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What to do when partners are not interested in food and prefer processed junk?

I am extremely passionate (to the point of obsession; hence my spending hours on Chowhound and other food websites) about delicious yet nutritious food, always attempting new recipes, craving never-tasted before exotic flavours that are healthy and varied. My boyfriend, on the other hand, although he eats whatever I make for dinner with various degrees of satisfaction (he praises me enough as he how important food is to me and how much effort I put into every single meal), would be happy with processed rubbish every day of his life, 'filling the gap' rather than lusting after food as I do. I know I won't change him nor would I want to do so but I can't help feeling rather frustrated about it...Has anyone got a similar problem? Have you found any coping mechanisms that you can share with me? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Short answer: Suck it up and give it time.

    This will probably get moved to the Not About Food Board. You should check out this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/573600 About people who don't like food. There was also a thread a couple months ago about a Co-worker with atrocious eating habits (Can't remember exact title). I think after reading those threads you will see that you are lucky that not only does he recognize your love of food, he graciously eats what you prepare. Give it time, keep feeding him healthy good food and he will (hopefully) eventually stop preferring processed food.

    1. I come from a family where the topic of conversation at breakfast is always what to have for dinner and so on around the clock. When my husband and I first started dating, I would eagarly ask "What would you like for dinner/" or "How was the dinner we just ate?" His answer was a shrug and the comment " It's only food." When he was single he would make a huge pot of tuna casserole or beans and hot dogs and eat it all week.
      Now, after 10 years of marriage we have adapted.
      Since he will eat almost anything ( except eggplant and brussel sprouts) I experiment to my heart's content. He still never makes a request, but he feels that as long as he doesn't have to cook it, it's fine with him.
      Anytime I make something he actually comments on, I file away in my mind and make again. He now enjoys Penne with italian sausage and broccoli rabe ( he never had a pasta that was not red and came from a jar), braised red cabbage with country ribs ( he had never eaten a vegatable which was not from a can or a box) and admits that my balsamic vinegrette is better than Kraft Italian ( he also eats salads that are not romaine and bottled thousand island).
      Sure, he doesn't lust after the experience, but he enjoys the result. What more can a cook ask for than that?

      1. Thank you for your suggestions. I intended to post this topic on the general topic list but smehow I got it mixed up and it ended up here! I've been reading some on the answers on the thread you mentioned and it is true: I should count my blessings and be patient as there is a lot of room for hope. The key, as in most aspects of a relationship where two people with two sets of backgrounds, ideas, likes, dislikes, etc come together, is to find that precious middle ground, isn't it? I admit that I have become a lot more fanatical about food than I used to be when myself and my partner first met so I need to give him some time to understand why it is such a huge deal for me. He does tell people that he's learned a lot about eating well with me and that he enjoys it but I know he sees food as fuel and the cultural associations he's got with it are heavily influenced by the peasanty, post-war mentality still quite prevalent in the UK. I will persevere, though, whilst trying not to judge as it creates the opposite effect.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Paula76

          Well, at least there is room for improvment! I spent 2 years in a serious relationship with someone who wouldn't touch food that didn't come from a box or a chain restaurant. People thought I was exaggerating, but when we went back to New Orleans to visit family, he barely touched the cornocopia of homemade food, and we finished every night at Chili's or Hooters. On a trip to India, he lost 20 pounds - and he was not a big guy to begin with! Our compromise? Separate meals.

          There were many nights when we'd start out at TGI Fridays where he'd eat a meal while I had a beer, then head to a nice bistro, where I'd eat while he had a drink, then we'd end with him heating up a Red Baron pizza or something. When we'd cook at home, I'd make my own burger patty from fresh ground beef and my choice of seasonings, while he pulled a pre-made one from the freezer. Even things you'd think would be innocuous, like homemade mashed potatoes, he had to eat from a box!!! It was ridiculous, but it worked for us, and ultimately had nothing to do with our break-up. (By the way, we're still great friends, and he still eats the same way...).

          1. re: RosemaryHoney

            Interesting. Did you ever get any explanation of why? Because it sounds almost like a phobia of some sort or a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. It's one thing not to care whether your food is mass-produced or not, and another to insist that it be mass-produced.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Well, no. I always used to joke about that, and I'm going to email him these replies, because he'll get a kick out of it. But in our discussions, we decided it was largely a cultural thing. He had grown up on that food, and as a child, he was incredibly picky (ate only kraft mac n cheese and church's fried chicken until age 6), and no one forced him to eat or try anything else. In his family and community, food offerings were extremely limited - to fast food and heavily processed convenience foods - and he didn't get away from that until he was in his late teens. He'd be willing to "try" other things (we did go to India, where he was forced to eat very unfamiliar foods), but if there was ANY option at all, he'd go with what he knew.

              It was a really interesting experience, and what it taught me was never feed your kids only mac n cheese from birth through age 6.

