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Advice for the picky eater.

by Dear Jon
February 22, 2002

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Sort 119_Dear Jon-Advice for the picky eater. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

I hate a lot of "normal" foods that most people like. Should I be ashamed and try to eat these things I can't stand? Am I being immature? Do I deserve ridicule for not liking apple pie? Or should people be more accepting of my abnormal taste? I believe some people think less of me because of this trait.

Everone has some kind of food they don't like and can't eat without gagging, right? I simply have more food dislikes than the average person. How does one learn to like food one hates? Do I need professional help?

Mr. Picky

Dear Pick,

I think unprofessional help will be more than adequate, so you have come to the right place.

Somewhere in my first 50 sorts or so, I dealt with the issue of table etiquette, where one takes the date-brownie from the hostess, palms it in a napkin, and then drops the offending desert in the bathroom's garbage can. Please be sure you read all my Dear Jons from the beginning until you run across that letter. At least, I'm pretty sure that piece of writing was a Dear Jon letter. Let me know.

Some eaters are considered picky if they choose the medium salsa instead of the "hot." Some picky-eaters are persecuted for scraping the onions and mustard off the McDonalds' bun before eating the burger. Then there are the picky-eaters of myth, the truly legendary: Beyond white bread and maybe, depending on lactose tolerance levels, macarroni and cheese from a box, food is viewed with suspicion.

It occurs to me that you, who walk into a Baker's Square® and wonder what there is for you to eat, are among the picky-eaters that go down in history. Like the guy who, at his own wedding reception, did not touch the chicken kiev, and was given two slices of the cheese pizza that had been ordered for the flower girl and ring-bearer. Then there was the guy who packed his own food for his honeymoon trip to Europe. Come to think of it, they were the same guy. Not that I am ridiculing him.

Legendary picky-eaters are like Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces," who wanted toast and the waitress would not give him any, so he asked for a chicken salad sandwich which came with toasted bread, hold the chicken salad. One would not think of Elwood Blues as a picky eater, but all he wanted was "two fried chickens and a coke." I am 85% sure that John Belushi, who played the character I am quoting from "The Blues Brothers," played Elwood. But I am on deadline so I do not have time to look it up.

For guidance through life, you have to realize that, no, you are not immature for having handicapped taste-buds; you are also worthy of ridicule for not liking apple pie. Both are true. You have to cope with that, like we all have to cope with those things that set us apart for ridicule. For some of us it is having double-jointed toes, or hair that only grows in uncombable spools like David Letterman's, or having an aversion to movies that involve violence and revenge.

For me, I am ridiculed by my wife because I cannot watch figure skating. I hate the thought of a 17 year-old girl meeting her life's goal too soon and then falling on her butt while a billion people watch. It hurts me too much. So when figure-skating comes on, I leave the room.

I discovered that I liked a lot more foods than I thought. What I realized is that so many people cooked with onions, I just assumed that anything Italian or Mexican meant "onions." That is not true. By removing one offending ingredient, I have been able to eat a lot of tomato-sauce foods, from sloppy joe's to tacos to lasagna.

Perhaps it is not applie pie that you dislike. Perhaps it is cinnamon. Perhaps if cinnamon were removed from more breakfast and dessert items, your palate would stretch.

Rather than painting food with the broad brush of suspicion, take a keen eye toward the particular ingredients. Is pickle relish really a necessary part of the recipe? Only to a gourmet, which you will never be anyway.

One discovers that restaurants aim for the bland. Aside from occasionally having to shove pickles off the plate or having to ask for dressing on the side, even the picky eater can discover a new world of food.

You should always keep a sandwich bag full of popcorn in your jacket pocket, though, just to be on the safe side.

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