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Do Indian people complain about spicy food? (and other late night musings)

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Allergies and food sensitivity should be a product of one's physiology and not of culture, right?

Last year I spent 6 months traveling through Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and South Korea (and most recently returned from a month in Japan)

I find myself now wondering:

- where are the Indian people who complain about the spicy food?
- where are the Japanese people who complain that they don't like fish?
- where are the Chinese people who can't eat the gluten in the noodles or who are allergic to soy?
- where are the Vietnamese people who think the fish sauce is stinky?

But here in Los Angeles:
I go out to a restaurant and, for example, hear a whiny teenage girl with an LV purse and film producer parents complaining that her curry is too spicy, or perhaps a child who refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets, or when I hear an actress asking the waiter to hold the penne from her pesto because she can't eat gluten.

This begs the question... are there equivalent food nitpicks elsewhere in the world? Is there in Delhi, right now, a snooty rich girl with an LV purse complaining that her hamburger is not spicy enough and that she can't eat the bun?

My theory is that our nitpickiness is one of the privileges of living in a wealthy society where we have the time to consider such things. I also feel that our lack of a healthy, indigenous American diet causes food sensitivity and health problems. For example, my sister was a vegetarian for 15 years, thought she was doing something healthy for her body, yet over the years she suffered all sorts of skin conditions, mild loss of hair, stomach ulcers and other untidy gastric problems. Amazingly (and suddenly) she decided to eat a moderate amount of meat again (fish and chicken) and within two months, all of these problems cleared up. She was just as surprised as any of us were.

I really feel that if America had a deeply rooted history of a vegetarian diet as, for example, India does that this would not be a problem. But since in America we accept instant foods, fake soy burgers and fake bacon and pizza as viable alternatives for vegetarians as the result of a lack of a culturally well-established and nutritionally rounded vegetarian diet, people will go out to restaurants and pick apart a dish to avoid potential health risks when perhaps avoiding certain items may be causing the problems to begin with.

By the way, I am speaking as a type I diabetic, so I am not insensitive to people with dietary restrictions. However not once in my 20 years as a diabetic have I asked for a special modification be made to a meal-- I simply eat what I know gives me the best results on my blood glucose monitor. However I realize that most people with health related food requests have only their feelings to go by and not a quantifiable readout from a machine.

But still I wonder, how many people out there are suffering from health problems which they have brought on themselves, like my sister, through lack of knowledge about what exactly a healthy diet is?

Mr Taster
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  1. I am really curious to hear other responses, as I find this a truly fascinating topic. (Thanks, Mr. Taster.)
    FWIW, I did a quick search and came across this comment from an allergist in India, at www.pharmabiz.com:
    "Now food allergies are much more common in India as compared to the western countries. They quote figures of two to six per cent. Ours is 16-20 per cent. Among the food allergies also, we differ a lot with the west. Rice is virtually an unknown allergen in the west. In India, we have nine to 10 per cent patients positive to rice."

    3 Replies
    1. re: emi50

      Wow... Very interesting to hear. It seems like a lot of people want to say "this is where we have things wrong" and look at such-and-such continent and how they are not spoiled by the "crass" modern world. The fact is that the whole world is changing rapidly - for the good, and for the bad. It's not just the U.S. or the West.

      1. re: emi50

        Where is his data coming from? Note that he says "Nine to 10 per cent patients", which makes me suspect that he's essentially calculating this proportion from the number of people who are already reporting to a doctor for suspected allergies.

        I think the 16-20 per cent figure comes from similar calculations because 20 per cent is just an absurd figure.

        Growing up in India I knew only one person in my extended circle who had a food allergy.

        1. re: anthead

          is it possible that the higher figure may be based on including the poorer group of people that may not see doctors and just live with their problem? i don't know just a question/thought

      2. Gosh, I love this post! You really made me smile!

        I have my own "ugly" American story that relates to your musings on wealth which allows us to be picky. I hate lamb. The mere smell of it cooking makes me nauseous. Well, good luck with that in the Middle East! I can't tell you the number of times I would be invited into the home of a poor family and be generously offered a meal of lamb. Young and stupid, I would make up excuses that I was a vegetarian as a means of getting out of eating the lamb. I really was trying to find a polite way of backing out; looking back, I was just rude. They, being incredibly poor, simply could not understand my ability to be so choosy as to rule out an entire subset of food.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chaddict

          my cousin found a solution to that dilemma. Poor family cooks expensive ingredient that you might not like and tries to force feed it to you. She transfered said ingredient from her plate to the plates of the children of the family and invited them to help her eat it. Problem solved. Everybody is happy. Especially the kids.

        2. I have had a similar question about peanut allergies in Thailand. I just assumed that if there is a gene that makes you more likely to peanut allergies, that it had been bred out of this population, as anyone with a significant peanut allergy would never live to reproduce. But this is mere speculation.

          As for Indians who complain about spice, I can't comment on this population, but I can tell you that I know Koreans who complain about spice (Korean cuisine is of course known for spicy kimchi and red chile sauces). My mother is an incredibly picky eater. She doesn't like kimchi that is too spicy, and won't eat it with breakfast. She hates raw fish and so will not eat Hwe (the Korean version of sashimi). But the important thing is the phrase "too spicy". There is no question that she has a different tolerance for spicy, as she carries tabasco sauce in her purse for when we go to "north american" restaurants to spice up too bland food. So everything is relative, but at the same time, there are picky eaters all over the world and in every culture. But if you are starving, well, preferences will always take a back seat. We are very fortunate to live in a society where we can afford the luxury of pickiness.

          2 Replies
          1. re: moh

            It's the roasting peanuts that causes allergies. In my limited experience of other countries, peanuts are rarely dry roasted in asian countries where apparently many peanuts are consumed.

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

            1. re: moh

              moh, totally unnecessary to tell us that you are talking about "too spicy" after you mentioned "kimchee" and "breakfast" in the same sentence! Clearly we are talking about a whole different orientation to spices! (I adore hot food, and kimchee, but I'd just as soon eat the newspaper for breakfast...)

            2. I am standing and applauding right now, Mr. Taster. "My theory is that our nitpickiness is one of the privileges of living in a wealthy society where we have the time to consider such things." I would add to that "money," because masquerading meat and "fortified" water and such things are costly (not so much because they're expensive to produce, but because the market is willing to pay).

              And rather than reading pop culture guides on following x, y, or z diet, I recommend anyone going to a local bookstore and picking up a USMLE board review book or something of the sort and read the parts on biochemistry and metabolism, as well as the GI system. Really. Know the cause, understand the effect, make better choices.

