HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Cooking with NON-Foodie Friends

I have a few friends who are super picky eaters. When you're a foodie, it's a real challenge to cook with them or for them, or even agree on a simple pizza or appetizer.

Does anyone have a technique for dealing with NON-Foodies? A story to share?

I have one friend who will not try anything other than standard red sauce on pizza, and never ANY toppings other than pepperoni.

Another friend will not eat anything with either garlic or onions in it.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have one friend who won't eat anything that is touching a bone - in other words, a steak w/bone in; roasted chicken, etc. & another friend who won't eat anything with onions. When the three of us go out, we frequent buffets. :-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: muirne81

      My bf was the same way when we first met. (Although our second date was at Medieval Times, where he had to eat a whole chicken...ha!) I couldn't understand it at all...but after several years (and a good introduction to ribs and hot wings), he has finally come around.

      1. re: muirne81

        When I have a dinner party I make sure and have a variety of foods, everyone finds something for them. It opens up people to trying new things too. I have a friend who only ate plain noodles and grilled chicken breasts. I kept inviting her over and the more she tried the more she liked. I can't believe I saw her eating pad thai the other day!

      2. Sometimes it's about the friendship and not to food. My friends consider me the picky one because I'd rather not eat at the Cheesecake Factory,:-)

        2 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          I concur with chowser... sometimes best just to enjoy the company that you're with and savor the experience of eating when you are with people who have similar tastes to your own.

          1. re: chowser

            Yeah, I know that feeling. I've learned to eat before getting dragged to Chili's or the like, and then just get something small. I get to enjoy their company, and don't waste money on food I don't want to eat.

          2. I just go with it. I can eat picky-eaters food and will do so in these cases. No biggie for me, but it would be a big deal for them to have to eat things they don't like. One of the advantages of *not* being a fussy one! :)

            1. I'll go anywhere because I'm the exact opposite of a picky eater and can find something to eat anywhere. So I either let them pick or (if they're visiting me from out of town) I pick a restaurant I know they'll like or find something they'll like.

              If I'm not a picky eater and they are, then I'll defer to them because I'm their friend and want to spend time with them. Being able to eat a good meal while spending time with them is just extra and not necessary.

              1. I think it all boils down to is the friend or the occasion more important. Right now in my life I really need some "Foodie Friends". I was unexpectedly stuck in Fort Worth 3 years ago and I've tried to make the best of it. I can talk cutting horses and saddles all day, I can talk accounting and business with another group, I still have my bunch of Hollywood friends and we can talk about the film and music business in CA.

                You will never satisfy your NON-foodie friends. Don't bother cooking for them, and just let your friendship take you to whatever non-foodie place they like.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Barbara76137

                  Exactly--develop different groups of friends for different interests. I don't expect my CH friends to go for 10 mile runs with me any more than I'd expect my runner friends to love the foods I do. It's nice if they're both but they don't have to be.

                  1. re: chowser

                    I'm with Barbara here. I really could use some foodie friends to share food passions with. I'm lucky to have a mother who's a foodie and a sister. Amongst the three of us, we could talk food all day long. Alas, though, they live far away.

                    One of my non-foodie friends suprised me though. She was over last night, and I had mentioned I made an asparagus lasagna that I thought was out of this world. She actually tried a bite and said she loved it! Go figure. LOL.

                    1. re: natewrites

                      I'm lucky I work in the food industry and have some coworkers who actually like food.

                      Most of my friends are either cheapskates (i.e. $10 meals and yet they mostly make more than me) or don't find the additional value in more refined cooking.

                      I am lucky they at least will eat stuff with bones, I wouldn't know how to deal with people who don't eat food with bones, in fact I find it borderline offensive as a foodie for someone not to appreciate all parts of the animal and the bone is the least intimidating.

                      1. re: Johnny L

                        Laughing at Barbara as I'm unexpectedly stuck in Fort Worth now! Almost 2 years and counting... no foodie friends for miles. So I just kind of let the other person choose the restaurant or cook on the bland side if someone comes over. I'm finding the people around me can really appreciate and overdone steak and baked potato, it's becoming my signature dish!

                        1. re: alliegator

                          That ain't much of a "signature"! :) But I understand, you gotta overcook the steak! And I was criticized because I insisted on actually baking potatoes and just not nuking them in the microwave.

                          Any time you want to check out a Fort Worth restaurant with a fellow foodie, just let me know!

                2. I feel your pain, natewrites. I am surrounded by food phobics, though ironically, I think most of them pride themselves on their excellent taste or would even call themseves gourmets or foodies.

