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Interesting WSJ story about picky eating as a type of disorder

tatamagouche Jul 6, 2010 07:58 AM


MC Slim JB alerted me to this one.


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  1. nofunlatte RE: tatamagouche Jul 6, 2010 02:49 PM

    Interesting. A friend and colleague of mine has what I have called "juvenile" eating habits. I never invite her to a dinner party because of the menu restrictions (I have invited her and her husband separately and fixed a meal around the available choices). While she is nowhere near as restrictive as the woman in the article, she still has a limited range of foods compared to other people I know and hang with (admittedly adventurously chowish!) I confess to having had judgmental thoughts about her ("she just wants attention"), never openly expressed, but perhaps I need to consider that she has a disorder. What a horrid way to live!

    1 Reply
    1. re: nofunlatte
      rayegirl RE: nofunlatte Apr 24, 2014 07:21 PM

      Late in reading your remarks, but needed to say,I object to your saying "What a horrid way to live!" for individuals with Selective Eating Disorder. Except for the unsolicited concern or criticisms of others,such as yourself, most of these people are quite content with what they eat, and they would like to change, but mostly to keep down hurtful, ignorant remarks like yours. It is the JUDGMENTAL ASPECT, such as your remarks, that makes it "horrid." What people eat is their own, personal business. How would you feel if, for example, you really gagged on a certain food item that all your friends liked, and they told you that you lived a "horrid life" because you did not eat what they ate? Well, multiply that by many times for those with Selective Eating Disorder and the criticism they must endure from others. The food is going in their stomachs, not yours, so what is the problem for you who criticize? Yes, it might not be the usual way to eat, but eating is nothing but fueling the body in its basic sense, if they are fulfilling this need, then why is it an issue to other people? Leave them to their own choices of foods, albeit a short list, and keep your eyes on your own plate, and everyone will be fine. It has been shown over and over that most of these individuals are perfectly normally-functioning, happy people, the majority of whom have no particular health issues, or at least not from their limited food choices. They tend to carefully have their blood, etc. checked by their physicians and are declared healthy. So, why must they eat what YOU WANT THEM TO EAT, or else be judged as having "horrid lives.?

    2. p
      Philly Ray RE: tatamagouche Jul 6, 2010 03:29 PM

      I believe that a lot of teenage girls who claim to be vegetarian are really hiding an eating disorder.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Philly Ray
        ipsedixit RE: Philly Ray Jul 6, 2010 08:39 PM

        How are you so certain that that is limited to "teenage girls"?

        1. re: ipsedixit
          Philly Ray RE: ipsedixit Jul 7, 2010 05:47 AM

          Ok, then let's extend that to some adults who started when they were teen-agers.

          1. re: ipsedixit
            EWSflash RE: ipsedixit Jul 26, 2010 09:22 PM

            I have a coworker who's male, straight (just setting the scene here, no offense intended) , young, fit, handsome, immature for as smart as he is, and boy howdy does he have freaky eating habits that would probably put lifelong anorexics to shame. He's close to being vegan, and yet does protein powder to excess and caffeine and taurine (ox bile, go figure- that's your only carnivore guilty pleasure??). I don't see a lot of vegetable eating, maybe the beer he makes counts as a vegetable to him. I don't know- it's like he was a sickly kid and got over that and now he's a good-looking young man and gosh- who knows...

            But i have to say his beer is awesome.

          2. re: Philly Ray
            Fromageball RE: Philly Ray Jul 9, 2010 06:06 AM

            I don't think being vegetarian is a sign of an eating disorder. An old roommate of mine shopped around several doctors to get a diagnosis that she needs to be gluten/casein free(a very restrictive diet, of course there are plenty of things to eat but she didn't eat much at all because she "couldn't find anything she liked".).

            1. re: Fromageball
              thinks too much RE: Fromageball Jul 9, 2010 06:26 AM

              Philly Ray didn't say that all vegetarians had an eating disorder, but that some people with eating disorders disguise it by calling themselves vegetarian.

              1. re: thinks too much
                EWSflash RE: thinks too much Jul 26, 2010 09:23 PM

                Thanks for pointing that out, needed to be said.

            2. re: Philly Ray
              jables37 RE: Philly Ray Jul 26, 2010 05:57 PM

              I agree! Now I am sure the majority of vegetarians or vegans choose that lifestyle for legitimate reasons. My cousin however decided to become "vegetarian" as a teenager...no fish, eggs or dairy. Only she never really bothered to research what a vegetarian diet actually is (ex. she would scarf down tons of artificial crab without ever bothering to read the label on the package) and could never really articulate why she felt the need to eat this way. Maybe just because she was a silly teenager at the time. But it did give her an excuse to avoid eating in front of others. She weighed about 90 lbs soaking wet. She also lives with her mother who weighs upwards of 400 lbs and is disabled due to her weight. We all know the "vegetarian" thing is just a way to mask her issues with food and weight. I bet this is a lot more common than people think.

              1. re: Philly Ray
                gloriousfood RE: Philly Ray Jul 26, 2010 07:00 PM

                This describes my friend perfectly--a hard-core vegan who's also a bulimac. And I've noticed that many of my friends who are picky eaters are also overweight.

              2. w
                weezycom RE: tatamagouche Jul 6, 2010 08:22 PM

                A friend and coworker has a limited palate (but certainly not to the extent as the article describes), but she is also a super-taster. Most vegetables taste bitter/acrid to her, and she is put off by textures of some foods. She will eat outside her comfort zone occasionally, but a 5-7 course tasting menu is a form of torture for her.

                1 Reply
                1. re: weezycom
                  Budser1228 RE: weezycom Jul 7, 2010 07:22 AM

                  I remember seeing a show - maybe MTV True Life - I'm a picky eater years ago about three people who were picky eaters - bland food, specific textures, no vegetables, etc. One girl had a boyfriend but they all talked about the secrecy of not letting people know all of their restrictions and how it was hard to meet people/have a relationship. These were all adults who had this same problem since they were children. They talked about an online support group and they did have a get together in real life at a restaurant where the orders were extremely picky and specific. One person was getting help introducing more foods into their diet because of the fear of not getting enough nutrition.

                  I just did an online search and found a casting site for a major cable network for these kinds of picky eaters that was casting in May and June of this year - must live near Los Angeles.

                2. marthasway RE: tatamagouche Jul 7, 2010 08:19 AM

                  hmm. Those are certainly extreme examples. My 14 year old son has Asperger's, and he's a supertaster; I've posted about this before on a thread about supertasters. He thrives on whole milk, peanut butter, varietal rice (smell and texture!), and endless junk food carbs plus fresh fruit smoothies.. He politely declines dishes that don't appeal to him, and lately he's been trying bites of new things. I'm so proud of him, especially in light of this article!

                  1. dave_c RE: tatamagouche Jul 7, 2010 10:04 AM

                    Supertaster is a new term for me.
                    Is that something diagnosed or tested for by a doctor?

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: dave_c
                      stet RE: dave_c Jul 7, 2010 12:21 PM

                      You can test yourself at home using a stick-on notebook paper reinforcement and food colouring. You can see your own taste buds in the mirror with a magnifying glass, and if in the hollow circle of the reinforcement you have more than a certain number, you classify as a supertaster.

                      1. re: stet
                        OCEllen RE: stet Jul 7, 2010 12:39 PM

                        Do you have a link that describes this procedure?

                        1. re: OCEllen
                          stet RE: OCEllen Jul 7, 2010 01:18 PM


                          1. re: stet
                            tatamagouche RE: stet Jul 7, 2010 01:26 PM

                            Fascinating, I didn't know you could test for it.

                            Still, I think there's a slight difference between this picky eating syndrome and supertasting, the one being more psychological/psychosomatic and the other being more physiological. I'm sure there's overlap, but I don't think they're totally synonymous.

                            1. re: tatamagouche
                              weezycom RE: tatamagouche Jul 7, 2010 06:44 PM

                              another tip that you may be a supertaster is that Sweet & Low (pink packet) tastes bitter to you, not sweet at all.

                              1. re: weezycom
                                maria lorraine RE: weezycom Jul 9, 2010 07:57 PM

                                Sensitivity to bitterness (artificial sweeteners) is only a sensitivity to bitterness, not a sensitivity to tastes overall. Actually, the number of tastebuds has very little to do with taste acuity. Far more important are the individual relays from each taste bud that go to the brain (how good is their signal?) and the taste processing center in the brain, the rostral ingula.

                                It's like cell phones. You can have a lot of them (like tastebuds), but if the signal is bad (low batteries) or if the tower is not working (taste center in the brain), it doesn't matter that there are lots of cell phones.

