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How to convert a picky eater?

I promised myself never to do it, but here I go falling for some guy who's a picky eater! In fact, I even once posed the question on this board if you could end up with a picky eater. I should've known...

This really is almost an impasse for me. I know we are not supposed to try and change someone, but I will do my best. Food is hugely important to me. I think in terms of foods. Not unlike many of you, I love to read about foods, create recipes and menus, shop for food, cook food, and finally eat the food. I've always eaten nearly everything--brussels sprouts to persimmons to Vietnamese food--you name it, I eat it with only three exceptions: olives, anything licorice/anise, and I'm allergic to pineapple.

The most encouraging aspect is that this man seems intent on pleasing me and not unwilling to try new foods. I wonder how much of his food inexperience was simply out of ease. We have cooked together a couple times and at least that is fun and I'm very pleased that he wants to make such gestures. However sweet, plain grilled chicken and canned peas, spaghetti sauce and ground beef can get dull. The first dinner I made for him was a roasted pork tenderloin with a plum salsa (plums, green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, cumin), roasted potatoes and a simple salad. I have also made a taco salad which is very basic to me, but seemed to push his limits.

ANY IDEAS?!!! I would like to slowly introduce him to the beautiful world of food but I want to do it in a way that doesn't seem pushy or scary. Adult or child, how can you encourage a new openness and appreciation for food?

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  1. It sounds like he is already open to trying new things. Cook for him or cook together and introduce something new to him each time. It needn't be a whole new dish, but a new ingredient or new way of preparing an old standby.

    1. If he's willing to try stuff that's half the battle, but you may have to accept that he may never be a foodie. People are going to like (or dislike) what they want to.

      1. I think it is difficult to encourage a new openness and appreciation for food unless the person wants that. I did not become a somewhat adventuresome eater until I was in my late 20s, but it was my choice and not something someone else wanted me to do. I think the harder part for me would be dating someone who didn't like to cook with me because food wasn't that important. (I had a girlfriend who loved to cook. Her boyfriend, then husband, didn't really care about food. It was not a happy union and they eventually divorced.)

        1. bblonde, you wrote "The first dinner I made for him was a roasted pork tenderloin with a plum salsa (plums, green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, cumin), roasted potatoes and a simple salad. I have also made a taco salad which is very basic to me, but seemed to push his limits."

          And if he's *not* used to trying new flavors and foods, I can see why he was pushed to his limits. Cilantro, jalapeno, and cumin can all be *very* strong flavors, and it's quite possible he was simply overwhelmed.

          I personally detest cilantro, as it tastes like soap to me. Jalapeno, I go extremely easy on (and I mean EXTREMELY easy!) and I usually cut back on cumin in recipes. But I love trying new foods, so other than the cilantro, I would would have loved this salsa.

          You said you want to slowly introduce him to foods you like. Well, sounds like you're doing that - but perhaps it just needs to be differently. What about adding small bits of crumbled cooked hot (or sweet) sausage to the spaghetti's meat sauce instead of just ground beef? A simple marinade for chicken before grilling it?

          Baby steps.

          11 Replies
          1. re: LindaWhit

            The funny thing is that the plum salsa didn't concern him at all--he really liked it. My thoughts on that were that if he positively hated the salsa, the rest of the meal was very basic. So I was just going crazy with the condiment. And it allowed me to talk about food, have him smell the cilantro and taste the plums, etc. which was fun for me and he said it was sexy to hear ;)

            It was the taco salad that he was nervous about! Just iceberg lettuce, fritos, ground beef, onions, and bell peppers with rotel and velveeta--basically a queso! He did like it upon tasting it, but the onions were in question and that would've really been a shock for me. I don't trust people who don't like onions

            ...or cilantro for that matter ;) (Isn't it funny how people seem to either LOVE or DESPISE) cilantro?

            1. re: bblonde

              Hey, you can trust me. Even though I don't like cilantro. ;-) But interesting that the plum salsa was fine, but he was nervous about the taco salad!

              I say just keep what you're doing - it's just going to be at a slower pace than perhaps you'd like. He's *trying* things; just encourage him to do so and don't push if he pushes back. Just like with little kids - sometimes you have to try something 5-10 times before you like it. ;-)

              1. re: bblonde

                Were the onions cooked or raw? I'm a pretty adventurous eater, but raw onions are on the short list of things I just can't stand.

                1. re: bblonde

                  The onions were in question how? Oh, and on the subject of cilantro, please don't judge those of us who dislike it so harshly, if it tasted to you like a squirt of soap you might not like it either. (It's a genetic tasting difference....kind of like whether you were born with the ability to roll your tongue or not.)

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Thanks for defending the cilantro-soap-tasters. :-) I tried it again today, for the gazillionth time, and eew. It ruined what was otherwise a lovely little appetizer.

                    1. re: jlhinwa

                      Definitely off subject, so just posting for the two of us. My husband and I went to France for a big anniversary and he picked a quite well regarded restaurant for dinner. I speak and read SOME French but not all. My first course was an herb salad--how was I to know one of the major ones was cilantro?! Main course came, can't remember the meat, probably lamb, and it was coated in a layer of cilantro. I did not realize at the time that French chefs had gone gaga over cilantro.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Oh my gosh! Who would have thought you would have cilantro on everything in a French restaurant? In the southwestern US, for sure, but France?!? Yikes!

                        1. re: escondido123

                          I would have stopped eating the salad as soon as I caught whiff of the cilantro. I'm sorry your main was spoiled because of it. Those of us who dislike the dreaded cilantro know what it's like to have everything else taste of it if you get just one bite. Bleah.

                    2. re: bblonde

                      yes, I heard on the Splendid Table (npr) that there is a chemical in cilantro that tastes like soap. some people can taste that chemical and others (like me and u) can't. So u can trust me ;)

                      1. re: crowmuncher

                        I thought they said there was another chemical in cilantro that tasted wonderful that "covered" the soapy taste--and that was the one we couldn't taste so the soap came through loud and clear.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          was that it really? had a senior moment I guess- thank you

                  2. Keep trying! My husband was very non-adventurous and limited in his eating habits but he is now pretty adventurous. There are some things he won't consider, but it isn't limiting anymore. He's even gotten his meat and potatoes parents to try some new things at our house.

                    One dish that goes over surprisingly well is Thai basil chicken. Even with all the basil and kaffir lime!!