              1. In the US, we're much more exposed to different cultures and expected to eat a wider variety of foods. My cousins who grew up in Taiwan came to the US and did not care for a lot of different cultural foods that I have always eaten (Mexican, Italian, etc.). They were really picky. My parents, having been in America for 40+ years, still choose to eat Chinese food and barely tolerate others. Their friends are the same. Most of my relatives can't/won't have dairy. It's not a sign of affluence that they can't. I read (can't confirm right now) that when America did food drops to some countries, they sent American type foods that the people had trouble eating and couldn't process. One thing I remember thinking funny was lemon poppyseed cake. (I'll look for references on this and post if I find them but it was years ago.) So, it's not fair to peg Americans as being pickier than other cultures.

                As far as the question on health problems brought on themselves, I highly agree. While I think the knowledge level is higher than it has been, I still think there is a lot of ignorance.

                17 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  I think the point here is that your parents choose to eat Chinese food over others and therefore probably frequent Chinese restaurants rather than American ones. That isn't being picky at all, it's knowing what they enjoy and seeking it in appropriate places.

                  1. re: hrhboo

                    Well...it's the passive aggressive thing with my mom where she'll go begrudgingly and then complain about how she never likes that kind of food afterwards. So, we've learned that it's just better to go w/ Chinese food. They are picky eaters. I complain that my American born and bred kids are picky eaters but they're much easier than my parents! I can take them to any kind of restaurant and know they'll be fine but not my parents.

                    1. re: chowser

                      how about everytime I'm with my Italian grandparents in Florida - they will choose to eat at an Italian chain like Macaroni Grill, and then they only get the salad and calamari. they still complain profusely about the meal afterwards, and really don't interpret most of the menu as Italian anyway. i don't get it.
                      you are lucky your family will eat in good places. it is next to impossible to find good italian food in this country that is not super super expensive. invariably, we say we should've stayed at home. maybe it's just a self-esteem booster for my grandmother -

                      1. re: fara

                        Reminds me of a short story were I learned that we were going to Europe (particularly Italy) for a wedding and was/am excited at the prospects. My father immediately remarked that he heard (from Chinese friends/coworkers) that they felt there was nothing to eat in Italy, just pizza and pasta!

                    2. re: hrhboo

                      I recently read results from a study on "what nationality are the best tourists" and China fared poorly, primarily because of the impression that they were not interested in local foods. Regardless of the country being visited - they wanted Chinese cuisine. So it's not just your parents, it appears endemic.

                      Btw, the US fared well, behind only the Japanese (who, in addition to being polite and decent tippers, apparently enjoy other foods than their own).

                      1. re: Panini Guy

                        That's interesting about the study--it's very similar to what I've experienced. But, my parents have been in this country for over 40 years so at some point, you'd think they might have adapted! I thought it was interesting in this discussion of whether Americans are pickier than other cultures. I think people tend to like the foods they grew up with and many have problems with other foods.

                        1. re: Panini Guy

                          I am not surprised. In Japan it's custom to bring back a regional specialty to share with your workplace when you come back from vacation so other people can share part of your vacation experience. I lived in a decent-sized city and there was a variety of chain and non-chain ethnic restaurants from which to choose, and many of the pubs also offered a more international menu.

                          1. re: queencru

                            Being from Minnesota, I thought a perfect "omiyagi" (gift you bring back from a trip) would be wild rice. Ha ha. You shoulda seen the looks on their faces. (Like, WTF?) The Japanese I know would barely even consider anything other than white rice.

                          2. re: Panini Guy

                            When I was in Rome with my parents, my Dad (who is Chinese from the Philippines) was on a mission to find Chinese food. We spent the whole day walking around Rome in search of a Chinese restaurant to satisfy my Dad's craving. Fortunately, we had a wonderful day exploring the city on foot, eating gelato along the way, and eventually found a decent Chinese restaurant that had my Dad smiling at the end of the night. It was neat hearing the servers speak Chinese to each other, Italian to the other guests, and English to us.

                            1. re: avena

                              THere used to be more than one (several) Ristorante Cinese in the Quattro Fontane area. One of my most indelible experiences in Rome occurred on the Metro - sitting across from two elderly Chinese matrons speaking Italian in a very high-pitched sing-song accent with vivid hand gesticulations. The Eternal City.

                            2. re: Panini Guy

                              This reminds me of going on tour groups with my parents as a kid. We'd book the tours outside of the US (a European tour that was based out of Paris, for example). My parents would often look towards tours run by the Chinese community because of the language barrier. That's fine, but the tours would always, always take you to the most awful Chinese restaurants wherever it stopped. Imagine being in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Belgium and eating Chinese food the entire time. It was simply what most of their customers demanded.

                              My parents do prefer Chinese food and living in Los Angeles, there's no shortage of it. However, they wouldn't complain when exposed to other foods. My mother, of all people, loves a properly made hamburger. Good quality beef, all the fixings, etc. She responds to McD's hamburgers with a glare.

                              1. re: geekyfoodie

                                Ha! In May, I was at Neuschwanstein Castle outside Munich and eating lunch after the tour. A Large group of Chinese tourists were lined up at the food court are. One saw me hacking away at a whole roasted chicken (shared w/ my mom). She pointed and yelled, "CHICKEN!?!?" and I yelled back "Yes!" This huge smile across her face, and all the other Chinese tourists got really excited and were nodding, chattering, and smiling.
                                I can only imagine they were tired of the spaetzles, schnitzels, and boiled white potatoes (although I cannot imagine that.) very funny.

                                1. re: stellamystar

                                  Where were these tours when I was a kid? My parents must have missed the memo. Out of a two-week tour around a handful of European countries (needless to say, we didn't stop for long anywhere), we had about three "native" meals. The rest were Chinese food. It was really tragic.

                                  I'd take food court German food in Munich (lovely city, great health care... which is an entirely different story) over lousy Chinese food everywhere. I did luck out as we were based out of Paris and my mother had spent nearly a decade there, so we had lots of opportunities to sample Parisian cuisine, but everywhere else... not so much.

                                  1. re: stellamystar

                                    The only thing I got sick of in Germany was doner kebab- I could have done with more the the stereotypical stuff actually.

                                2. re: Panini Guy

                                  Does that explain why, when we were traveling in China, our private tour guide kept trying to foist "western style breakfast" on us? Sorry, I don't eat SPAM at home and I sure ain't gonna eat it here. Seriously, why would I travel 3000 miles so I could eat a bad version of something at home. I actually played the "I'm a vegetarian" card (I'm not) so they would let me eat at the Chinese buffet instead. Apparently, in the guides experience, most westerners preferred western style breakfast.

                              2. re: chowser

                                "In the US, we're much more exposed to different cultures and expected to eat a wider variety of foods."

                                This might be true in some urban areas, but much of America has grown up without exposure to the variety of food available in our country. I, for example, grew up in the outskirts of DC in an Irish family that only ate meat and potato-type dishes. No spices. No unusual meats (never had lamb or veal or even fish other than fish sticks and frozen crabcakes). And very few fresh veggies - mostly canned or frozen and cooked until limp. My dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. still eat this way. My sister got exposed to new foods when travelling abroad. I developed a taste for 'ethnic' foods while working in restaurants.