                                The whole "number of taste buds" thing is a myth, heavily promoted but inaccurate.

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  stet RE: maria lorraine Jul 12, 2010 01:06 PM

                                  Do you have a source on that

                              2. re: tatamagouche
                                EWSflash RE: tatamagouche Jul 26, 2010 09:25 PM

                                I couldn't agree more, Tatamagouche.

                                1. re: tatamagouche
                                  EWSflash RE: tatamagouche Jul 27, 2010 07:03 AM

                                  I think that 'supertaster' status is going to bring on another whole big avalanche of food control issues. God helpl us all.

                          2. re: dave_c
                            greygarious RE: dave_c Jul 9, 2010 06:46 PM

                            Here is a link to a previous thread on supertasters. Note that many of the responses were from people who didn't bother to read the definition and just claimed to be supertasters because it sounds desirable. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6036...

                            1. re: greygarious
                              EWSflash RE: greygarious Jul 27, 2010 07:03 AM

                              Yep, I thought so.

                          3. s
                            soupkitten RE: tatamagouche Jul 7, 2010 01:50 PM

                            hate to say it, but the woman in the article who's stressing about her young daughter starting to exhibit pickiness, while her 2 sons do not. . . well, she doesn't *eat* in front of her kids. so what is she teaching her daughter, except abnormal, eating-disorder eating habits? maybe her daughter will think that it's normal for women to lie about eating, hide eating habits, eat by themselves. . . it's what she sees her mother doing, and food will absolutely become a source of daily stress for a young child, especially with mommy's "food chart" or whatever, and extra pressure/attention around the "eat one more bite" issue.

                            the boys are okay and good eaters now, but maybe their father or another adult engages and eats normally with them, and they will grow up thinking it's normal for men to eat normally and women to have hangups about food.

                            glad she's seeking some help, it sounds like she really needs it before she really negatively impacts her kids' attitudes toward food and normal socialization.

                            good that the mental health professionals are taking picky eating for the antisocial behavioral disorder that it can be. but i think folks who work in food, who see how compulsive some people can act, could probably contribute some data on this phenomenon.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: soupkitten
                              tatamagouche RE: soupkitten Jul 7, 2010 02:01 PM

                              Totally agree. The kid's picking up on her problems one way or the other.

                              1. re: soupkitten
                                Bada Bing RE: soupkitten Jul 7, 2010 03:19 PM

                                I have to agree about the picky mother's behavior as problematic modeling to the kids. You can't not eat in front of your kids, because you're picky, and then also want them to be cool about eating new things. I feel sorry for her, because she realizes the predicament and feels powerless.

                                1. re: soupkitten
                                  chowser RE: soupkitten Jul 11, 2010 05:35 AM

                                  Good point. I've read that we're seeing the first generation of girls being raised by moms who don't eat on hunger cues or as a need. They almost fear food because of weight gain. These girls are picking up the same cues and many are "dieting" at very young ages, not enjoying food or seeing it as something to feel guilty about.

                                2. Kris in Beijing RE: tatamagouche Jul 9, 2010 07:14 PM

                                  I found this article enlightening.. and [possibly] humbling.

                                  In my family, we were never required to "eat it all," but we HAD to "taste each thing."
                                  We have a family joke/warning about a relative who would-- literally-- poke her tongue out, touch the food to her tongue, and then claim she'd tasted. Although she could be a Supertaster, I seriously doubt that even a super-super-abundance of taste buds would have allowed her to experience the taste, texture, mouth feel or even aroma of what she was sampling.

                                  That being said-- I find it extremely difficult to remain nonjudgmental with people who Will NOT try things. I don't care if you like it or not-- but please, please try it.
                                  I know lots of people who "hate mushrooms." How is that possible-- to hate ALL mushrooms? They don't all have the same [possibly revolting] texture. They don't all have a woodsiness or umami. You can dismiss a portobello steak because you don't like enoki?
                                  ahch, that's enough ranting...

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Kris in Beijing
                                    Phaedrus RE: Kris in Beijing Jul 12, 2010 01:20 PM

                                    Ooh, me, that's me!

                                    I grew up in Taiwan and then Central America, and finally the us.

                                    I would not each any kind of mushroom as a kid. I used to pick the little chopped bits of mushrooms out of every bit of Chinese food my mom made. I avoided all o them, wood ears, plain button mushrooms, etc.

                                    The magical cure for me was going to college and eating pizza. I persisted in the same behavior at first, picking out the mushrooms when we order a pizza as a group. But somewhere along the line, perhaps when I was inebriated, I at a mushroom pizza, decided I was OK with it and started to eat mushrooms. I now actually like mushrooms in most things. I went to China a few years ago and ate all kinds of cool mushrooms.

                                    I think being inebriated helped.

                                    1. re: Phaedrus
                                      RealMenJulienne RE: Phaedrus Jul 22, 2010 10:54 PM

                                      Phaedrus, we have a similar upbringing and the exact same early mushroom aversion. For me it was because our family cooking always used dried and reconstituted shitaakes, and I hated that gummy, juicy texture. I then extrapolated my hate to all mushrooms. Wood ear was OK because I thought it was some kind of a noodle or something, not a fungus.

                                      Seared mushrooms on pizza turned me around in high school and I love many kinds of mushrooms now, but I still can't handle the shiitakes.

                                      1. re: RealMenJulienne
                                        buttertart RE: RealMenJulienne Jul 23, 2010 06:05 AM

                                        Love all mushrooms dried and fresh except reconstituted shiitakes too. Will eat them but they're one of the few Chinese foodstuffs I don't care for.

                                        1. re: buttertart
                                          EWSflash RE: buttertart Jul 26, 2010 09:38 PM

                                          I love this subthread. I grew up witha love/hat relationship with mushrooms, which in my youth were mostly canned. I'd love them, hate them, have some fresh and love them, then hate them, now my faves are the little brown (portobello fetus my friend would call them) button shrooms. They have more texture, flavor, and I love them any which way.

                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                            EWSflash RE: EWSflash Jul 27, 2010 07:05 AM

                                            "love/hat relationship"- I think i'll call mushrooms love hats from now on...

                                            1. re: EWSflash
                                              buttertart RE: EWSflash Jul 27, 2010 07:18 AM

                                              Cue the B-52's: Love Hat!!!
                                              We had some fresh when I was a kid and canned in a lot of things. I didn't learn to like them until I was in my teens. My father used to forage for them up at our cottage and I am still pissed at myself for turning my nose up at a king's ransom of morels he and his pal found one time (2 grocery bags full). Love all of them now (especially fond of oyster mushrooms of the more commonly-available ones), can tolerate the black mushrooms in Chinese food but usually give them to my dining partner who loves them.

                                              1. re: EWSflash
                                                pdxgastro RE: EWSflash Aug 22, 2011 03:46 PM

                                                Baby portobellos are cremini.

                                      2. greygarious RE: tatamagouche Jul 9, 2010 07:40 PM

                                        Granted, one of the people in the article is 63, but I'd be surprised if a significant percentage are over 50. American children born pre-Vietnam era were rarely given the option of choosing their meals. As a feminist I hate to admit it, but the demands of two-career and single-mom families often lead to catering (literally) to children's pickiness rather than working through such phases.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: greygarious
                                          chowser RE: greygarious Jul 11, 2010 05:39 AM

                                          There's a definite overindulgence of children that plays into this. I'm just far too lazy to be making multiple meals for pickiness which I see many moms do (and it is still moms who do) but it's both in two working parent households and one. I have a friend who stays home and makes four dinners every night, one for each of her two children, her husband and herself.

                                        2. i
                                          Isoldamay RE: tatamagouche Jul 12, 2010 12:53 PM

                                          I thought it was interesting that the woman pictured in the article still managed to be overweight in spite of, or more probably because of, her limited diet. That's an argument in favor of variety if I ever saw one!
                                          I have always thought of myself as a picky eater. I'm adventurous and get bored with the same foods very quickly, am always craving new flavors, and hate to go out to "ordinary" restaurants, such as chain restaurants. I also avoid potlucks unless I know there will be foodies bringing some of the dishes. I guess there are many ways to define picky.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Isoldamay
                                            Phaedrus RE: Isoldamay Jul 12, 2010 01:21 PM

                                            Being a picky eater doesn't mean you eat less calories, you just eat less variety, which limits the kind of nutrients you consume

                                            1. re: Phaedrus
                                              Isoldamay RE: Phaedrus Jul 13, 2010 01:04 PM

                                              Yeah, I figured that out. Most obese people are malnourished. Still, it's something of a shock to see an overweight person who lives on a dozen foods. Intellectually, I get it, but I just can't see myself ever being able to eat so much of only 12 foods that I could become overweight from it. I think even my favorite foods would bore me if I tried to do that.

