Last week’s Table for Two discussed the hardships picky eaters face when trying to romantically pair up with “normals,” as I’ll call them (ha). I find myself on the opposite end of this predicament, a person who goes above and beyond the call of normalcy to devour any aioli, arugula or Asian condiment that comes my way. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a man who loves his ham sandwich–and not all that much else.
Hand in hand, remaining hands clutching ham sandwiches and bowls of lentil soup (two people, four hands), we’ve shared nearly four years together. Yes, I tell you, there can be love between a picky and an adventurous eater, albeit with some cringing along the way.
The picky eater and the food-liker certainly encounter their rough spots, but the picky eater and the food-lover are thrown into situations of peril and anguish, I neither kid nor exaggerate. The former wishing to alter their inborn preferences and enjoy the eclectic fare constantly flowing from their boy/girlfriend’s kitchen. The latter telling themselves in the mirror every night that it’s okay that their boy/girlfriend just doesn’t like the texture of a simple, freaking, honest-to-goodness baked potato.
It’s true. Day one of our journey allowed no vegetables, barring raw tomatoes, no sauces barring alfredo, no meat balls, patties or loaves, and no potatoes. Come on. It was a crispy chicken wonderland. But I’m happy to say that with four years of intense therapy, we’ve incorporated pulled pork, shrimp scampi, Cuban sandwiches, cream cheese, buffalo sauce, tomato sauce and barbecue sauce as regular favorites. Success!
While last week’s post suggested actions a picky eater can take to integrate into “normal” culinary society, today I bring you a few strategies I’ve developed for the person on the other end of this situation; ways to maintain and share your culinary passion with your less-than-enthusiastic partner. Think of yourself as the sponsor to your beloved Picky-Eaters-Anonymous 12-stepper.
**Tips and Tricks**
Pair common ingredients in uncommon ways. For example, boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be pounded flat, stuffed full of anything, rolled up, toothpicked and baked for a safe–but edgy–experience. It’s like riding a motorcycle at a reasonable speed wearing a helmet. Some ideas for stuffing are cheese, ham, bacon, sundried tomato, mushroom or spinach.
Puff pastry. Wrap anything in puff pastry. Sweet, savory, anything. It’s flaky and rich and can disguise any flavor. Awesome.
Focus on presentation. A simple dusting of powdered sugar on brownies you made from the box (or not) qualifies as a special event and unique expression of your love (or intense “like”). See also fresh-grated parmesan cheese, a drizzle of chocolate, a slice of fruit or other garnishes. Nothing says “I love you” like a garnish, I’m telling you.
Be supportive. While stressing how your partner’s trying new things is important to you, be sure to acknowledge all efforts he or she makes to enjoy something new, even if he fails. Of course, it’s only fair that you to show equal willingness to try music, movies etc. that he likes but you might not.
Encourage honesty and accept criticism. Brace yourselves, preacher in the house. So, I’ll spend an hour cooking dinner for my boyfriend and me, and afterwards he will tell me that yes, the chicken was a little dry. He still appreciates that I cook for him (which I don’t do every day, to be clear), but I equally value his honesty. I want to be a better cook, not live a lie! People are surprised when we give each other negative (but constructive) feedback, but this is a good habit to get into. I believe that any unacknowledged problem larger than a burnt pie crust fosters resentment and eventually loathing. Not pretty.
So whether or not you’ve happened upon your “college sweetheart” yet, not to worry, you need not alter or sacrifice your culinary passion! (Also, not to worry about finding your future lover/best friend. Friends of friends is a good place to start. Powdered sugar on brownies is a good place to continue. It’s the little things.)
But seriously, put foil over the edges of your pies while they bake. It keeps them from burning.
Jen Cantin is pursuing her Master in Communications at Clark University in beautiful, yes beautiful, Worcester, Mass. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to the time Adam literally spat out three individual curried lentils in utter disgust.