                                Another poster made a point in another thread that as Chowhounds, we are the minority in this country. Most people stick with what they know, which is why chains are so popular. As to the food allergy thing, the American diet has been out of whack for a very, very long time.

                                1. re: mojoeater

                                  Sounds just like my childhood. (German heritage growing up in South Dakota.) Don't forget the canned mushrooms.

                              3. I'm applauding alongside Amandine. While allergies and intolerances exist, there are an alarming number of people who use the phrase "I can't eat ____" to mean "I won't eat ____". Such is the case with lactose intolerance. Only a tiny percentage of people (more common in Asian cultures) are truly afflicted to the point where they can't handle small amounts of dairy, yet everyone knows someone who claims to suffer from it.

                                People should have the good sense to stick to what they are willing and able to eat, not expect restaurants to pander to their every whim making increasingly complicated modifications. Leaving out an ingredient or serving dressing on the side has become so commonplace in this country that it is seen as a right as opposed to a priviledge. And if a chef should dare insist that people eat his food the way he intended it he is immediately viewed as a "nazi". This would never fly in Europe, where chefs not only flat out refuse to make substitutions but will happily boot you out of their establishment if you so much as suggest it. More power to them.

                                16 Replies
                                1. re: hrhboo

                                  Being lactose intolerant is not uncommon, especially among Asians, even Asian Americans. Having milk allergies is much less common where having a drop can have serious consequences. The problem with lactose intolerance is not having a drop but not knowing how much will cause a reaction. And, my parents said they've found, as they get older, that it gets worst. My mom's biggest complaint is that she used to love cheesecake and now can't have it. But, her response to it is bad enough that she doesn't want to take the chance and find out, too late, that the piece she had was too large.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I'm aware that lactose intolerance is very common amongst Asians and edited my above post to reflect that. I'm referring more specifically to Caucasians. I work with a woman who picks the cheese off pizza but will happily polish off a bowl of ice cream. I guess for her the consequences are worth it in some instances and not in others.

                                    1. re: hrhboo

                                      Actually the cheese in pizza (mozarrella) is VERY high in lactose compared to your garden-variety icecream... I can't eat mozarella at all, but I can have a small bowl of cheap icecream with no problems, as long as it was the only dairy I've had that day. Cheap icecream has a lot of air in it and a lot of things that aren't milk to dilute the 'milkiness' (if you let a bowl of cheap icecream sit there and melt, the volume is quite small) but mozarella cheese is milk plain and simple, and as a 'raw' cheese it hasn't been aged long enough for any of the lactose in it to be digested.

                                      I don't make an issue of it because it's not fatal, but if I have the wrong thing, I'll definitely know about it about two hours later, and if I have too much, it's miserable!
                                      And yes, you have to choose your battles...

                                      1. re: Kajikit

                                        Mozzarella isn't higher in lactose that ice cream at all. It contains around 0.08g per ounce, which is much less than any commercial ice cream (1 oz of ice cream would contain around 2-6g of lactose regardless of volume). Most of the lactose is drained out with the whey, so even if mozzarella isn't aged it's still pretty low.

                                        Having said that, you know your body (and what it can handle) better than anybody else.

                                        1. re: hrhboo

                                          Speaking as someone who just this morning made a fresh batch of cherry vanilla ice cream....

                                          I'm sure Kajikit isn't talking about the weight of the ice cream. Think about it-- unless you're on a special diet, who measures their ice cream servings by weight? It's always measured by scoops.

                                          Part of the way that cheap ice cream makers save money is by whipping large amounts of air into the final product. In the industry it's called 'overrun' ("the % increase in volume of ice cream greater than the amount of mix used to produce that ice cream"... google it) My ice cream and B&J's has a very low overrun, which means it contains more milk per scoop, and therefore more lactose.

                                          Kajikit is only saying that because the cheaper ice cream contains less milk per scoop, it's better for her lactose intolerance (although I would argue that the weird artificial fillers in cheap ice cream might be hurting other parts of her, but that's another post entirely!)

                                          Mr Taster
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                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            I got that, but ice cream still contains at least double the amount of lactose that mozzarella contains. It was the statements:
                                            "Actually the cheese in pizza (mozarrella) is VERY high in lactose compared to your garden-variety icecream" and
                                            "mozarella cheese is milk plain and simple, and as a 'raw' cheese it hasn't been aged long enough for any of the lactose in it to be digested" that I was objecting to. Neither of these statements are accurate.

                                            I know that Kajikit knows her tolerance level better than anyone else and what works best for her, and I'm not disputing that at all!

                                            1. re: hrhboo

                                              Perhaps it would be better to say that mozarella has much more lactose in it than an aged cheese like parmesan? Plus the volume used is much greater...
                                              And when I said 'icecream' I meant the el cheapo stuff... as I found out just the other day, Norgen Vaas is too much for my poor stomach, even WITH a lactaid. :( I don't sit there with a scale and weigh it - I just eat it, and hope that the lactose-consumption equation balances out for the day...

                                    2. re: chowser

                                      By these numbers, 80-90 % of people of non-European descent are lactose intolerant.

                                      http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddisea...

                                      It is selfishness, a lack of respect, and arrogance by the people making the modifications as well as people who view .. I won't eat, I don't like to eat, I don't feel like that at the moment, I think I may be intolerant and don't want to eat too much of that, .. as reasons to force the particular food on a person who does not lie and say .. I am allergic.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I'm lactose intolerant as well but have been able to incorporate some things as I have gotten older strangely enough. I still can't drink milk unless I want to be one of the Wayan brothers in "White Chicks",. but for some reason I can drink chocolate milk without any problems. I can also eat ice cream, but I think that may be due to the fact that ice cream contains cream which doesn't contain lactose. I can usually eat a fair amount of cheese, but I really don't like the taste of it unless its melted.

                                      2. re: hrhboo

                                        Actually most studies show that roughly 70% of the adult humans in the world are lactose intolerant. Barring groups of people of northern european ancestry and some cattle raising peoples in Africa, that number goes up to about 90%.

                                        1. re: Jule

                                          Plenty of people suffer from it to a degree, but not to the point that they can't handle small amounts of dairy once in a while. Barring people of Asian descent (using your logic here) there are very few people so seriously affected by it.

                                          1. re: hrhboo

                                            It's funny, I've heard that before about Asian people as well. My wife is from Taiwan and I have been there several times, and eaten ice cream and Taiwanese desserts (with condensed milk) with many of my wife's friends and family and yet nobody has ever complained to seemed to have had a problem. I really think that hyper awareness of lactose intolerance in our culture exacerbates the symptoms. Regardless, this begs further research... I'll have to ask some more questions!