                                              1. re: Isoldamay
                                                tatamagouche RE: Isoldamay Jul 13, 2010 02:45 PM


                                                1. re: tatamagouche
                                                  hungryabbey RE: tatamagouche Jul 23, 2010 06:29 PM

                                                  I agree with this for me too. But I think that perhaps a lot of the foods they ARE consuming are higher calorie/ more "Agreeable" foods. Eg. They mention they cannot eat low calorie vegetables. Perhaps in place of these foods, they eat more of the high calorie foods b/c they are missing out on some of the fiber to help them feel fuller longer.

                                              2. re: Phaedrus
                                                EWSflash RE: Phaedrus Jul 26, 2010 09:47 PM

                                                In this day and age, picky eaters are WAY less likely to starve, as they may have been in previous generations. These days they get catered to, which would not have happened in previous generations, there being a lot less to choose from then.
                                                I'm thinking now of the pickiest eaters I know, and none of them are scrawny by a long shot- most of them are plus sized, in fact. they just have weird food issues, which are easy to circumvent in today's fast food market.

                                              3. re: Isoldamay
                                                MandalayVA RE: Isoldamay Jul 29, 2011 12:40 PM

                                                Of course she's overweight--she's eating pretty much nothing but carbs. She may get a bit of protein from the potatoes and eggs in the baked goods but other than that it's straight-up carbs. Go on a vegetarian forum sometime and see how many people gain weight eating that way.

                                              4. Passadumkeg RE: tatamagouche Jul 12, 2010 04:44 PM

                                                I'll put my head on the block, again. I was a draftee and in situations of "duress" in Viet Nam, where one ate to survive. I also studied in the old Soviet Union in '69-70, where food coices were very limited and worked in impoverished, 3rd world Bolivia in the nineties, where locally grown produce was abundent but poverty was as well. I find it hard to imagine these kind of food nuerosies to exist in these places. Is this simply another enabling symptom of a sick society? Look at all the food and drug ads on TV. I lived in Scandinavia for 10 years, no ads on TV; walk into a pharmacy and one immediately meets a counter and the only things one can buy w/out a prescription is a 10 pack of aspirin and condoms. Are we conditioned by a society that capitalizes and thrives on fear and are, at the same time, self -centered and alienated from the real natural world that this is really a cry for help and a rejection of the mores of the grater American society. Do I make any sense?

                                                52 Replies
                                                1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                  ipsedixit RE: Passadumkeg Jul 12, 2010 04:49 PM

                                                  It's the old adage.

                                                  Sometimes too many choices means no choice at all.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                    Passadumkeg RE: ipsedixit Jul 12, 2010 05:08 PM

                                                    We are an affluent, self-indulgent society. Maybe we all need a "sabbatical year" every so often to another less affluent society, do some meaningful work, eat some local grown foods and come back a different "culinarily" recharged person w/ new meaning and direction.
                                                    Optimismn is the "ism" most fun of all.

                                                    Don Quixkegote

                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                      tatamagouche RE: Passadumkeg Jul 13, 2010 05:33 AM

                                                      I am quite sure there are statistics that prove the basic sense we all have that luxury and neuroses/certain types of disorders go hand in hand. Having been a sufferer of various eating disorders (and for that matter an avid student of Freud) I hope no one wlll take my saying so as a judgment call.

                                                  2. re: Passadumkeg
                                                    Duppie RE: Passadumkeg Jul 12, 2010 05:22 PM

                                                    Do you think this is also the root cause for so many instances of allergies in America? real or imagined?
                                                    Till I started on CH I never realized just how many things we American's are allergic to.

                                                    1. re: Duppie
                                                      Passadumkeg RE: Duppie Jul 12, 2010 05:34 PM

                                                      I can't help but wonder that if so many of our maladies are caused by all the chemicals introduced into our environment, the Dupont legacy:
                                                      "Better Living Through Chemistry" is a variant of the DuPont company's advertising slogan, "Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry." But today, we now ask “Is it worth the risk?” I’m not talking about the questionable safety of the chemicals used to break up the oil spill in the gulf, although I certainly could.

                                                      I’m referring to the plethora of chemicals and toxic stuff in most of today’s foods and household products. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but we most likely have traces of more than 200 chemicals in us right now, and we have no idea how they interact or how much we absorb over the long haul. Some stay inside us for a short time and others are cumulative. Some folks have already learned that they suffer from "Multiple Chemical Sensitivities" (MCS) or are very sensitive to a lot of chemicals such as those in perfumes.

                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                        Duppie RE: Passadumkeg Jul 12, 2010 05:45 PM

                                                        I understand but can't help but believe that perhaps some of these IMO outlandish allergies are merely just excuses of picky eaters or even worst, just spoiled, overindulgent attention hounds.

                                                        1. re: Duppie
                                                          Passadumkeg RE: Duppie Jul 12, 2010 05:54 PM

                                                          Gee, I would never think such a thing, he says withe a chortle.

                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                            tatamagouche RE: Passadumkeg Jul 13, 2010 05:34 AM

                                                            I've talked to lots of chefs who've had it up to here with customers' allergies.

                                                            1. re: tatamagouche
                                                              Duppie RE: tatamagouche Jul 13, 2010 06:26 AM

                                                              As have I, and some see it as a control issue on the part of the diner, sort of a middle finger to the chef who is reluctant to modify a dish or presentation. So the laundry list of so called allergies is rolled out to encompass every thing from cilantro to salt.

                                                              1. re: Duppie
                                                                tatamagouche RE: Duppie Jul 13, 2010 06:32 AM

                                                                Has Helena done that column in Etiquette yet? That'd be a good one...

                                                                1. re: Duppie
                                                                  aggiecat RE: Duppie Jul 29, 2011 08:48 AM

                                                                  Duppie: there is a gorup of individuals who have an aversion to cilantro because to them it tastes soapy, not cilantro-y. Gotta say, I pity them but, it's not a true allergy with a histamine response.

                                                                  1. re: aggiecat
                                                                    Duppie RE: aggiecat Jul 29, 2011 09:21 AM

                                                                    I am aware of that phenomena because of a school friend who would have me prepare a bowl of salsa without it on Poker nights as he claimed it tastes like
                                                                    'old socks"... don't ask.
                                                                    The people I refer to are the ones who thought it necessary to claim an allergy in order for them to modify a dish ingredients and prep and perhaps gain some sympathy and attention in the process. It's all about control IMHO.

                                                                    1. re: Duppie
                                                                      pdxgastro RE: Duppie Aug 22, 2011 03:33 PM

                                                                      Ha! A friend would prepare a dish with the double whammy of cilantro AND feta cheese. Her hubby called it 'dead locker room'.

                                                                2. re: tatamagouche
                                                                  Isoldamay RE: tatamagouche Jul 13, 2010 01:08 PM

                                                                  People who think they're allergic, but haven't been tested, and people who are just picky or want attention make life hell for real allergy sufferers like my son, who really could die if he eats peanuts. There's such a general "allergy noise" out there that it's no wonder servers and some cooks don't take it seriously. My mother in law has an "allergy of the week" and I hate going out with her and listening to her grill the server and then expecting him or her to take my son's very real allergy seriously.

                                                              2. re: Duppie
                                                                buttertart RE: Duppie Jul 13, 2010 07:16 AM

                                                                Stand still for the incoming by the allergic...

                                                                1. re: buttertart
                                                                  Duppie RE: buttertart Jul 13, 2010 09:28 AM

                                                                  I fully expect some backlash from people with genuine and debilitating allergies and I sympathize as a allergy sufferer myself . I believe we all know someone or someone that knows someone who has no qualms in claiming an allergy in order to manipulate the kitchen and the table's attention.
                                                                  Now if you will excuse me I will be in the basement behind the couch...

                                                                  1. re: Duppie
                                                                    chowser RE: Duppie Jul 13, 2010 10:22 AM

                                                                    The problem is the people who fake allergies makes it that much harder for people who really do have them. I wish people who fake it could see how much harder they make it for people w/ severe allergies.

                                                                    1. re: chowser
                                                                      Isoldamay RE: chowser Jul 13, 2010 01:12 PM

                                                                      I should have read your post before posting above. I totally agree with you. I don't think people actually fake allergies ,though (well, most of them don't). It's more that they experience discomfort or stress when they encounter a food they don't like or even think they won't like, so they call it an allergy. And there are some people who just want attention. Allergies are their way of being special. I guess it's easier to be special by having an allergy than by winning the Nobel prize or pitching a no-hitter.