                  I have the friend who calls herself a vegetarian, but who eats seafood. She doesn't like spicy food, and there's a lot of vegetables on her "no" list (cauliflower, beans...). Because she likes to dine at trendy restaurants, she went to a popular local steakhouse, but complained that the food was disappointing. Yeah, I figure that if you don't eat steak, a steakhouse WOULD be disappointing.

                  I have another friend who calls herself a vegan, and extolled the virtues of Indian restaurants, not understanding the amount of butter that went into the vegetarian dishes she raved about.

                  The only vegetable one friend will eat is green beans. From the can. She'll pick around tomatoes, onions, olives and any other vegetable matter in any food on her plate, like a child. She does not like foods containing fruit or nuts, nor will she eat seafood.

                  My husband and his family think that a pizza with anything on it other than pepperoni or sausage is weird and exotic. A sibling of his hates anything with coconut or peas. Another family member won't eat cookies or cake containing nuts (though nuts are completely acceptable for snacking). And yet another eschews any kind of fish.

                  On my side, a member of my dad's side of the family informed me that only immigrants eat lamb.

                  It's annoying to have to deal with their hangups when trying to find someplace to eat or something to cook. But I comfort myself with the knowledge that it's much, much more stressful to be them, to be afraid of tastes and textures than to be easy-going and open minded like me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LaPomme


                    I have a friend who is all three of yours basically rolled into one. Won't eat meat, though might eat chicken. If it doesn't look like it came from a chicken, so only boneless skinless breasts. "Eats" fish, though nothing too fatty or strong-flavored. Won't eat tomatoes or mushrooms. Not crazy about beans except green beans. Will eat raw green or red peppers. At home essentially subsists on tofu and string beans and salad. A lot of her food phobias are, I think, driven by wanting to stay rail-thin, not healthy, just skinny.

                    Our friends, as a group, don't go out as much as we used to due to young kids and stretched budgets. When we did, as much as a half-hour could be taken deciding what on the menu she could eat. That was tiresome. Now we all mostly go to each others' places for dinner. For a while earlier this summer, she was following Alicia Silverstone's Kind Diet. So any protein we cooked had to have an alternate, usually shrimp, because it was easy to portion. Sauteed shrimp, BBQ shrimp, shrimp on a skewer, you get the idea. We took to calling her Bubba. Now she's back to chicken, at least. And a little less teasing.

                    Two couples usually rotate dinners, there's one good cook in each couple, and the other spouses are good eaters. Friend's husband looks forward to these dinners -- he gets to eat! He used to be picky himself, but started traveling for work and got to try a lot of different things that he didn't get growing up. Now he's picking up that the salad dressing had rice vinegar in it, and really likes it. It's been a lot of fun to watch him become both more open and more discriminating.

                  2. Some of my friends couldn't care less about food, but they're not super picky. They just have simple tastes- nothing too fancy or saucy or exotic- they'd rather eat a plain nicely cooked steak or piece of fish.

                    A funny story... I knew a vegan who had a habit of ordering pasta carbonara and picking out the bacon pieces. Same vegan ordered a bacon cheeseburger, picked out the bacon, cheese, burger, and ate the lettuce and tomato with mayo on the bun.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: cheesecake17

                      Your friend might enjoy In-N-Out's Veggie Burger from their secret menu "A sandwich containing only vegetables, and no meat or cheese"


                      1. re: cheesecake17

                        Okay, do I misunderstand "vegan" or do people like your friend, or my friend who eats butter-soaked vegetables misunderstand? Because I was pretty sure that "vegan" meant that you avoided all animal products, which I assume includes things like cheese (carbonara) and butter (Indian food). If you just avoid meat, that's vegetarian, not vegan.

                        1. re: LaPomme

                          I think we're the ones who actually understand. To each his own.. but to say "I'm vegan, I avoid eating all animal products" and then go and pick out bacon from pasta kind of ruins the idea of being vegan.

                          My opinion.. people like your/my friend make bystanders and restaurant employees take vegetarians/vegans less seriously.

                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            Not to mention that carbonara, even without bacon, still contains eggs and cheese, both animal products.

                            This kind of behaviour drives me nuts, because then waiters feel free to tell me the risotto is vegetarian when it's made with chicken stock.

                            1. re: piccola

                              < risotto is vegetarian when it's made with chicken stock. >

                              That drives me insane! So many cooking shows feature "veggie" meals or "meatless" entrees... but then the cook/chef uses chicken or beef broth. It's not a meatless mushroom dish if it has chicken broth!!