                                            Mr Taster
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                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Thank you!!! It's the hyper-awareness contributing to the assumption that so many people can't eat any dairy AT ALL that is so ludicrous. Most lactose intolerant people (if they are, in fact, lactose intolerant) can handle small quantities every so often.

                                              1. re: hrhboo

                                                There's another thread about MSG "sensitivity." What folks don't realize is that it is naturally occuring in soy products, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheeses, etc. So are they "sensitive" to those things too?

                                                1. re: mojoeater

                                                  I think it's because of the amount of MSG rather than any at all. Also, things that occur naturally can affect your body quite differently than things where the ingredient is an additive. I know that any time I eat a meal with a ton of salt or MSG in it, I swell up like I've been pumped full of air. Doesn't stop me eating out, but I'm always careful to have an extremely low salt diet for the next couple of days. I tend to use little salt in my home cooking, and grew up in a low salt household, so I think my body has adapted to that and now prefers it.

                                                  I have a severe melon allergy to the point where I can't even touch melon without developing severe hives and I can't tell you the number of times people (who aren't even doctors on TV) have told me that my allergy is impossible. My MIL gave me the hairy eyeball about it until I picked up a piece of watermelon to give my daughter and forgot to wash my hands immediately. I looked like I'd been burned. I tend to take food allergies seriously. Sure, sometimes it's just picky, but sometimes, even if it's an odd allergy, it can be real.

                                        2. re: hrhboo

                                          Thunderous applause coming from someone in the service industry. I love that this thread came out of the Father's Office line of complaints. It's interesting how Americans react when we don't get our "choices". We are spoiled and blessed at the same time.

                                        3. "My theory is that our nitpickiness is one of the privileges of living in a wealthy society where we have the time to consider such things."

                                          Because...everyone in Asia lives in cardboard boxes and works 23 and a half hours a day for six cents a month? You're generalizing, hugely, and in ways that are rather insulting to the countries you're asking about.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                            I think Mr Taster is more getting at the sense of.... entitlement in the U.S. The privilege of living in a society where it is acceptable to expect to "have it MY way" every day, all the time just because we can. I don't get that impression as strongly from the cultures in most other countries, but I might be mistaken because I haven't spent a significant amount of time in any other country but the U.S.

                                            I'd be interested to hear what people in the restaurant biz have to say about this... and how interesting would it be to hear from someone who's worked both in the U.S. and abroad...

                                            1. re: amandine

                                              I have lived and worked in the US and Japan--which I consider a wealthy society. In Japan I dined out often. In my experience with Japanese people I never witnessed anyone making modifications when ordering. Also they would never send anything back or complain even if it was awful! They would just not eat it and never order it again or never visit that restaurant again. This type of attitude extended outside of food as well. It is not general practice to return anything you've bought from a store either.
                                              I work in the restaurant biz now (waiting tables) and sometimes I feel that some establishments encourage the sense of entitlement by offering so many fricken options and choices (starbucks style)!!! y'know--what kind of bread do you want? what kind of cheese? dressing? While that's nice and all, I can see how this (what seems to be specific American) hospitality could foster the mode of thought on the other end "have to have it MY way every day and if fact I deserve nothing less" .While I would never want to completely obliterate this accomodating type of service from our culture ( although believe me with certain guests I've had my fantasies), I do find it extremely refreshing that certain (hated) establishments are offering no choice. This is how the chef intended it, take it or leave it.

                                          2. I think there is a big difference complaining something is too spicy
                                            vs. being sort of high maint about food, like making mom cut the
                                            crusts off your PBJ or it having to be cut diagonally.

                                            I do think Indians are some what more conservative ingredient-wise
                                            than say the Chinese people ... beef and pig not that big in india for
                                            obvious reasons, aside from fish and shrimp and crab, dont eat a
                                            lot of strange fruit de mer, dont eat raw fish/meat. Dont eat snails,
                                            snakes, civet, sea cucumbers, shellfish, alligator, horse, insects.

                                            I do think less food is wasted in Indian households. I'm always
                                            surprised at how much food lefty people here waste.

                                            With respect to the children examples, this might be more a matter
                                            of how much different societies coddle children. Somewhat bizarrely,
                                            when i was a kid visiting India, I was ordered to eat things I hated [like
                                            the freshwater fish curries], but in the later teens and as an adult
                                            I was excused from eating stuff I hated and if anything they tried
                                            to serve me stuff Iliked. Now it's reasonable to have the attitude
                                            that ad adult should just suck it up, but I think they just didnt distinguish
                                            between the usual kinds of things kids dont like but later come to
                                            appreciate [like say bitter stuff] and stuff I really did hate and hate to
                                            this day ... I think they just didnt take an 8yrs old opinion seriously.
                                            But this level of coddling obviously stretches to things beyond food.

                                            I think there are other forms of pickiness that are obviously effects of wealth ...
                                            $100wine, $30lb chocolate. I kinda wonder if you lived there and claimed the
                                            only chocolates worth eating were +$30lbs, whether that would widely be seen
                                            in a negative light. I suppose there are tea snobs there, but I dont think that
                                            generally reaches the same level as wine/chocolate people here.

                                            Anyway, I think "picky" is a bit of an imprecise term since there are so many
                                            different phenomena that can be so described. My mother is unhappy if she
                                            cant eat rice at least once a day, which means she usually doesnt like airplane
                                            food. but she'll just eat what they give her. Now the food snob who drives around
                                            town to put together his own food kit for a plane trip ... who's the picky one?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: psb

                                              I don't know what it is they serve on NWA, but I certainly can't call it food.

                                            2. I have a Mexican friend who hates hot peppers. And my husband's co-worker, born and bred in Szechuan (China), HATES spicy food. Even some American food is too hot for him. He thinks we're nuts for eating at our local lip-numbing Szechuan restaurant.

                                              Tastebuds are the same the world over - similar variations occur everywhere. It's not always just nitpicking.

                                              Anne

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                I agree, my Chinese grandmother is a very particular eater, doesn't like spicy foods, doesn't like sour foods (especially sweet and sour), doesn't like the taste of garlic, etc.

                                                My family is also not partial to the presentation and look of most Indian foods that have sauce and feel that everything looks like sludge.