                                                                      1. re: Isoldamay
                                                                        buttertart RE: Isoldamay Jul 13, 2010 01:16 PM

                                                                        Well said. I have a (grown) nephew with the same very real peanut allergy and he manages to take care of himself without drawing attention to himself.

                                                                        1. re: Isoldamay
                                                                          chowser RE: Isoldamay Jul 13, 2010 01:50 PM

                                                                          I've read of, but never personally met, people who say they'll claim an allergy to avoid a food, in a restaurant or being served by others, that they don't want to eat. I don't think most people fake allergies but there are enough who do that it makes people skeptical.

                                                                          My daughter has some severe allergies but we went to one pediatrician (who we quickly left) who told me that if she ever didn't want to eat a food, listen to her because she knows what her body is allergic to and not, even if she tested negative to it. Umm, at that time, that would have included broccoli, spinach, most vegetables... Had we listened to this pediatrician, we would have thought she was allergic to most foods at that time. My daughter absolutely hates the attention about the allergies but it's about survival. I wish people who use it to feel special could see what it's like to have to live with one.

                                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                                            dave_c RE: chowser Jul 13, 2010 03:02 PM

                                                                            From what I've seen, the people with true allergies tend to be more discrete, while the fakers are more showy for the attention.

                                                                            1. re: dave_c
                                                                              Duppie RE: dave_c Jul 13, 2010 03:26 PM

                                                                              From my tenure in the front of the house, I would tend to agree with you.
                                                                              They are invariably the ones that ask the most detailed questions,demand the complete reconfiguration of the dish and share in maddening detail their symptoms at the highest volume possible.But still manage to taste every dish their dinner companions ordered.

                                                                              1. re: Duppie
                                                                                dave_c RE: Duppie Jul 13, 2010 03:41 PM

                                                                                Not to sounds like a terrible person, but I would bet 8 to 9 times out of 10, the fakers were women. Is that what you noticed too?

                                                                                1. re: dave_c
                                                                                  Duppie RE: dave_c Jul 13, 2010 03:54 PM

                                                                                  In retrospect I would say by a small margin, but I worked in Manhattan which IMO is a somewhat unique market.

                                                                                  1. re: Duppie
                                                                                    tatamagouche RE: Duppie Jul 13, 2010 05:31 PM

                                                                                    Well, that's not a surprise, to the extent that eating disorders involve the compulsive need to control one's self in one's own environment, and to the extent that women even in the 21st century have a vexed relationship to control and how they're supposed to wield it.

                                                                                    And going to great lengths to fake it, if you ask me, is a sign of neurosis/fear/shame.

                                                                        2. re: chowser
                                                                          thinks too much RE: chowser Jul 14, 2010 06:00 AM

                                                                          Slightly off-topic

                                                                          While not disagreeing with you that there are people who assume allergies without proof. After all, many of us have met the lactose intolerant person who blithely orders fettucini alfredo. However, I'd like to bring up the distinctions some doctors make between allergies and "food intolerance."

                                                                          A full-on case of anaphalactic shock is impressive, life-threatening and typically follows rapidly after having ingested the food. Most people on this board agree that this counts as an allergy, and people who suffer from them should never be fed their allergens.

                                                                          How about the person who consumes a substance and in 2 hours will develop a headache that continues for 2 days which painkillers will not assuage? Does that constitute and allergy? It does not require an ambulance ride out of the restaurant. Many doctors would label this reaction a "food intolerance." My mom goes through this every time she is fed Yellow number 5, red number 2 and sodium benzoate. Doctors have not believed her for 30 years.

                                                                          How about the person who can eat something, but an hour later will have their belly cramp up for the next 6 hours. Again, no ride to the hospital, but if they request information about ingredients, are they not entitled to civil answers and protection too?

                                                                          Just because a server can bring a food to the table, the customer can eat it and walk away doesn't mean that there will not be consequences. Fortunately for these 2 examples, they will not likely be affected if someone else is enjoying a peanut butter sandwich in the same room, or if their sandwich is cut with a knife that contacted mustard. I have much sympathy for people with such violent allergies. On the other hand, you shouldn't have to stop breathing in order to reliably avoid a food.

                                                                          1. re: thinks too much
                                                                            tatamagouche RE: thinks too much Jul 14, 2010 07:11 AM

                                                                            Allergies or "intolerances," I'm not sure I'm getting your point....I agree with you that there are people that have serious medical issues to contend with. Those aren't the people we're talking about (although as others have noted they're the ones whose lives can be made even more complicated by wolf-cryers).

                                                                            1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                              thinks too much RE: tatamagouche Jul 14, 2010 09:29 AM

                                                                              My point: It's deceptively easy to decide that someone is a whiner about professed allergies. Please be cautious before you judge an individual.

                                                                              People acknowledge that allergies are real. They see some people develop hives or stop breathing. However, there have been posts in this thread about the "wolf-cryers" that I find troubling.

                                                                              These posters seem to imply that if a diner announces that that are allergic to something at a table, are brought food containing that specified food, eat it and walk away without collapse, then they are a member of this "wolf-crying" tribe. The reaction may start much later when they are far away from the restaurant.

                                                                              An observer, whether waitstaff, dining companion, or other customer may come to the conclusion that there are too many damn people that think they have allergies, but those people are just being neurotic or need attention. After all, the observer saw no reaction.

                                                                              1. re: thinks too much
                                                                                chowser RE: thinks too much Jul 14, 2010 10:32 AM

                                                                                As I've said, I haven't met anyone who's actually ever done that but have read many blogs, interviews of people who say they lie about food allergies. I don't see anyone here claiming that allergies must be immediate and life threatening to count.

                                                                                1. re: thinks too much
                                                                                  tatamagouche RE: thinks too much Jul 14, 2010 11:48 AM

                                                                                  Not what I said at all. In fact, as I just said above, I absolutely recognize there are real allergics with very serious problems. As i said above, those are not the people we're discussing. As I also said above, neuroses are a very real problem as well; if there are people who cry wolf about allergies, that suggests to me an eating disorder of some type. (As I also said above, I myself have suffered eating disorders and am all too familiar with the sorts of environment manipulation one goes through.)

                                                                                  So, in short, I agree with you, I don't disagree with you.

                                                                                  1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                    aggiecat RE: tatamagouche Jul 29, 2011 08:57 AM

                                                                                    Tatamagouche, I agree with you. As a food intolerant person, it is much more acceptable to say, I can't eat this because I'm allergic rather than have to say, well, I shouldn't eat this; it won't kill me but it will give me explosive diarrhea, flatulance and cramps for 3 days. I gues this is the distinction, the "I shouldn't eat this" rather than "I can't eat this" which is completely on another level from the "I WON'T eat this" camp.

                                                                                    If that makes sense. It may not. I'm hungry. All this talk of mushrooms makes me want a pizza, with portobellos.

                                                                                    1. re: aggiecat
                                                                                      EWSflash RE: aggiecat Aug 21, 2011 11:53 AM

                                                                                      What's wrong with saying "I'm afraid I can't eat this" rather than lying about it? Not necessary to describe your symptoms, and you're not risking adding to the throngs of others who cry "allergies" as a control mechanism

                                                                                  2. re: thinks too much
                                                                                    EWSflash RE: thinks too much Jul 27, 2010 07:26 AM

                                                                                    Because many of us believe it to be the case.

                                                                                    1. re: EWSflash
                                                                                      buttertart RE: EWSflash Jul 27, 2010 07:35 AM

                                                                                      There's my nephew who is deathly allergic to peanuts and avoids them carefully without maundering on about it tediously (the real thing) and then there's me at 11 years old telling my friend's mother I was allergic to hard-boiled eggs because I didn't want to eat her brunch dish (didn't know I was on the leading edge for a whole new kind of brattiness).

                                                                                      1. re: buttertart
                                                                                        EWSflash RE: buttertart Jul 27, 2010 07:46 PM

                                                                                        You cheeky thing, you!

                                                                                2. re: thinks too much
                                                                                  chowser RE: thinks too much Jul 14, 2010 07:58 AM

                                                                                  There are varying degrees of allergies but I don't understand the point, either. Yes, some show up right away and some don't (my daughter has both). Intolerances, though not allergies, also deserve the same respect. However, all these people are affected by those who lie about allergies or intolerances just to avoid a food they don't want or for attention.