        2. Wow, Rosemary. That definetely sounds hardcore. Like Ruth, I reckon it must have to do with some kind of trauma as the fixation he has does not seem to have anything to do with taste. Maybe he associates this with good moments in his childhood? I don't think I could cope with separate meals as for me it is the most essential part of my life! Thankfully, myself and my partner have reached a compromise but I still find it difficult to bite my tongue when most of his joy from food comes out of a packet! We have talked about how massively important it is to me that our kids (we don't have any yet) eat well, with plenty of natural, healthy foods (my partner does not touch fruit, for example, unless we count the grapes in wine!) and I think he understands this so maybe things will change a little when he feels he is responsible for setting an example to his offspring!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Paula76

            I don't get the not liking fruit thing, which I've seen people mention before. I can see not liking *some* fruits for various reasons, but I don't understand not liking *all* fruits, since they're so different. And fruit is so innocuous! What's not to like about an apple? It's sweet, has a mild taste and smell, isn't mushy or slimey or gushy, etc.

          2. Do you also try to dress your boyfriend because you find him insufficiently fashionable?

            3 Replies
            1. re: beevod

              I'm sure if the OP had a problem with her BF's clothes there are websites where she could get sympathy and advice from other fashionistas. But since Chowhound is about food and for those who love food, I'm surprised that you don't at least have some sympathy or advice for her. Feel the pain of a fellow Chowhound and offer advice, not sarcasm.

              1. re: viperlush

                It's also not comparable -- people usually share meals, but not clothes.

                1. re: viperlush

                  Sympathy? No. Advice? See above.

              2. Don't give up. When I met my wife 10 years ago, I ate mostly junk and fast food.
                Over those first few years she taught me about fine wines, Gin & tonics, and cheese.
                I was very hesitant at first, but then decided to expand my palette. What a difference it's made.
                Ten years later, and I now own a gourmet food & cheese shop. I also do wine & cheese tastings,
                cook up wild game dishes for friends and customers, and love to experiment with cooking.
                So give it time, make it romantic, and keep trying.

                1. Many years ago I had a boyfriend with similar eating habits, though he was willing (sometimes) to try new things and frequently surprised to find he liked them. One day he decided to heat up a can of an old favorite, Chef Boyardee or Spaghettios, something like that, for lunch. He took one bite, looked at me in total astonishment, and exclaimed, "You've ruined me! I can't eat this anymore!"

                  But it's been years, and I expect he's recovered by now.

                  1. Another one for "give it time." My hubby exclusively ate prepared frozen food when we met. He didn't really get why I was so focused on food. But gradually, he started to enjoy the game I always play at restaurants of "what's in this?" and "what makes this one better than that one?" And trying to replicate successes at home. Also, my dad has the same affinity for food that I have, and hubby saw how our interactions regarding food were also a cultural experience sharing of sorts. Something to bond over. He still doesn't cook (I think he was scarred as a child by a kitchen full of sisters and his mother hollering for him to get out of the way; I'm working on him!) but he has told me that he really enjoys eating out with me, enjoys what I cook, and even enjoys going to the farmer's market with me to "watch [me] be excited about food". He likes seeing me be passionate! : ) And in my element, as he says.

                    Hang in there!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: emmaroseeats

                      Paula, I actually don't see this as so much of an eating issue as a cooking issue. There are lots of people I know who just don't like to cook or don't want to cook, even many who consider themselves foodies. As long as he's scarfing down your food I'd just chalk it down to that. And make sure he does his part by doing the dishes. ;-)

                    2. I'm having trouble seeing the problem here....He eats your food, he praises your food....he does not sit there whining and "ewwwww what's THAT" or screw up his face every time you try something new or refusing to eat anything but fries from McDonalds..nor do i see that he won't let you purchase or make anything, and i don't see that he is bickering with you over the costs of anything, or venting his frustration over you being so enthusiastic about food or spending all your time talking about it /looking it up on the net.

                      Does he go to restaurants/wineries/markets with you?

                      If so, what are you asking for, cartwheels at the dinner table?

                      (btw what do you mean by "processed rubbish" ?)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: im_nomad

                        I agree. I think members of a couple need their own interests. It seems like the OP has a very high level of interest in food that most others may not readily accept, yet the SO does this very thing. I think that any time a person has a really passionate interest, it can be hard to find someone who shares it. However, as long as the person is accepting and does not complain, I do not know what else there is to do.

                      2. Thanks to most of you for the empathy and I never said it was a big problem; only that, at times, it can get frustrating not to be able to share my passion (or madness, depending on how you look at it) with him. He has come to some markets with me but he is so obviously not interested that I would rather go on my own and spend as long as I want drooling over stuff and selecting what I want to buy or try. We only ever share dinner as, on weekends, he doesn't like eating breakfast and his lunch is that stuff I wouldn't touch with a bargepole. Also, I sometimes get slightly worried about his health as his diet is very deficient in fruits and fibre. By processed junk I mean: tins of baked beans, sliced white bread (mass produced), tins of cheap soup (full of additives) and a yellow, horrible cheese that looks like glue. I respect him and he respects me and I am hopeful that, in time, he will diversify a bit and learn to appreciate food more as he has shown signs of improvement since we've been together. And trust me: it's not a one way avenue at all! I have joined him for football matches in the freezing cold and fake interest in cars when I truly have zero so I'm also doing my bit!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Paula76

                          Fortunately for him, beans have a lot of fibre! I know what you mean, though. It's frustrating not to be able to share something that's very important to you with someone you love.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Baked beans are actually not so bad; the main problem with them is that they contain too much sugar. Otherwise, they are actually food.

                            If it was someone who ate nothing but chips and junkfood, that would be very, very worrying as it is a serious health issue.