                                                1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                  Yes but consider how different the situation would have been had your husband's co-worker never left Szechuan. (I was in Szechuan, in both the cities and the boondocks, for about 2 weeks last year). The food there, generally, is blisteringly spicy but that's just the way food is prepared there. Sure you could go out of your way to find a place that specializes in a less-spicy cuisine from a different region of China (hell, in Chengdu you might even find a TGIFridays), but when a society has a diet very closely associated with their culture (and there are dozens if not hundreds of distinct cultures in China, each with an indigenous and unique diet), most people will not go out of their way on a regular basis to seek out alternatives... particularly in a communist society where people do not think very much about alternative ways of doing things (this is a whole other topic, based on my experience with Chinese people in their homeland)

                                                  Therefore, *most* people in Szechuan will eat very spicy food for most of their meals, just as *most* people in America will be eating some kind of American food on their lunch break from work tomorrow (maybe a soup, sandwich, some fruit, etc.) Bear in mind that I'm talking about sweeping generalizations of our cultural diet now, not about quirky individuals (like us chowhounds) whose exceptions prove the rule.

                                                  Of course it's true that it's getting very difficult to define what exactly is America's indigenous diet now since one could argue that as a nation of immigrants, our indigenous diet includes Italian food, Chinese food, and increasingly Mexican food, sushi and the like. Compared to us, a relatively isolated region of the world (culinarily) like Szechuan, China has little ambiguity as to what their indigenous diet is, and if your husband's friend had never left Szechuan, he would likely not be complaining about the heat because he would have few resources by which to compare. In fact I'm willing to bet that his aversion to spicy foods came well after his immigration to America, where he was likely very motivated to assimilate into his new culture and his new life. (I think it's probably pretty common for a new immigrant to see their newly adopted homeland through rose colored glasses) I really think he probably didn't know he didn't like spicy food until he came to America.

                                                  Just my 2c

                                                  Mr Taster
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                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    >> Iif your husband's friend had never left Szechuan, he would likely not be complaining about the heat because he would have few resources by which to compare.

                                                    Wrong. He says he has always disliked spicy food, ever since he was young. I'm confused by your statement that "he would have few resources by which to compare." Of course he could compare spicy food to non-spicy food - not all Szechuan dishes are wildly hot. Same with Mexican and other foods - there's a very wide variety of dishes, and people develop their own tastes.

                                                    Sorry that this doesn't fit your theory.

                                                    Anne

                                                2. This thread is not what I thought it was about based on the title.... But I like it.

                                                  In some ways, food pickiness was a contributing factor to my closing my cheese shop. "I want cheese that wasn't made from milk"..... um..... okaaay. All day long, another food issue, and it made me very sceptical- case in point:

                                                  My favorite was a customer that had self-diagnosed herself with a casein intolerance/allergy, so therefore couldn't eat cow's milk ot goat's milk cheeses, only sheep's milk cheeses. I always had plenty, as sheep's milk cheeses are my absolute favorite, but, a little research showed the folly of her self-diagnosis.

                                                  Sheep's milk has 4.3-4.6% casein, Cow's milk has 2.5-3.6%, and goat's milk has 2.5-3.3%.

                                                  So, she could only tolerate the cheese with the *most* casein, although she was intolerant of that?

                                                  In short, I think a lot of people just make this stuff up. They self-diagnose a cough on the internet, and decide they have SARS, or drug resistant Tuberculosis. When they really just have a cold.

                                                  Unfortunately, in the food biz, you have to smile and accomodate. Because someone might possibly be telling the truth.

                                                  And I do appreciate the other responses- very thought provoking indeed.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: cheesemonger

                                                    I know any one here who has an allergy is going to jump on me for this, but I read a statistic that something like 75% of 'allergies' diagnosed in the U.S. are really non-existant, but a product of the minds of parents and their children. Basically, the article was saying that the parent wants to think something is wrong with their kid (often citing behavioral problems), comes to the doctor, who is left to come up with some sort of diagnosis, so they claim an allergy. I believe lactose intolerance was the highest of the percentages.

                                                    On the topic of the OP I believe that when kids are trained to grow up eating what is put in front of them (as oppose to having the option to turn it down and get something else instead) they learn to like it. I have seen this living all over the world, children in other countries just didn't say "no I don't like this" ever. Even I, myself who HATE ham, and never had a problem with avoiding it (I'm Jewish) had to learn to like it because it is simply impossible to get food in Uruguay with out ham in it...you can train yourself to change.

                                                    1. re: dagoose

                                                      This is VERY interesting and I am inclined to agree with you. I just wish my poor sister who is allergic to shellfish could eat shrimp again like she used to when she was younger. Around highschool age she developed an allergy where if she ate any shellfish she would puff up like a blowfish. buh bye shrimp tempura and carefree dim sum eating! Don't know what happened...

                                                      1. re: Hapafish

                                                        Right, obviously I'm not saying everyone is making this up. There are certain foods to which people are prone to allergies--often severe ones. One of these items being peanuts, another being shellfish (my mother cannot eat abalone or mussels, poor woman)...

                                                        But doctors know what foods people are prone to be allergic to--and which ones they aren't.

                                                  2. Well, I'm not Indian, but live with someone from that country. What I have found interesting is that he and members of his family are more picky about particular COMBINATIONS of food than the foods themselves. For example, he loves peas, and loves onions, but refuses to even consider eating a dish that has both peas and onions in it. It can make cooking tricky, as I never quite know what the unwanted combination is until its refused. I think its kind of a yin-yang thing....don't the Chinese have similar beliefs about certain food combinations not being compatable?

                                                    Several of my husband's sisters will do semi-fasts on certain dates where they won't eat certain food. For example, one won't eat onions on certain dates. As far as I can tell there may be some (Hindu) religious significance to this, but unfortunately DH has been secular so long that he just shrugs and says "I don't know why she won't eat that today...."

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                      >As far as I can tell there may be some (Hindu)
                                                      >religious significance to this ...
                                                      >
                                                      yeah, that's right. however, it's a lot more involved than
                                                      "i keep kosher/i dont keep kosher".

                                                      --there are people who dont eat beef.

                                                      --there are people who dont eat any meat.

                                                      --garlic and onons have some special status.

                                                      --there are people who dont eat certain things on
                                                      certain days of the week [various days of the week
                                                      have postive/negative connotations ... actually
                                                      "auspicious"/inauspicious is probably a better word ...
                                                      some of this is on te boundary of religion and superstition
                                                      [e.g. "what day of the week you can move to a new house"].

                                                      --then there are other rules based on lunar calendar issues
                                                      [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekadashi].

                                                      there are people who fast periodically, people who fast
                                                      for special occasions ... some are close to "mandatory"
                                                      other are just considered "good to do voluntarily".

                                                      the amount of pressure to do various things vary by
                                                      event and what community you are in.

                                                      >refuses to even consider eating a dish that has both peas and onions in it
                                                      >
                                                      hmm, that's kinda odd. there are pureed onions in lots of sauces.
                                                      of the common indian restaurant dishes, see e.g. ALU MATAR
                                                      [peas+potato curry].

                                                      ok tnx.