                                                                                  1. re: thinks too much
                                                                                    guster4lovers RE: thinks too much Jul 27, 2010 05:03 PM

                                                                                    Thank you for making this point. I am intolerant to several things, but I don't have to be rushed to the hospital if I have a small amount. That's hard for many people to understand, but it doesn't make the migraines, rashes, and discomfort any less tangible.

                                                                                    However, and I know I'll be unpopular for saying this, there are two things that I will say I'm allergic to, when I'm only intolerant to one, and have a severe dislike to the other. But here's the thing: When I don't drop the a-word, my "preference" gets ignored. And when it gets ignored, even my favourite ingredients are ruined by those ingredients. That's not fair for the chef, because I won't get to see his/her true ability, it's not fair to my dining companion, who has to listen to my complaints, it's not fair to my server, who could get a smaller tip, and it's not fair to me because I'm paying money to enjoy the meal, which I can't.

                                                                                    And, to make matters worse, the trend these days, especially in high-end SF restaurants is to have a limited menu description, like: Sea urchin, lavender, peas. Now, that could have cilantro in it, but I'd never know unless I grilled the server (who often has to go back to the chef for the full ingredient list, and I feel bad for that if the restaurant is busy).

                                                                                    Now isn't it much more respectful to tell the restaurant when I make the reservation that I can't eat cilantro or peanuts? That way they can help me navigate a menu and end up with something I know I'll like and can eat, and the chef will be able to show me their true ability, and I'll probably end up tipping up to 10% higher for the extra effort. Everyone wins.

                                                                                    I won't feel bad for it, especially because a person's preference for cilantro is genetic. It makes even the most delectable dish taste like metallic soap. And peanut allergy is so common that chefs and servers have to be aware and helpful. And how much of an asshole do you have to be to not answer a simple question like, "Does that contain cilantro?" Is it really so offensive that there are two ingredients in the WHOLE WORLD that I can't eat?

                                                                                    Sorry, rant over. This is obviously a frustration for me and my husband (who, thankfully, shares those two dislikes).

                                                                                    1. re: guster4lovers
                                                                                      tatamagouche RE: guster4lovers Jul 28, 2010 06:02 AM

                                                                                      I think your approach to the situation makes total sense, g4l.

                                                                                    2. re: thinks too much
                                                                                      skyline RE: thinks too much Aug 3, 2011 07:13 PM

                                                                                      I completely agree. I was allergic to an astounding number of foods as a child (milk, eggs, wheat, citrus, pork, chocolate .... ironically, NOT to any nuts, LOL) as well as environmental allergens (dust, mold, pollens, dogs, cats, feathers). My father had severe allergies as well as asthma so my allergies were not exactly a huge surprise.

                                                                                      I outgrew most if not all of my food allergies in my teens, although interestingly while undergoing chemotherapy my wheat allergy temporarily resurfaced after multiple decades and I had to eat gluten-free. The gluten allergy disappeared after I finished my "time" on that particular chemo drug.

                                                                                      In my 30s I became severely intolerant to all members of the allium family: garlic, onion, scallions, chives, you name it. Garlic is by far the worst with onion a close second. I will spare you all the gory gastrointestinal details other than to say that a nasty bout of food poisoning would probably be EASIER than those effects, which leave my stomach in a very touchy condition for well into the following day. Technically this is probably an "intolerance" but IMHO it is nasty and debilitating enough for me to use the word "allergy" when in a restaurant. I always ask if there is garlic, onion, scallions, etc in a dish and whether it can be made without it "because I am allergic". I use the word because IMHO it carries more weight than "intolerance"; if it takes the mental picture of someone dying of anaphylaxis in the midst of the dining room to increase the odds of the chef NOT accidentally putting garlic into the dish he's prepared with garlic 99.9% of the time, then I think that's justified.

                                                                                      He/she is not the one who will be suffering for the next 24 hours, after all.

                                                                                  2. re: Duppie
                                                                                    EWSflash RE: Duppie Jul 27, 2010 07:13 AM

                                                                                    Is there room for me down there?
                                                                                    No- WAIT- IS THERE MOLD IN YOUR BASEMENT????

                                                                                    1. re: EWSflash
                                                                                      Isoldamay RE: EWSflash Jul 27, 2010 06:15 PM

                                                                                      Please, allow me to introduce you to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Sorry, they're taken.

                                                                                3. re: Duppie
                                                                                  raleighboy RE: Duppie Jul 14, 2010 02:23 PM

                                                                                  I used to work in a restaurant known to host dinners for foreign dignitaries and other special events. My boss, the head chef, used to say that the number of food allergies in a party is directly proportional to how important people in said party are.

                                                                                  1. re: raleighboy
                                                                                    tatamagouche RE: raleighboy Jul 15, 2010 06:21 AM

                                                                                    Man, if I were important, I'd be trying to score food, not pushing it away!

                                                                                    1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                      buttertart RE: tatamagouche Jul 15, 2010 06:31 AM

                                                                                      Yes me too but...it's all about display behavior, "peacocking". Look at me, I'm so important, the entire world should cater to my whims.

                                                                                      1. re: buttertart
                                                                                        greygarious RE: buttertart Jul 15, 2010 09:46 AM

                                                                                        The peacocking breaks down into two underlying motivations, the first being as you laid out, the second being deeply insecure individuals who do this, consciously or un, to try to create a feeling of importance and/or cover their own lack of self-worth ("fake it till you make it").

                                                                                    2. re: raleighboy
                                                                                      EWSflash RE: raleighboy Jul 27, 2010 07:16 AM

                                                                                      Did I ever tell you about the acquaintance that wanted to go to Chez Panisse with her husband but after reading the menu they decided that every dish was practically poison to at least one of them due to 'allergies'?

                                                                                      "What's wrong, honey, got pea under your mattress?"

                                                                                      1. re: EWSflash
                                                                                        tatamagouche RE: EWSflash Jul 27, 2010 11:58 AM

                                                                                        Man, if you can't find anything to eat in the temple of purity, you've really got problems.

                                                                                        1. re: EWSflash
                                                                                          Isoldamay RE: EWSflash Jul 27, 2010 06:16 PM

                                                                                          May I ask where on earth these people think they can eat?

                                                                                          1. re: Isoldamay
                                                                                            EWSflash RE: Isoldamay Jul 27, 2010 07:57 PM

                                                                                            I'm frankly afraid to ask.
                                                                                            They've traveled the world several times over, by the way, including several African countries, Namibia being a favorite before they got too far into their 60s, they are obviously aware of the things that can happen in the jungle hospital (i'M BEING CRUEL HERE, SORRY)- he teaches nuclear theory and she's a journalistic legend in her own mind (aka graduate degree). They have their obvious pluses, being friends, but...

                                                                                4. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                                  HungryRubia RE: Passadumkeg Jul 14, 2010 07:04 AM

                                                                                  It makes a lot of sense. We have a disorder and usually a corresponding drug for everything these days.

                                                                                  1. re: HungryRubia
                                                                                    chowser RE: HungryRubia Jul 14, 2010 07:58 AM

                                                                                    I wish they would develop a corresponding drug that could prevent severe allergies.

                                                                                  2. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                                    EWSflash RE: Passadumkeg Jul 26, 2010 09:47 PM


                                                                                  3. Bada Bing RE: tatamagouche Jul 13, 2010 01:17 PM

                                                                                    Several posts in this thread remind me of when an elderly New Yorker lady (and friend of the family) who was known for her rather cranky ways was explaining that the zucchini that I had steamed was not cooked enough: too hard for her teeth to manage. I pointed out that she was at that moment gnawing on the much tougher crust of an Arthur Avenue rustic bread loaf. She looked a bit sheepish and said, "I like that bread." It was funny. She just likes the "overdone" veggies that her generation often favors, but she thought it better at first to wager her point under the banner of care for the elderly.

                                                                                    1. MGZ RE: tatamagouche Jul 14, 2010 09:12 AM

                                                                                      I've read the articles and the previous posts. Each seems to lead me back to my belief in the idea of "psychological allergies." Basically, let's try the notion that there is no actual allergen that directly causes a physical reaction, but there is instead significant enough psychological issue to indirectly trigger the physical manifestation. It is accepted that psychological issues/traumas can have physical consequences (tears, hyperventilating, etc.). It is also pretty clear that taste and smell impact upon the psychological state (jasmine oil being the most recently discussed). Why wouldn't there be psychological allergies?