                      2. The difficult part for most foodies is that so much of our social time is spent eating and drinking. I've simply stopped inviting people out to eat who I know are extremely picky. I've unfortunately dated far too many women who order dessert ONLY when taken to a non "American" restaurant. I have another picky friend whom I invited over to watch an Eagles game with a few guys. He asked what I had to eat. I told him German, Italian and French sausages grilled, good bread, potato salad and a couple cases of Bitburger Pils. He brought honey BBQ wings from KFC. Now in that situation the game took precedent and we had an enjoyable evening; although I was a little insulted. But going out to a restaurant and particularly a special place and to have it not appreciated is foolish and disappointing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Chinon00

                          LaPomme,. I'm so reading what you're saying and have been there. I feel everyone's angst here, too. We do LOVE our non-foodie friends, and yes, we do build things around food and drink when others do not. It's hard to be tolerant when others are "picky" and not open to new things.

                        2. I have a non-foodie family, which is even more awkward. And to compound it, several of them consider themselves foodies and one has published three cookbooks of recipes from family and friends, stuffed with recipes that rely on canned soup, boxed baking mix, Jell-O, etc. There are very few recipes that include things that grew in the dirt or on trees. Their definition of foodie is "someone who likes to eat" which is a perfectly reasonable definition.

                          I figure, they're family and I love them and I love being with them, just like they love me even though there are plenty of things about me that don't align with them. nobody else likes movies, for example. As for events that include food (which is pretty much every event--we're Chinese), I do the Scarlett O'Hara thing and eat before I go, then take two or three small bites of everything (esp if it's a potluck--don't want to hurt feelings) and make sure to take plenty of gravy or sauce so that my plate is messy.

                          If we go out to eat, it *will* be to a Chinese resto so I know I'll be OK.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Erika L

                            To steal from John Updike: "Love them because they are there. There is no better reason for love."

                            1. re: Erika L

                              That sounds like me with my in-laws. In the beginning, I'd try to make home made versions of the things they enjoy and they kindly put up with it but I realized they preferred their boxed versions and why fight it? They love my home made rolls so that's what I bring now. Or, maybe they put up with my home made rolls because they're being nice...

                              1. re: chowser

                                In the early years when I was learning how to cook without frozen whipped topping and boxes of cake mix, I brought two home made apple pies to a family dinner--as one cousin dug into a second slice, he said, "This is almost as good as my favorite, Marie Callendar!" I realize now that this was the highest praise he could give, although at the time I thought that I was somehow hatched and wasn't actually related to all these people. This was the same meal at which an aunt garbage disposal'd the hard sauce I'd made to accompany the pies because she said that it would make everyone drunk, and another cousin expressed great surprise that it was possible to make pie crusts from scratch. Then there was the time that my dad brought a hunk of Hickory Farms Cheddar to a dinner--it had been a gift from a colleague, and he didn't know what to do with it.

                                I, too, have learned to bring things that my family will love rather than things that I want them to love. I have lots of other people in my life with whom I share foodie-ism and it so happens that my family isn't among them--as the saying goes, it is what it is.

                                1. re: Erika L

                                  Exactlly--your family is who they are. They put up with me, too.;-)

                                  I took a class in crossaints at the L'Academie de Cuisine. They were incredible when they came out of the oven--buttery, crispy, perfect. One woman piped up, "It's almost as good as Starbucks!" Total silence in the room.

                                  1. re: Erika L

                                    What a great post! I laughed out loud to so many of these posts.

                                    Chowser and Erika, I hear you on the friends/family who prefer "boxed versions."

                                    One of my dearest friends probably would NOT eat stuffing of any kind that's homemade because she prefers "Stove Top" brand. This post is inspiring me to create another post about gross holiday foods, ugh!

                              2. To me when it comes to food there are three types of people: completely uncurious, curious but cheap and/ or lazy and curious. I find those in the middle the most frustrating. I have a friend who likes good food. If I make something she likes she'll ask how it's prepared. If I mention chopping, marinading or anything that requires time and effort she'll tell me to stop right there. Or no matter how good they admit that something is that you introduce them to if there is something similar (and inferior) and cheaper it's a no brainer for them: the cheap one. So they just can't justify the time, effort or money for the return on investment.

                                1. Last Thanksgiving I brought several bottles of Beaujolais nouveau to share. I can completely understand someone turning up their nose if they just don't like what Duboeuf has done with the industry. But no one there even knew what a Beaujolais even was, and the hostess put the bottles away, perhaps to save rather than savor. Heh. Do I pick a fight? No.

                                  Lesson learned.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                    As mentioned up earlier in the thread, the "picky" eaters are the worst.

                                    I think it's OK to simply NOT like something. That happens to us all, but a "picky" eater is more about being high maintenance than he/she is about being discerning.

                                    I'm not sure if this stems from a stubborness to simply NOT want to ever try anything new or what. But it's highly annoying.