                                                      1. re: psb

                                                        keeping "kosher" is not an either/or category. there are a huge number of variations among people who keep kosher. there are variations among different sects, among ashkenazi vs. sephardim, variation in what people will eat at home, what they'll eat out, what they'll eat at nonkosher friends' houses, the degree to which they accept the dairy and meat separation, not eating pork, not eating shellfish, not eating vegetables or tuna b/c there might be non-kosher animals (such as insects or near microscopic water bugs) in them. not eating the vegetables with water bugs before the rabbi ordains not to eat them, not eating them after, choosing to ignore it. it gets extremely complicated and i haven't even gone into it.

                                                        1. re: fara

                                                          yes, i understand there are different interpretations of kosher and there is a
                                                          bit of a spectrum in terms of observance, but in the case of some indian
                                                          dietary issues, things that manifest themselves on the surface as "dietary
                                                          restrictions" have different "theories" under the hood.

                                                          some examples are:
                                                          --foods X, Y, Z are completely proscribed
                                                          --because of event A, for time T i cannot eat foods X Y Z [say after
                                                          death of a parent]
                                                          --i will voluntarily not eat X, Y, Z on day of the week D because
                                                          it is an "laudible" sacrifice/austerity ... kinda like going on a voluntary
                                                          pilgrimage
                                                          --similar to above, but instead of by day of week, it is on a lunar calendar
                                                          cycle.
                                                          --dietary issues depending on "who you are", say widows

                                                          it's sort of like "giving up a food for lent" is different from "no fish on friday"
                                                          which in turn is different in rationale from kosher laws. or the restrictions
                                                          during Ramadan is a different phenomana than Halal rules.

                                                    2. There is a biological theory associated with certain food allergies that is called the "hygiene hypothesis." Some scientists believe that certain cultures are too antiseptic and that a lack of exposure to common infectious agents at a young age can cause the body to show an increase in allergic responses to previously common foods. This is a general idea behind most egg, wheat, milk, peanut, etc. food allergies in the United States.

                                                      My theory on the fact that so many people in the US are picky is that we have so many options. Earlier generations were instructed to eat what was on their plate without argument or "you're going to bed without dinner." These days, and I even see it in my generation (late X), kids get asked what they want for dinner and get to eat what they want anyways. It's kind of a shame. We have more cultural influence to our cuisine, but people don't want to take advantage of it.

                                                      1. I'm part Indian and grew up visiting cousins over in India on a fairly regular basis. I have two cousins, brother and sister, brother likes spicy food, sister doesn't. She would regularly complain to her mother about such and such being too spicy. However, what she was referring to was spicy heat, not spices in general. I think everyone has their own degree of tolerance for it. I have a friend who grew up in a pretty bland-food home, and I've heard her complain about spaghetti sauce being too spicy (what???). I love super spicy food and I can't eat marinara without loading up on some crushed red pepper.

                                                        I think in India there are obviously a greater number of people who will tolerate spicy food simply because of that being their indigenous food culture. Here, I don't necessarily think that complaining about spicy food is due to being spoiled, just due to most people being raised on blander food.

                                                        My mother grew up in a meat & potatoes home where ketchup and bananas were exotic. She's come a long way being married to an Indian, but still, if something is overly spiced, she acts like she's been violated.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: bookgirl

                                                          >if something is overly spiced, she acts like she's been violated.
                                                          >
                                                          i'm always amazed there are people so sensitive to "spiciness"
                                                          that they cant deal with dishes that are basically under my radar ...
                                                          things that i round to "0 spice", not even low spice. i've had people
                                                          get mad at me for "lying" about the spice level etc.

                                                          1. re: psb

                                                            Fascinating thread.

                                                            So along the lines of "lying" about ingredients, I have a tidbit to share. Recently, I brought herbs de provence back from France, for my neighbor who enjoys cooking with herbs and spices, but is sensitve (read stomachache) to garlic.

                                                            She gave the herb mix back to me the next day, because it had "garlic" in it. My explanation about fresher, more fragrant herbs was not believed. Her fear of possibly eating garlic was greater than her ability to believe that the herbs had no garlic.

                                                            1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                                              I was once picking out some canned salsas in a Danals supermarket in Dallas, Danals being a chain that speicalizes in Latino foods. Most of what I selected was indicated as being quite spicy.

                                                              Next to me were two women, talking in what seemd to me to be Mexican-accented Spanish. I deicded to ask their opinion of my selection. One said that, yes, they were very good, but, frankly, her family found them too spicy, preferring just a medium degree of heat.

                                                          2. re: bookgirl

                                                            I am also half-Indian, and I love spicy food. But when my sister's German in-laws visited us in San Francisco, we had a hard time making sure that all of their food was bland enough...for them, even black pepper was "zu scharf!!" (too spicy!) And when I brought some habaneros to Munich to make SF-style burritos for my friends, I nearly caused one of them to faint...no exaggeration, that was his physical response to my salsa!

                                                          3. I know this is an old thread, but so interesting I wanted to jump in. I work for a big multi-national with head offices in France, and so spend a lot of time in France, eating long catered corporate meals with colleagues from all over the world. The food served at these meals is very typical French: butter sauces, slow-cooked (or very, very rare) meat, delicate fish, creamy pastries, etc. Delicious, but, you know, subtle. Recently, our company profile has included more and more colleagues from India, who when they come to work in France are subjected to the same (catered) meals as the rest of us (vegetarians receive a special vegan menu). One afternoon I sat down to lunch with a lovely IT architect from Hyderabad, who chewed his sea bass in butter sauce with haricots vert mournfully and said, "You know, I always thought it was funny when westerners came to India and complained about the spicy food... but this is really bland. It tastes of nothing." Funny. I guess it's hard to stomach when it's not what you're used to. Some of my other Indian colleagues bring great pots of spices with them to jazz up the coq au vin, and others carry lots of spicy snacks to fortify themselves before dinner.

                                                            I will add, however, that it's only ever my countrymen from America who make a fuss about the food and ask for the carbs to be removed, no sauce, skip the butter, could I have it sauteéd in chicken broth instead, etc. Never a peep from diners of other nationalities. As well as having the hip spans and waistbands of fourteen year olds, the Europeans eat everything that's placed before them.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: sloepoke

                                                              I think it's partly due to the fact that Americans have too many choices.
                                                              Who needs 30 different varieties of toothpaste to choose from anyway?
                                                              I feel this has spoiled us & given some a feeling of entitlement. I think it sends a message that "yes, of course you have it your way!" We're also a disposable society. We can always get something new, better, etc...That leads us to think that all things are there for the taking & to be consumed. If we had less options we might be able to actually enjoy more. It doesn't help the cause that so many of our foods are processed either. Chemicals begin to taste good to people & they don't even notice that they are there. Another thing is that a lot of people don't eat to enjoy food, they eat just to sustain themselves. I do understand diet restrictions, don't get me wrong. That's another issue in it's self...

                                                              Does any of this make sense?