                                                                                      I accept the notion that many psychological issues have roots in our upbringing. Being that we learn much of our approaches to food/drink from our parents, it seems quite plausible that they could create issues that lead to the "allergies" I contemplate, doesn't it? I realize that issues related to parenting skills are quite taboo, but don't you think the woman in the WSJ article needs help? She sure realizes she's not right - she hides her eating habits from her own children. (Frankly, maybe she wasn't a great candidate for procreation.)

                                                                                      As for the "supertaster" thing . . . All, I can say is how can you not love the creation of the euphamism? "Your taste buds don't work correctly, so we'll call you a supertaster and use it to justify why you're so fat." And, the number of dots trick, really? Somehow they only increase the bitter sensation? You would think that it should increase the sensitivity to all tastes, right? Shouldn't sweet tastes be too sweet? Sour be too sour? Let me know when someone besides Dr. Oz prooves the notion and doesn't doesn't deem it a disorder.

                                                                                      16 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: MGZ
                                                                                        Duppie RE: MGZ Jul 14, 2010 09:36 AM

                                                                                        But isn't everything out of the ordinary deemed a disorder by Dr Oz,Dr Phil,Dr Gupta and who ever is selling a book this week and thereby necessitating a treatment?.{See Book of the week or Oprah}. Now the next pertinent question is, who decides what's normal?{See Dr Oz,Dr Phil,Dr Gupta,book of the week and/or Oprah}

                                                                                        1. re: MGZ
                                                                                          Passadumkeg RE: MGZ Jul 14, 2010 10:06 AM

                                                                                          MGZ, amen!

                                                                                          1. re: MGZ
                                                                                            stet RE: MGZ Jul 14, 2010 11:54 AM

                                                                                            I'm not sure what you're getting at with the supertaster thing. You know this isn't a new idea, right? It goes back almost a century, and it's just the title of "supertaster" that dates back only a decade.

                                                                                            I'm not sure if you don't believe that supertasters exist or if you really think Dr. Oz is the only person talking about this, but the concept has roots in evolution, anatomy and biology, not television psychiatry.

                                                                                            It's not even that complicated an idea, either. It's simply an expression of genetic variation.

                                                                                            1. re: stet
                                                                                              MGZ RE: stet Jul 14, 2010 12:18 PM

                                                                                              I'm sure you're right . . . . You must admit that co-opting the concept, employing the euphemism, and using the parlor tricks for a litmus is a bit much.

                                                                                              1. re: MGZ
                                                                                                stet RE: MGZ Jul 14, 2010 12:33 PM

                                                                                                Using it as an excuse for obesity is unacceptable, yes. THAT, I'm sure, is indeed a recent development and also patently ridiculous.

                                                                                                1. re: stet
                                                                                                  MGZ RE: stet Jul 14, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                                                  Well, given that ours is becoming a post- natural selection world, let's hope for the sake of future 'hounds this mutation does not spread. (On a lighter note, how come fruit tastes bitter, but apparently Hostess Fruit Pies don't?)

                                                                                                2. re: MGZ
                                                                                                  Caitlin McGrath RE: MGZ Jul 14, 2010 04:44 PM

                                                                                                  I'm not sure why you think the term "supertaster" is a euphemism. It was employed for its descriptive accuracy (supertasters taste certain qualities of flavor more acutely than "normal" tasters). There is an opposite, called a "nontaster," but that doesn't imply that nontasters literally can't distinguish flavors. The fact that people misunderstand the term doesn't make it euphemistic. And if people are saying that someone with massive food aversions are portrayed as having those aversions because they are supertasters, that is a misunderstanding of what the term means. I don't watch afternoon television, but I have never seen or heard classification as a supertaster used as an explanation or excuse for obesity, but again, that could only result from a misunderstanding of the term.

                                                                                                  As for what you describe as "psychological allergy," that would more acurately be called psychosomatic intolerance, I think, because people experience physiological symptoms of intolerance in response to a psychological relationship with food. Certainly, the aversions described in the article are psychological in nature, as you say. I just don't want to fling the term "allergy" around when speaking about things that aren't actually allergies and don't involve immunological response simply because they are so misunderstood already.

                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                                                    MGZ RE: Caitlin McGrath Jul 15, 2010 03:59 AM

                                                                                                    “Supertaster” is a pleasant term with connotations of “better than” normal (e.g. superhero, superstar, etc.). The condition it describes, however, does not appear to be a truly positive one. Those labeled “supertasters” have a distorted sense of taste. For example, in the ABC article referenced above (and from which much of the foregoing discussion stemmed), supertasters distorted tastes led to adverse physical consequences. It would seem that “supertasters” could just as readily have been labeled “acutetasters,” ” hypertasters,” “devianttasters,” “mutanttasters,” etc. – each being increasingly less mild. Thus, by electing to employ a term with a pleasant connotation in lieu of a descriptive term or phrase that may be deemed unpleasant, a euphemism was created.

                                                                                                    Again, this was all based upon the ABC article discussing Dr. Oz’s weight loss book The term’s euphemistic application is much more patently clear in that context. In fact, given your apparent fervor for the science behind the notion, please let us know what you think of how it is being applied at the “pop” level. (Oh, and avoiding daytime TV seems like a wise decision – other than Tyra it’s all dreadful . . . and she’s better without the sound!).

                                                                                                    I assume you noted the number of responses herein concerning people claiming allergies. That is the reason for the use of that term. I don’t think they actually suffer from allergies, nor do I think they are just asserting intolerance for attention. I have no reason to believe that those individuals do not suffer when they consume the offending substance, I simply raise the question of whether or not there is a way to solve their malady by rethinking its cause.

                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ
                                                                                                      tatamagouche RE: MGZ Jul 15, 2010 06:19 AM

                                                                                                      MGZ, I agree w/ you about the fact that the pleasantness of the term has allowed it to be seized on by pop media. But I agree with Caitlin that the phenomenon is real; it's been discussed on these boards for a long time. It's like everything else—I suspect there are a few people who "really are" supertasters and everyone else who thinks "Cilantro tastes like soap to me; I must be a supertaster."

                                                                                                      I was also thinking "psychosomatic intolerance" when I read "psychological allergy," BTW, Caitlin! Odd, but I think accurate (as long as we're on the topic of accurate terminology).

                                                                                                      1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                                        EWSflash RE: tatamagouche Jul 27, 2010 08:17 PM

                                                                                                        and everyone else who thinks "Cilantro tastes like soap to me; I must be a supertaster."

                                                                                                        Gracias, tata. You said it all there.

                                                                                                    2. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                                                      maria lorraine RE: Caitlin McGrath Jul 15, 2010 08:02 AM

                                                                                                      Nearly everything in the ABC article is inaccurate.

                                                                                                      In the scientific world, we don't use the term supertaster. That's a pop-culture term. And the "number of taste buds" hype has very little to do with taste acuity.

                                                                                                      Neurology underpins nearly everything about our sense of taste.

                                                                                                      In the same sense that we don't see with our eyes -- we see with our brains, we don't taste with our taste buds -- we taste with our brains.

                                                                                                      To aid us in seeing, we have a lens, an optic nerve that delivers visual information to the brain, and the visual processing center in our brain that interprets the information.

                                                                                                      To aid us in tasting, we have taste buds, neural relays that transmit taste information to the brain, and several taste processing centers in the brain. Any one of these parts of our anatomy may have diminished or enhanced capacity, and as a result the individual will have diminished or enhanced taste perception.

                                                                                                      That’s why the number of taste buds on an individual’s tongue means very little.

                                                                                                      It's our brain’s taste centers that determine the identity and intensity of tastes. When the brain’s taste processor center(s) – mainly, the rostral insula -- are *unused,* or damaged in any sense, an individual’s sense of taste is diminished. This is how an individual with a great many taste buds may have only moderate taste acuity.

                                                                                                      Or, neural relays may be the cause. Between the taste buds and the brain’s taste processing centers are the neural relays. These relays *frequently* down-regulate and send *less* information to the brain. The relays down-regulate for many reasons, repeated exposure to hot and spicy foods being one. So you can have a plethora of taste buds, but if your relays are down-regulated, you still will have diminished taste.

                                                                                                      Even in the same individual, the ability to register taste information varies. We have dedicated neurons in the brain for each of the five tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Just one example of this: When you’ve reached (or are near) satiety, the neurons themselves reduce function.

                                                                                                      Just as any part of our taste anatomy may be diminished, it may also be enhanced or up-regulated. You may have more taste buds per square centimeter than most people, or you may have better signaling to the brain, or your brain may interpret the information with *greater skill.* In all three situations, you will have increased taste perception.

