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Friend only eats chicken - help with education

I've got a friend who is seriously limited in what he'll eat. He is interested in expanding his horizons, so DH and I are throwing a dinner to help. We're planning to do 8-10 small plates.

I questioned him extensively and discovered the following. He currently eats chicken (primarily), burgers, steaks. Doesn't eat vegetables really - even mashed potatoes. Fries are good. He does like garlic, parmesan, bacon, Mexican flavors and strangely (to me), red curry. No pork other than the bacon or hot dogs or any seafood. To his everlasting credit, he is willing to try almost anything.

Any suggestions for basic kind of 101 foods/preparations? Here's what is on our tentative list....

spring pea soup
caprese salad
seared scallop
shrimp ceviche
raw ahi
pork tenderloin - maybe coffee roasted?
bison steak with mashed potato
some sort of dessert

I feel like there's something that I'm missing. Any ideas?

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  1. More vegetables! Maybe roasted red peppers alongside raw ones for comparison. Kale chips. Spaghetti squash shredded out or zucchini fettuccine (with a vegetable peeler) tossed with butter, S&P and a sprinkle of cheese. A platter of marinated artichoke hearts, olives, spicy hummus, cucumber and carrot dippers.

    A cheese and fruit plate for dessert.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nemo

      Roasted asparagus or cauliflower

      1. re: chicgail

        I have eaten my weight in roasted asparagus this spring! Love the stuff. I think I'll start a post for a good pickled asparagus recipe.

    2. I think you are being a bit too ambitious serving anything raw. French research shows that children need to be exposed to a new food 12-17 times before it becomes "normal" Pickiness around food has many aspects, one important one to consider is control, make sure your friend has had a good day before you try to introduce new foods to him. The second consideration is texture, it is a BIG factor in why people don't like certain foods. I would also let him help with some prep (helps with control issues) so he sees how his food goes from basic ingredients to plate.

      I do really like the small plate idea.

      Good luck and I look forward to hearing how it turns out

      7 Replies
      1. re: ike04

        I agree about being over-ambitious. There are four dishes there that are raw or near raw which may, in total, be challenging and off-putting. Certainly I wouldnt like them all together and I'll eat just about anything.

        It seems though that all is not lost with the friend - rather than the thread title which says he only eats chicken, he actually also eats beef and pork in some forms.

        And likes strongly flavoured food - evidenced by the mention of Mexican and curry. When you say he doesnt eat vegetables, does that mean he might just eat only eat chicken for a meal - no carb or veg? The not even mashed potatoes may well be a texture thing (my partner doesnt eat it either), seeing as he will eat potato in the form of fried potato. Might be worth trying some other veg in a fried form to build on that - say some shredded cabbage and sit some pork on top of it.

        Cheese & fruit for dessert also sounds good - don't go too far adrift from strong hard cheeses like the Parmesan he likes

        1. re: Harters

          I totally agree with others here that you're being WAY too ambitious - particularly about serving "seared" scallops, carpaccio, shrimp ceviche, & raw ahi. What's this apparent "thing" you have about raw food?? You do realize that you'll be sending this poor person screaming out of the room. He's been severely sheltered/limited in his food preferences & you're going to be confirming his fears by serving him 4 dishes that are not only raw, but are all acquired tastes????

          Geesh - give the guy some common likeable vegetable dishes; give him some seared but cooked through scallops or braised in a nice sauce or in a Cioppino or Paella-type dish; cook the tuna rare, but COOK IT!! Raw "Shrimp Ceviche"? Forget it!!!! I'm very adventurous & have had both freshwater & saltwater shrimp sushi & sashimi, & it's not for everyone. This would be a mistake. Grill or saute those shrimp with garlic & herbs & serve it on its own like a tapas or over a small serving of Angel Hair pasta. And absolutely forget about the Carpaccio. Good Lord.

          While your heart "might" be in the right place, I can't help but feel that your menu is more in line with you showing your friend how "upscale" your personal tastes are & less in introducing him to the way the rest of the world is eating.

            1. re: LauraGrace

              Wow yes, but true. Better to do baby steps in the case of a guy who only eats chicken.

              1. re: EWSflash

                I was more commenting on the tone than the content. o.O

                1. re: LauraGrace

                  Perhaps, but I think it hits upon a possible tendency in terms of dealing with food: Is this about the poster and her wonderful and expansive tastes or is this about broadening another person's awareness of the range of good food out there?

                  The former is all too present at times and is more self-aggrandising than effective. Make it about the friend. (This is something you suggest below...)

            2. re: Bacardi1

              Thanks for the comments. I do appreciate it. I guess I wasn't really clear when writing the menu above. I can totally understand your thinking (but you were kind of harsh!).

              I was planning on a seared (but cooked through) scallop - not raw at all. I thought this would be a good introduction to a mild seafood.

              Also - the shrimp would be cooked before making the ceviche. I guess I was thinking more of the flavors of ceviche - lime, chiles, etc. No raw shrimp. I could make it a scampi.