                                                            2. I know tons of people from other cultures who are picky eaters.

                                                              By the way, Japanese people may pretend to like food from other places, but I think they like the Japanized version the best. I once took a Japanese friend (international student in the US for 6 mo.) to an Italian restaurant, where ALL THROUGHOUT THE MEAL, she kept marvelling at the tomatoes in her sauce, specifically, how many tomatoes had been used to make the sauce. At the end of the meal, she made a brief reference to the fact that tomato sauce in Japan is basically....ketchup. Yum.

                                                              1. Ok so here is a few additions:

                                                                I have a friend who is Indian he will only eat: chicken and mashed potatoes, pizza, burgers, sandwhiches, and that is about it. We went to a sushi place in Miami not knowing he was coming too and he showed up and they had nothing he would eat on the menu after arguing with the server they brought the chef out who agreed to make him a burger. I was a little worried about that burger, after that fight.

                                                                Also what about Jewish, Islamic and Seventh Day Adventist eating restrictions? It can be very restrictive due to religion. It is nitpicking for a reason their religion which is very important, but a restriction none the less. My roommate in college was Jamaican and a seventh day adventist and wouldn't eat pork or shellfish due to her religion. Even growing up in Jamaica she had never eaten a lobster or other shellfish, and she was also really picky with other things. She liked spicy food, but wouldn't eat a lot of things that her religion allowed: as I remember no mushrooms, no coconut, other things, she preffered jerk chicken, chicken nuggets I can't remember her eating Italian food, no sushi, etc.

                                                                In a privilleged society yes you get more choices, and can choose to be picky, but there are a lot of societies as privilleged as ours or getting closer.

                                                                A chinese friend I went to college with had a father who owned all the Baskin Robins in Bejing as I recall, he ate mostly junk food, and was very picky.

                                                                Also my Aunt who grew up in Bermuda eating seafood because back then that was what the poor people ate developed an iodine allergy later in life and now cannot touch seafood. I am sure this happens to others in other coutries. Iodine allergies aren't that uncommon.

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                  This may be an entirely different show, but what about a correlation with picky eaters and obesity?? (I am speaking about US, since that is what I know).

                                                                  I have family, friends who are SOO picky and are obese. Of course, they generally do not eat veg, fruit, whole grains because they aren't hyper-flavored or babyfood soft. I am also overweight, but I have the opposite problem - too many choices, and no self control :) - i like it all.

                                                                  But, in America, where you can buy a 2 liter of soda for $1 or milk for $3, it is no wonder why some poor folks are becoming more obese. Let's see - I can make spaghetti for $3 or I can make a stir fry for $10.

                                                                  Or even worse, I can go to McDonalds and get a $4 Happy Meal over making vegetables or something better at home.

                                                                  Sorry, Chowhounders, for the rant but this is frustrating.

                                                                  1. re: stellamystar

                                                                    Oh, absolutely, thanks for bringing this up. This is the other side to the "privileged Westerners are picky", and is just a reality for a lot of kids raised in poverty.

                                                                    What us kids called 'welfare food' growing up was invariably carb heavy, relatively low protein, high salt and sugar, no fruit except frozen juice, and frozen peas and corn were the only vegetables. So, just saying. A lot of kids don't have the chance to eat out and try different foods. A lot of them are overweight, too, but this is more-so than when I was a kid.
                                                                    My sister's pretty wealthy now, but she still eats a plate of mashed potatoes with peas and no gravy for Thanksgiving dinner. She hates whole grain bread, too. We just go with it. There's no arguing, we gave up years ago.
                                                                    (This is Canada, not the US, by the way)

                                                                    I agree that a lot of people adamant that they have food allergies or intolerances probably haven't been diagnosed as such, but I don't really understand why people get bent out of shape about it. I went to a restaurant with a friend who has a pepper allergy, and a skeptical server had a bit of a shock when we had to break out the epipen. Apparently she didn't bother to tell the kitchen and just scraped the garnish off. Oops. Food allergies aren't something to mess around with, even if you think they're silly or psychosomatic.

                                                                    I don't really know the numbers for food allergies in LDCs, but I bet they're lower for a lot of reasons, not least being the reduced likelihood of children carrying around epipens.

                                                                    1. re: ellaguru

                                                                      >and a skeptical server had a bit of a shock when
                                                                      >we had to break out the epipen.
                                                                      >
                                                                      how much of a tip did you leave?

                                                                    2. re: stellamystar

                                                                      You should read Marion Nestle's latest book (What to Eat?) where she skeptically checks the FDA's claim that you can get your servings of fruit & veg for 64c a day. She is very shocked to find that it works out. I think because the serving sizes are rather small, but even so, it's not as expensive as you would imagine.

                                                                      That being said, soda and other non/fake food items are far far far cheaper.

                                                                      1. re: willownt

                                                                        The critical part of this discussion that often gets neglected or ignored by those who espouse the "personal choice and responsibility over all else" (i.e. the "if you're fat, it's your fault" crowd) argument is the ephemeral yet very real and powerful psychological power of food habits, and particularly the food we are raised on, which roots itself so deeply in our psyches of who we are.

                                                                        Case in point-- is it coincidental that, on the whole, adults who come here from China, for example, complain that our desserts are too sweet and rich? Their reference point for what tastes sweet and what tastes fatty starts at a much lower tolerance level. (aside of the occasional greasy moon cake, Chinese desserts tend to be of the shaved ice/red bean/drizzled condensed milk variety).

                                                                        Therefore, it is not difficult for a typical Chinese person to turn away from eating an entire super-sized brownie ice cream sundae because the whole thing appears just so grotesquely obscene.

                                                                        Let's flip the coin-- I am American. When I visit my wife's homeland of Taiwan, one of her favorite snacks is a grilled rice cake cooked in pigs blood. She *loves* them. Her parents and sisters love them. Her friends love them. I can bring myself to eat about one half of one rice grain. It's not difficult for me to resist the temptation of eating copious, excessive amounts of bloody rice cakes just as it is not difficult for my mother-in-law to resist eating half a box of truffles.

                                                                        Is it that Taiwanese people are genetically disposed to enjoying bloody rice cakes whereas Americans are not? Do Taiwanese people somehow possess a strain of DNA which affords them excess willpower to resist rich desserts? Of course not. It's all to do with socialization, how you grew up, and the food habits you learned.

                                                                        Mr Taster
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                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                          Absolutely.

                                                                          And in my opinion, a strong sense of meal-ness makes someone more inclined to eat healthier than just eating large numbers of food items (potato chips, carrot sticks, chocolate bar) that are usually high-calorie but ultimately are not filling, and are often devoid of a meal-like environment that psychologically contributes to a person feeling that they're eaten. Making a person overeat because they weren't satisfied to begin with.

                                                                          Marion Nestle (didn't I just mention her?) also refutes the idea that we should just graze all day long. In her opinion, that just leads to more eating.