                                                                                                      The ability of the brain to *learn* and become more adept at processing taste information and forming neural associations is one of the most striking things about the physiology of taste. A person who studies food or wine intently, or music or perfume or art intently, has enhanced processing of sensory information in their field. This is how palates become educated, and how a person with a normal number of taste buds can, with practice, become a hypertaster.

                                                                                                      Taste information is only part of the information we use to “interpret” food. Taste neurons interface with olfactory information in the orbitofrontal cortex. A reduced ability to smell or a bad interface means a reduced ability to interpret taste information. The trigeminal, maxillary and mandibular nerves in our head nerv carry information to the brain about a wine or food’s temperature, texture and a great many other factors. Any one of these nerves may have diminished or enhanced signaling that will affect taste processing.

                                                                                                      We each have selective sensitivities or deficits that make us sensitive or insensitive to certain flavors and textures. These are mostly genetically determined. There are genetic phenotypes that determine perceptions of fat, creaminess, optimal sweetness, bitterness and many other factors found in food.

                                                                                                      It’s important to understand that a hypersensitivity to bitterness does not constitute a hypersensitivity to tastes overall. It simply means a hypersensitivity to bitterness, and more specifically, a hypersensitivity to an individual bitter substance (like one of the artificial sweetening agents or PROP/thiorea strips). Someone else may have a hypersensitivity to fat or sweetness or green bell pepper flavors (pyrazines).

                                                                                                      In my research and interviews, hypertasters are often not put off by bitterness in food or wine. Though the hypertaster tastes the bitterness profoundly, s/he also tastes all the other flavors that appear in concert with the bitterness and that mollify its disagreeableness. The bitterness appears as simply one note of a chord.

                                                                                                  2. re: stet
                                                                                                    EWSflash RE: stet Jul 27, 2010 07:30 AM

                                                                                                    Surely you're not going to deny the possibility of the term 'supertaster' could take on a the meaning of a whole new 'superpower' to the attantion-starved.

                                                                                                  3. re: MGZ
                                                                                                    EWSflash RE: MGZ Jul 26, 2010 09:50 PM

                                                                                                    "the idea of "psychological allergies." Basically, let's try the notion that there is no actual allergen that directly causes a physical reaction, but there is instead significant enough psychological issue to indirectly trigger the physical manifestation. "

                                                                                                    Am I the only chowhound that's a magnet for people like this?

                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ
                                                                                                      Isoldamay RE: MGZ Jul 27, 2010 06:19 PM

                                                                                                      I know this is very controversial, but most of the people I know who are self-proclaimed supertasters are very thin. Most fat people, by contrast, love eating, but not food.

                                                                                                      1. re: Isoldamay
                                                                                                        EWSflash RE: Isoldamay Jul 27, 2010 07:59 PM

                                                                                                        I can see that- the whole food-as-control thing along with the alleregies and anorexia and all the other things. A calling card for the Too Precious...

                                                                                                        1. re: Isoldamay
                                                                                                          buttertart RE: Isoldamay Jul 28, 2010 06:27 AM

                                                                                                          Tell that (just enjoying eating) to Jay Rayner.

                                                                                                      2. Bada Bing RE: tatamagouche Jul 14, 2010 05:19 PM

                                                                                                        I've watched this thread for a while now, and I'm frankly amazed at the proportion of messages bearing on allergies and, next in line, supertasting. Those are both realities, of course. But all my experience suggests that a run-of-the-mill picky eater has neither of those qualities. Picky eaters, in my experience, are usually just manifesting a kind of anxiety/control impulse that other affected people might manifest in other ways (such as worrying about sounds or smells or the orderly planning of activities).

                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                          Phaedrus RE: Bada Bing Jul 14, 2010 05:51 PM

                                                                                                          Are we back on topic?

                                                                                                          1. re: Phaedrus
                                                                                                            tatamagouche RE: Phaedrus Jul 15, 2010 06:20 AM

                                                                                                            Heh. Exactly, Bada Bing, I tried to suggest the same thing....somewhere up there.

                                                                                                          2. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                            cowboyardee RE: Bada Bing Jul 15, 2010 06:49 AM

                                                                                                            Glad you brought it back on topic, bada bing. It's strange that pickiness and intolerance/allergies have been so closely linked in this thread. As far as I can tell, they have little to do with each other.

                                                                                                            I'm reminded of a good friend of mine with a list of allergies and intolerances as long as my arm - eggs, shellfish, nuts, soy products, lactose, carrots. The thing is, he loves trying new foods. If he accidentally ingests one of the offending ingredients, he often quite enjoys his meal until the cramps or rash sets in (or in the case of shellfish, until his throat swells shut). I enjoy cooking for him, though it can be a challenge to avoid all the offending ingredients. He's a game and appreciative audience.

                                                                                                            I know one example doesn't generalize to everyone. But I can think of many others. The pickiest eaters I know suffer no major allergies, and most (though not all) people I know with real allergies and severe intolerances are not otherwise all that picky.

                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                                              Bada Bing RE: cowboyardee Jul 15, 2010 09:47 AM

                                                                                                              Boy, that's one daring friend ("Well, let's see if my throat swells shut with this stuff!"). I hope he has an epi-pen or something like that handy at all times...

                                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                                                greygarious RE: cowboyardee Jul 15, 2010 10:12 AM

                                                                                                                Celebrichef Ming Tsai is one of the few who owns only one restaurant. At Blue Ginger, in MA, he has instituted policies ensuring that the entire staff is educated about food allergies and takes them seriously. This includes dedicated equipment and storage in the kitchen. He has also worked on a MA restaurant certification program for this. He has an allergic child himself. Saw him on local TV discussing this. It winds up being profitable for the restaurant to take and advertise extra precautions, as it increased the number of (well-heeled) families dining there. Instead of just the parents, they now get the allergic kids too. I'd think, though, that an increased number of tables with children may drive some adult patrons away. I have not been there since they expanded; maybe they discreetly steer the family and adult parties into different sections. http://www.ming.com/foodallergies/ma-...

                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                                  dave_c RE: greygarious Jul 15, 2010 10:24 AM

                                                                                                                  Hopefully, the children keep themselves occupied by watching movies on their Apple Touch thing-a-majiggy. I know it's rude to do that at the table (at home), but the other patrons would appreciate it. :-)

                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious
                                                                                                                    Phaedrus RE: greygarious Jul 15, 2010 10:32 AM

                                                                                                                    In Chinese cuisine, the Buddhist cuisine is a part of the whole, and that is completely vegetarian. the requirements are very strict, almost as strict as keeping kosher: keeping two sets of plates, cookware, cutlery, cutting board etc. So I can see where this might come from with Ming Tsai.

                                                                                                                  2. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                                                    Isoldamay RE: cowboyardee Jul 27, 2010 06:23 PM

                                                                                                                    Au contraire! Picky eating and allergies, at least in my picky, food allergic son, are related. Early on, his experience of food was really painful. He had milk protein, egg, soy and nut allergies that weren't diagnosed until he was about 2, so my guess is that this made him wary of all food. He outgrew everything but the nut and peanut allergies, but is still annoyingly picky. I try to be patient, but it does bug me that the 13 yo son of a food-lover won't even eat the foods that are safe and healthy for him to eat.

                                                                                                                2. m
                                                                                                                  msjess RE: tatamagouche Jul 18, 2010 02:07 PM

                                                                                                                  My sister and I used to be a really picky eatesr - I ate maybe 20 or so foods and like article suggested most of it was really bland, no sauces, no veggies. I'm so much better now but I still have issues around things that are pickled and I can't eat seafood. It just creeps me out. My sister will eat fish but not vegetable - she knows intellectually she should eat veggies but she can't get over her revulsion to them. She gets uber defensive about it. She also hates salad dressings so that doesn't help.

                                                                                                                  1. AndrewK512 RE: tatamagouche Jul 22, 2010 05:20 PM

                                                                                                                    With exception to supertasters and people with true mental disabilities, the idea behind this article is completely ridiculous.
                                                                                                                    "almost all adult picky eaters like French fries and often chicken fingers, health experts say."
                                                                                                                    A disorder? If these people's parents would've forced them to try new foods, this 'disorder' would've never carried on to adulthood. I don't doubt that after years of a restricted diet their minds have become unable to cope with new tastes. But of course, instead of getting these people to gradually introduce new foods into their diet, our society has found an excuse for them to continue their childlike behaviours.

                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: AndrewK512
                                                                                                                      tatamagouche RE: AndrewK512 Jul 22, 2010 06:28 PM

                                                                                                                      I disagree. There are many, many people with very limited diets by choice who are perfectly comfortable with that fact and live their lives, eating the few things they like, neurosis-free. This article is about people who feel shame and anxiety around their food choices.