              He did indicate an interest in sushi, so I thought one raw piece of ahi served with something else with a crunch would work. Again - my thinking was it isn't a fishy-fish.

              The carpaccio will probably come off the menu after seeing do many folks feel dicey about it.

              I do thank you for your input - and I assure you - my heart is in the right place. He wanted to be "challenged" so that is what guided our thoughts. :)

        2. Well, I think the most commonsense approach is to present food that he'll perceive familiarly in unfamiliar ways. The pea soup is good, caprese's great, the meat mains sound pretty spot-on. I'd advise against the raw preps, though - or at least as many of them as you're proposing, They may be too "out there" or scary for his taste just now.
          Why not some vegetables, maybe prepared differently than he's used to? Tempura'd, roasted?
          I think it's great that you're trying to expand is personal culinary horizon, and greater yet that he's not locked into a mindset of "hating" things he's never tried. Sounds like he just needs some education. He might like it; he might not; but at the end of the day, you both tried. :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: mamachef

            I love tempura sweet potatoes - and you could also try sweet potato fries since he likes french fries.

          2. I too would skip the raw preparations. Why not go for dishes that are already popular with many folks? What about spaghetti and meatballs? A nice braised beef with polenta? Risotto with parmesan and bacon? You could even start with an antipasto that offers lots of little bites of salami, cheeses, roasted veg and such. I have to admit when you I look at your list I see 4 dishes that wouldn't be high on my list.

            1. Perhaps try something more common such as lamb and/or duck. I agree with those who mentioned to get him to try something a little easier to love such as a great homemade pasta (i.e. ravioli).

              1. First, I agree with all the comments about too much raw food.

                More important, to understand what approach to take, I'd need to know why, if he's willing to try almost anything, he's been so limited in his food choices. What does he like about the foods he does eat, and what has turned him off from other foods? Is it smell? Texture? Bad experiences with badly prepared versions? Etc.

                1. Ask lots of questions. What is it about the foods he doesn't like that puts him off? Is it flavor? Texture? Smell? What is it about the foods he likes that he finds appealing? See if he can analyze it as he's eating something he loves.

                  I can tell you that all my food aversions are texture things, and ten years ago, I wouldn't have touched carpaccio, scallops, ceviche, or ahi with a ten foot pole. I've grown to enjoy some of those textures, but if that's part of his issue, you're going to be throwing a lot of money away.

                  Why not try new ingredients using flavors he already likes? Red curry shrimp. Pork loin crusted with mole' or Mexican spices. Bacon-wrapped asparagus. Garlicky roasted cauliflower with parmigiano. Etc.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LauraGrace

                    Or even bacon-wrapped jalepeno "poppers" (filled with cream cheese) since he likes Mexican flavors and bacon.

                  2. I totally get wanting to share all the good foods your friend has been missing. But it may be a little less overwhelming to do a few, less varied dinners, over several months.

                    Maybe one month do Mexican. Make corn tortillas (or buy flour) and have a shredded chicken filling and also a shrimp one. Make pico de gallo, guacamole, jicama-orange salad, black beans, maybe a green salad with radishes, cotija cheese, viniagrette with Mexican flavors. You could throw in the shrimp ceviche here, where it's not so overwhelming with a lot of familiar flavors.

                    Another month you could do a menu around a red curry dish (maybe including two proteins, one familiar and one not) and lots of veggies (a variety of cooked/raw).

                    Garlic and parmesan say Italian to me. Maybe ravioli or spaghetti with sauces on the side: alfredo, marinara, maybe meatballs. Roasted veggies wtih parmesan sprinkled over, maybe a little lemon juice.

                    BBQ with burgers AND pulled pork, perfectly ripe watermelon, potato salad, roasted veggies (maybe even baby portobello - could make a trio of sliders), pickles, devilled eggs, etc.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: SAHCook

                      Excellent idea - thanks! We are planning to keep up with dinners going forward and I love those ideas!

                    2. as usual... KISS
                      keep it simple stupid

                      variations of his favorite dishes with other meats, meatless. while i agree in general about avoiding raw, you also want to avoid overcooked. If he likes fries, then try other kinds of fries like sweet potato. there must be some reason he doesn't eat other things. Probably want to avoid strong tasting veg, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts... in fact i'd tend to avoid cruciferous all together.

                      What textures does he like or dislike. I'm guessing the spring pea soup... while it sounds wonderful... may not be a good choice. pureed soup of any kind would not be on my list. stick to broth type soups. its a texture thing. if you want to introduce veggies and other meats a nice minestrone could work well. seared ahi might be a little less threatening than raw. shrimp anything would not be on my list.

                      pork tenderloin sounds great, and you already know he likes steak, so the bison might be a great choice... a known food in a different format. maybe make a very different chicken dish to give him a comfort food to fall back on between bites of the new stuff. tandoori chicken?

                      im kinda curious why a whole meal of small plates rather than just introducing one or two new items in a meal of other things he likes. maybe he won't try the new things if he has a standby there?

                      whatever you do, I'm sure he will appreciate the effort.