                                                                        2. re: willownt

                                                                          Willownt - thanks for the suggestion on the Nestle's book - I will check it out.

                                                                    3. I agree in large part with you.
                                                                      India is a developing country with a history of political ineptitude. I was brought up taught *never* to waste food and a lot of children don't have any. I still have this attitude and try to inculcate the same values in my daughter. This may be less true today than it was say 25 years ago due to advances in government policies and technology, however, as a society, we are considerably behind countries like the US, when it comes to standard of living.

                                                                      Having said all of that, spoiled people are all over the place. Visit *any* North Indian marriage - you'll find mountains of food thrown on to the ground - without any thought of perhaps donating the excess.

                                                                      Another comments, perhaps unrelated: I find many references to 'Indian' food, at numerous sites. There really isn't any entity called 'Indian food'. India is a land of extreme differences. Punjabi food [from punjab] is totally different from Rajasthani food [from rajasthan] which is poles apart from South Indian food [which includes Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka... all of which share some similarities, but are distinct in their own right]. I'm guess the ubiquitous 'curry' has led to this perception. I'd love to know what others think!

                                                                      Sid

                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                      1. In India last year I was taken out for lunch at an Indonesian restaurant - all my Indian work colleages came along; it was a big treat for them. (I was working in Chennai/Madras).
                                                                        I had the hot and sour soup - as did a few others. I was the only one who could eat it; the Indians said it was too spicy!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Peg

                                                                          thats happening a little more these days - we are going through a culture shift.

                                                                          :)

                                                                          Sid

                                                                        2. It's funny...My father is Indian, and my mother American. Yet when we go out to dinner, it's my mother that is clamoring for the hot sauce, and my father who implores the waiters at the Thai restaurant (my mom's favorite cuisine) to go easy on the spice! I never asked him, but maybe he has a delicate digestive system or perhaps he is just used to his own family's (very bland) North Indian cooking. Myself, I love spicy food to death, but the next day I often regret it...I still keep ordering my Thai, Indian and Mexican extra-hot.

                                                                          1. i occasionally fondly remember this episode at a middle eastern shawarma place
                                                                            some years ago.

                                                                            i was in line behind a caucasian customer who was asked by the middle eastern fellow
                                                                            behind the counter, "spicy?" while holding up a generous amount of red chilli paste
                                                                            to apply to the lavash. he sort of blanched and said "uh medium spicy" and the chilli paste
                                                                            was duly reduced. then i slid on over and said "SPICY IS OK!" ... and then he grinned,
                                                                            looked over at the previous customer, looked back at me [i am indian] and asked "spicy
                                                                            or *INDIAN* spicy". i of course said "INDIAN SPICY!" ... it was a good call on his part
                                                                            to look me over, recalibrate and inquire ... usually i feel shawermas could use a little
                                                                            more fire. anyway, i guess you had to be there to get the brown people spice
                                                                            solidarity vibe.

                                                                            i am a little curious why the OP picked india as the "chilli people". or is spicy != chilli?
                                                                            it seems like a lot of thai restos here take pride in their "thai spicy" >> "spicy" set spice
                                                                            level to kill setting for some dishes ... "how many chillis? you want us to make it 5chilli
                                                                            rating?"

                                                                            if we ask a "family feud" type question like "think of a flower" i think pretty clearly "rose"
                                                                            will win. if you ask "what country do you think of when i say chilli", does india win?
                                                                            not mexico?

                                                                            has anybody on CH actually tried a BHOOT JOLOKIA chilli ... the "most powerful chilli
                                                                            in the world"?

                                                                            ok tnx.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: psb

                                                                              On the flipside, here in Minnesota I often ask "Is the salsa really hot, or (just) Minnesota hot?"

                                                                            2. It's funny that you specifically mention chicken nuggets in your post. When I was a kid we had family friends whose daughter- the same age as me- refused to eat anything but chicken nuggets. And not just any chicken nuggets- they had to be from McDonald's. Her parents would actually go to McDonald's, buy massive amounts of chicken mcnuggets and freeze them for her. I believe she would also eat McDonald's french fries. I remember my mom saying it was lucky for her she wasn't born in rural China as she'd have a hard time procuring McDonald's chicken mcnuggets over there.

                                                                              So in that way, yes, her nitpickiness was without a doubt enabled by her wealth (her dad was a publisher for Kiplinger's, btw) and the indulgence of a society which believes in giving your kids anything they want.

                                                                              On the other hand, I was surprised when I stayed with a family in Ghana one summer and the little boy, about five years old, was quite a picky eater as well. The family repertoire of meals consisted of about four or five different dishes and he didn't like many of them, so often they just made him plain white rice for dinner. Reminded me of my old friend and her chicken nuggets!

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Olallieberry

                                                                                The children's book "Let's Eat!" (with pictures and text about 5 kids around the world) contains a profile of a young Thai girl who avoides chiles at all cost!

                                                                                Most people around the world, throughout time, don't move around. They stay put. And, I daresay, they eat the same 5 dishes every day, for their entire lives. And they're happy.

                                                                                I think some people are just more daring than others. When visiting my in-laws, one of my kids' cousins wanted to try EVERYTHING! Most of it she liked, too. Except cheddar cheese! ha.

                                                                                1. re: Olallieberry

                                                                                  About 100 years ago when I was very young, I knew a little boy who would only eat bread and a few other things. His mama would entreat, or attempt to entice, but often to no avail. There was obviously some dynamic apart from eating which was involved; perhaps the kid was exercising the only power he had in his family.

                                                                                  My sister was a picky eater, and now even as she is quite overweight, she still has pronounced dislikes. One of her children is as an adult quite picky as well. A young nephew on my husband's side, was also picky. It was offensive to see his grandma practically on his chair, trying to get him to eat. You want to say, "leave the kid alone!"

                                                                                  Neither my husband nor I am particularly picky. My kids will eat almost anything. I think family preferences and behaviors influence food choices and attitudes. And maybe there is a genetic component as well.

                                                                                  Having said that, I almost always ask for salad dressing on the side at restaurants. Personally, I think that is a reansonable request.

                                                                                2. One major difference in my family (Indian) is that I was never allowed to eat a separate meal than what the rest of the family was eating. My mother and grandmother made one set of foods that everyone was expected to eat. Even if I didn't like something, I ate it. This only changed if I was sick.

                                                                                  We ate out so rarely that it was a treat, no matter what we got.

                                                                                  I think this is a problem primarily for middle-class or upper middle-class folks, as the poor folks and somewhat-poor folks in India didn't have a choice...they were happy to have dal and rice.

                                                                                  1. here is an interesting thought what about DNA playing at least some roll in this
                                                                                    i mean they have shown certain groups show a tendency toward diabetes or high cholesterol etc....