many strongly flavored foods might be overwhelming to their tender senses.

Then there are fussy people - can you figure out what's behind it? Is it part of a control issue? It seems to me that the best way to deal with it is to simply make and serve what you want and not make a scene if they choose not to eat it.
Sam1148 March 7, 2011
The major standard for a cook is making your audience happy.

You wouldn't put up with a hairstylist that makes themselves happy and you didn't like the cut.

The entire point of cooking for people is to please them. Not to be passive aggressive.

Cooking for picky eaters is probably one of the best learning experinces you can have as you learn to adjust, simplify and you'll learn more from them than your knowledge of how something should be. Learn from them, they'll be the ones most likely to tell you screwed up.

Panfusine March 7, 2011
As long as the wimp keeps quiet while in the midst of company instead of whining, I'm fine.
boulangere March 7, 2011
This is a wonderful question. It deserves the thoughtful answers you've received. I'm on my way to bed, but will write tomorrow. I love ChefDaddy's response, and SusanCooks's, and especially usuba dashi's. I will say that my mother was terrified of rattlesnakes, and so am I. But largely because of my dog. But that is another story. More tomorrow, and thank you for such a thought-provoking question.
ChefDaddy March 7, 2011
When I took my wife out on our very first date I took her to my favorite steak house and ordered prime rib, rare (yes, prime), baked potato with everything and the salad bar and a margarita on the rocks in a tumbler no salt (I was 23). Yes, I did order first because she said go ahead while she tried to make a selection. Just after hearing my order she said: 'I'll have the same". It was then I knew I had a match. Turns out I'm the picky one (only because of my standards).

I try to respect all who have dietary issue's and have made the choice to be vegan or vegatarian but people who don't like tomatoes or onions or don't like this or that rub me a little the wrong way when invited to my home for dinner. I do not cater to the picky eaters. I feel I serve enough food and sides that they should be able to find something and have removed people from my invite list only to hear them ask "when are we going to get together again". My brother in law always ask's if the food is organic just as he is sitting down at the table. A few times of that and he wonders why I don't have them over any more. To me this is rude. To come in to someone's home who has been gracious enough to cook for them and complain or give likes and dislikes after the meal or as your serving them is beyond me. I even told a neighbor that he should probably leave when the couple showed up for a dinner party and told me he only eats steak upon learning we were having pork for dinner. But, I have at this point whittled out the ingrates and have a great group of foodies that are always welcome at my table.

Reading this back though makes me sound like a tempermental jerk. But I rather be thought of as that then be the person who caters to picky eaters. My whole career has catered to picky eaters.

Thanks pierino, that was fun.
SusanCooks March 7, 2011
I think super-picky eaters is one of the results of living in a corporate, big-ag, prepackaged, fast food society. When the most exotic taste a child is exposed to is Taco Bell, why would we expect otherwise? I'm lucky that my husband supports cooking everything we can at home and expecting our kids to be mature about food. That said, he's not a vegetable lover like I am, but over the years I've decided these food biases are sort of intentional. People decide that they don't like a food (usually because they tried one bad example of it, as usaba dashi says) and they're unwilling to let new experiences change their mind. If you can trick the food hater into being open to a new experience, and you make sure the food tastes awesome, it can sometimes work. Case in point: My husband swore he hated zucchini for the first 15 years I knew him. A couple of years ago I found a new zucchini recipe but didnt even try to serve it to him. It was so tasty the kids hated to give up any to let him try it. Scarcity created demand and now he 'kinda likes' zucchini.
Greenstuff March 7, 2011
Fortunately, I do not have this problem in my immediate family. We would happily eat up all the snails in pierino's garden. I do, however, live in a community where everyone has an opinion about everything. So, I've learned that when I invite people over, I should ask about food issues and preferences. Then, I take a deep breath and tell myself, "There is plenty of food that meets these constraints. There is plenty of food that meets these constraints." And there is. I do not dumb down. Mostly, I can accommodate. When a Japanese houseguest asked for A-1 sauce, I couldn't.
TiggyBee March 7, 2011
I should have prefaced that with barring any condition. Huge fan of the anchovy since I learned to cook and think for myself. As a kid, I wouldn't go near them...only because my Mom H-A-T-E-D them. (or so she thought!)
usuba D. March 7, 2011
There was time a time in life that one was grateful for the food put on the table each night . . . you would eat what was in front of you, because it was the polite thing to do. I refuse to kowtow to dinner guests every little like and dislike. . . .I find most times they dislike something because it was either not fresh, not cooked right or of poor quality to begin with. I totally agree with the article in the NY Times the other day---> . . . .grow up wimps, try something different. You might be surprised and like it!
TiggyBee March 7, 2011
This is the best way I can answer this: I think it has to do with what we're exposed to in general. I've yet to make something that my husband hates unless I add too much oregano. Then, I'm screwed.
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