                      1. Like others have said, more perfectly-cooked vegetables. I would NOT try to feed him any raw flesh, you may be setting yourself up for a (pricey) project failure, and if he quits trusting you, game over and all your good intentions wil probably be for naught. I would add something like a California Roll or something equally ubiquitous and fairly noncontroversial. Edamame, too.

                        1. I agree with others that you are being overly ambitious. Heck, I eat lots of stuff, but wouldn't like your menu.
                          Give him cooked food, normal stuff to begin with. How about a twice baked potato with bacon, garlic, and parmesan?
                          Green beans with a bit of onion and red pepper.
                          Home made pizza with a variety of toppings
                          Corn chowder

                          I think with your menu, you will turn him off and he will run away from those foods in the future.

                          1. Too much ambition (and, therefore, ego) in this list; it's shows off the helper more than helping the person to be helped. None of those things are 101 foods/preparations.

                            1. Seems a bit like you're trying to make a jump from crawling to running in a world-class marathon.

                              Go easy on the guy...let him learn to stand and walk one step at a time.

                              Try the mild versions of pork -- substitute a little pork in a red curry...then the surroundings are familiar. A really good pork chop on the grill would be closely related to a steak.

                              I'm with the rest -- stay away from the raw stuff. He's not ready yet.

                              Go with carrots...a baked potato....start with flavors and items he likes, and vary those...then at least he has some familiarity to stand on.

                              Lead him gently down the path -- dragging him kicking and screaming isn't going to end well.

                              1. Thank you everyone for your comments, thoughts and suggestions. We were thinking of doing small plates so that there would be just a bite or two of each item - so if he doesn't like it, there isn't a lot of it.

                                We're going to add a lot of vegetables. I love the idea of zucchini "pasta" with olive oil and parmesan and some of the tempura ideas. A vegetable anti pasti plate sounds great too.

                                I am a little disheartened by the level of negativity expressed here. I am honestly trying to help my friend and posted the menu ideas to get feedback just so we didn't "kill" him. For work, he eats at a lot of high end restaurants and winds up with chicken or steak. I thought we'd hit some other items he might see on one of those menus.

                                I didn't include lamb and duck because I thought those might be tough for him. I did include what I thought were two mild seafood dishes (and both would have cooked food in them), one raw beef and one raw tuna as he expressed an interest in sushi and because ahi is ubiquitous on fancy restaurant menus. I'll leave both of those off the list and will switch the ceviche for scampi, perhaps.

                                Thanks again for your input. Best Wishes.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: PickyChicky

                                  Good luck with this. Please let us know how it goes?

                                  1. re: PickyChicky

                                    sushi just means rolled, not raw. Sashimi is raw.

                                  2. I wouldn't serve plainly cooked seafood to anyone who doesn't like seafood. I certainly wouldn't serve more than one seafood, and I would not do scallops. Texture is too off-putting for a non-seafood eater.

                                    Let's put is this way: Do you eat intestines? If I wanted to introduce you to intestines, I would not do it with an unmasked plate of intestines. I would fry them up crispy and have plenty of sauce.

                                    Same thing for the seafood, make sure your prep is crispy and has lots of other flavor.

                                    1. It's virtually unheard of for someone to be both willing to try new foods AND a picky eater. Something is going on here, motivation-wise. Usually it's a desire for control or a need for routine. Regardless, I think you are wise to plan on small plates or a smorgasbord approach.
                                      It's less likely to create pressure to like everything, and precludes his leaving the meal uneaten.

                                      I'd drop the raw/nearly raw items and the mashed potato, since he doesn't like them. I would find out what specific dishes he likes, then use the same prep with a different ingredient. If he liked fried chicken cutlets, you could do Wiener Schnitzel, for example. Or keep the ingredient and change the method - rather than steak, pot roast.

                                      Since you know he likes french fries, I'd do tempura vegetables or zucchini fries and/or eggplant fries. Also a sampling of other starch sides: pilaf, bulgur, quinoa, risotto, Crash Hot potatoes, spaetzle. Different rices cooked separately but identically prepared: e.g., wild rice, brown jasmine, white jasmine, wehani, all cooked in chicken broth. Maybe he'll like one or more.

                                      If he will eat coleslaw but not broccoli, make broccoli slaw. He's an adult - surely he knows that his health will suffer if he doesn't eat vegetables. Either he has to make up his mind to do so, even if he can't find any produce or preparations he likes, or he takes the consequences. You can't force him to change. One way to offer an array of vegetables would be to do a soup buffet
                                      including pureed soups like curried butternut squash with apple, minestrone, corn chowder, for example. Different thicknesses and textures.

                                      Definitely go with a fruit dessert, since his produce intake is limited. Who doesn't like a baked apple? Or if you want to step it up a bit, Jacques Pepin's braised caramelized pears (or apple) http://blogs.kqed.org/essentialpepin/... This one's luxurious but dead simple, if you are looking for recipes that your friend is likely to make at home. Making a fruit crisp is even simpler if you use Trader Joe's Just the Clusters cereal, mixed with melted butter, as the topping.