                                                                                                                      An obvious parallel is bulimia. To say bulimics don't have a disorder, they're just people who eat too much sometimes, would be to utterly misunderstand (and belittle) what they go through.

                                                                                                                      1. re: tatamagouche
                                                                                                                        Isoldamay RE: tatamagouche Jul 27, 2010 06:25 PM

                                                                                                                        Yep. Some people just don't eat for pleasure, but survival. I don't relate to them at all. Food is recreation, pleasure and sustenance to me, but there are some who just don't feel this way.

                                                                                                                      2. re: AndrewK512
                                                                                                                        Sooeygun RE: AndrewK512 Jul 23, 2010 06:33 AM

                                                                                                                        I also disagree. I suppose you also don't believe in OCD or anorexia or depression. I would recommend watching this (this is the first of 3 parts) about people with food issues.

                                                                                                                        These people don't want to be like they are and try to get help to overcome it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: AndrewK512
                                                                                                                          Bada Bing RE: AndrewK512 Jul 23, 2010 07:29 AM

                                                                                                                          One can call picky eating a disorder when the behavior pattern is unwelcome, troublesome in a person's life, and difficult to stop. That's what defines mental disorders.

                                                                                                                          For those picky eaters who are happy as clams and not malnourished, there is no "disorder."

                                                                                                                          1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                                            EWSflash RE: Bada Bing Jul 27, 2010 08:22 PM

                                                                                                                            You're right! They're simply people that piss off chowhounds!

                                                                                                                            Myself included, obviously.

                                                                                                                        2. Passadumkeg RE: tatamagouche Jul 29, 2011 10:09 AM

                                                                                                                          I have an aversion to eating to eating things from cans and SPAM. I know where it came from.
                                                                                                                          One, two, three, four,
                                                                                                                          What are are you marching for..
                                                                                                                          Pure psychological association.
                                                                                                                          Carpe Chow!

                                                                                                                          1. Mr Taster RE: tatamagouche Jul 29, 2011 11:00 AM

                                                                                                                            Passadumkeg is absolutely right. The thing I don't get about picky eating is that we're obviously not born that way, so how does it develop? Can you imagine a teenager in India complaining that she doesn't like spice or lentils?

                                                                                                                            I really think picky eating is a luxury disorder of people who live in wealthy countries. I just heard a story on NPR about AIDS patients in Africa who are so poor and so impoverished that they consume diluted cow dung so that they can take their AIDS medicines on a full stomach.

                                                                                                                            Picky eating is ultimately a series of choices that eventually solidify into habits. It's a luxury of a society where we are able to make an infinite series of choices. (I'm not talking about real allergies, just preferences that develop or change over the years because we have the ability to make these choices)

                                                                                                                            I see this when I visit my family in Taiwan. Most of what is available is Taiwanese food (certainly this is the case outside of the cities where my family lives). Virtually everyone in these areas eat and enjoy Taiwanese food. While the textures and flavors are not what I prefer (I prefer other regional styles of Chinese cooking over the Fujianese/Hakkanese style in Taiwan), I eat most of it because that's what's available and I don't want to go hungry. Over time, I've developed preferences for foods I initially didn't like (stinky tofu!). So people develop eating habits but it's not like foods you don't like = poison. If you were that poor soul in Africa, I'm sure you'd gladly eat stinky tofu over diluted cow dung, even if you had a problem with it at first.

                                                                                                                            So the real question is, if you absolutely detested something (say, cilantro) and it came down to the wire eating cilantro on a taco would save your life, then is it possible to slowly introduce these kinds of things back into a picky eater's diet, in an effort to gradually expand their palate to more mature levels?

                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                                              chowser RE: Mr Taster Jul 29, 2011 11:33 AM

                                                                                                                              I find, being from Taiwan, that my Taiwanese relatives might love what they've grown up with but are the pickiest eaters when they come here. People like their comfort zone, not just Americans. Cheese is barely palatable but I'd never give them blue cheeses.The biggest challenge when they visit is finding what they will eat. I don't think that's different from other cultures.

                                                                                                                              Yes, it's definitely a wealthy prerogative and people eat most anything, even tea made w/ grass as they do in some countries, when starving. But, being forced to eat something so you survive is different from enjoying food. Is it possible to introduce foods to please the picky eater? Sure, many parents try all the time. But, I've stopped trying to convince my parents, who've been here fo almost 50 years, to eat other than what they're comfortable with at this point. Why bother? When we go out, it's to a limited type of restaurants. It's not a big deal.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                                                cowboyardee RE: Mr Taster Jul 29, 2011 11:56 AM

                                                                                                                                A huge factor in liking foods is repeated exposure. This is why the Taiwanese all like Taiwanese food even though many of them may be very picky eaters when they travel abroad. When you grow up in a wealthy country with a wide variety of affordable food to choose from, there is no real impetus to repeatedly expose oneself to foods you disliked upon the first try or two.

                                                                                                                                Those in wealthy countries who make a real effort to repeatedly try things, even foods that they have in the past found challenging or disliked, often wind up liking a huge variety of foods with relatively few food phobias.

                                                                                                                                The fact that nearly anything tastes good when you're hungry enough/starving is a different matter, but also true.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                                                  escondido123 RE: Mr Taster Aug 1, 2011 02:27 PM

                                                                                                                                  I am one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap--and I don't like that taste. That said, I have eaten all sorts of dishes with cilantro in it and have enjoyed them, but would like them more without the "soap." I have discovered that cooked cilantro tastes less soapy so if something hot is served with fresh cilantro on top, I discreetly pull off what I can and tuck the rest underneath to get "cooked" a little. When eating tacos and such both here in San Diego and in Mexico I've found lots of places offer with and without cilantro so that helps. But at the end of the day, raw cilantro still tastes soapy to me. (I heard an article on NPR that there is a compound in cilantro that some people--I guess I'm one of them--cannot taste. It is that taste, a real nice one they said, that "covers up" the soapy taste for other people.)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123
                                                                                                                                    Phaedrus RE: escondido123 Aug 2, 2011 02:27 PM

                                                                                                                                    Ironic that your handle is escondido.

                                                                                                                                2. Passadumkeg RE: tatamagouche Jul 29, 2011 12:17 PM

                                                                                                                                  An interesting health news program on our local radio station, weru.org about prenatal human development. The sense of taste and smell develop at 7 mos. in the fetus. The French did a study, exposing one group of fetuses to anise smell and extract and the other group nothing. The group of infants exposed to the anise, liked it at birth, those not, turned away from it. Mom's eat lots of garlic, and cilantro while pregnant!
                                                                                                                                  Food for thought.

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                                                                                    cowboyardee RE: Passadumkeg Jul 29, 2011 12:45 PM

                                                                                                                                    Hmmm.... my wife is a pretty picky eater. Do you think my offspring can develop a taste for varied foodstuffs just from smelling all the different foods I cooked for myself while she was pregnant?


                                                                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg
                                                                                                                                      aggiecat RE: Passadumkeg Aug 11, 2011 03:00 PM

                                                                                                                                      Well...that would explain a LOT of my niece's eating behavior. ;)

                                                                                                                                    2. Mr Taster RE: tatamagouche Aug 11, 2011 03:31 PM

                                                                                                                                      Another fascinating topic from NPR.

                                                                                                                                      It seems that a baby is acclimated to it's mother's tastes in utero.


                                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                                                        skyline RE: Mr Taster Aug 22, 2011 09:07 AM

                                                                                                                                        I definitely give some credence to this. While pregnant with my son, I deliberately avoided anything with caffeine or that produced a caffeine effect (had a high-risk pregnancy). Therefore, for 8 months (found out VERY early!) not an iota of tea, coffee, colatype drink, or my beloved chocolate passed my lips. My son, from his very first taste of it, has despised -- and as an adult continues to despise -- the taste of tea, 'brown' sodas, AND chocolate! He drinks decaf coffee the same way I always drank it, which is 25% coffee, 75% milk, and 4 teaspoons of sugar before tasting it -- taking "light and sweet" to a whole new level, LOL.

                                                                                                                                        It's not a case of Nurture rather than Nature, because he rejected those specific things from the very first taste of it as an infant. It's not as if tea, regular coffee, root beer and chocolate weren't in the house and eaten by other people all his life. He simply thinks the taste of all of them are disgusting, and has from the get-go.

                                                                                                                                        I can't help but wonder whether, if I had eaten chocolate while pregnant, my son would have been fighting with me for the last piece of Godiva, chocolate cake, or the last chocolate chip cookie all through childhood, LOL.

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