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Picky Adult

I'm trying to find new recipes that my husband and I will enjoy together. Because he's a picky eater, we are eating the same meals over and over and it's getting rather boring. I'm willing to try anything, he on the other hand is more difficult. He likes almost all kind of meats, which is good and he loves most vegetables. However, he doesn't like many condominent/seasonings, including onions, sour cream, mayo, peppers, etc. This makes our meals very bland and if I want these ingredients, I have to cook my food separately. I'm not the greatest cook in the world, but I've started to take more interest in it since we've recently gotten married. Any suggestions???

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  1. I'll refrain from advice on having him cook...

    Do something like chicken marsala where you cook the chicken first. Take your husband's and put it in the oven after pan frying and let it finish baking in the oven while you finish with yours on the stove. Like this:


    You can do chicken piccata the same way or any type of sauce you want.


    Do the same w/ pork chops. Something like this:


    1. I'm a believer in retraining. That may sound a little manipulative, and I'm sure it depends on the person/age/aversions/etc. Worked for us! ;)

      In other words, if someone says "I don't like garlic in my food," but you know that person orders garlicy pasta or stir fry in restaurants (only garlic isn't listed on the menu) - start putting those things in the food slowly. Build up. Now if I don't put those things in the food, my husband says things are bland. A good place to start would be marinated meat. Take what he does like, and then "up" it.

      I do not cook anything separately. I do not expect my husband to eat straight up grilled onions or dip his food in sour cream, though.

      7 Replies
      1. re: sarahintexas

        You absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks. ;-)

        I agree that you can slowly and ever so gently expose him to things that are just outside his food "comfort zone". Maybe if he helps prepare the meals on occasion that would help. So he can see that there is nothing scary in what you are preparing.

        You've given a little by using restraint in preparing your meals and now maybe he can give a little by being a tad more adventurous.

        All that said, stir-fries are a great starting point.

        1. re: lynnlato

          I agree with the whole retraining. My husband was a much pickier eater when we first got together, for example, he ate virtually no vegetables. I soon realised that a lot of the foods he said he didn't like he had either not eaten in at least a decade, was put off by poor preparation in the past or just presumed that he wouldn't like it without ever trying it. So i started sneaking some of these foods into meals, see how he liked it and then I would confess.

          Sometimes you've got to play a little dirty.

        2. re: sarahintexas

          If my partner were to stealth-cook for me in this manner, I would have to wonder about what else he couldn't be trusted.

          Mind you, I'm the one who does the cooking, and it would never occur to me to sneak food onto someone else's plate.

          1. re: Jay F

            I have always felt that way about those "sneaky" cookbooks meant to trick kids into eating their veggies. Never mind the fact the amounts are usually minimum but how is a kid going to feel when the parents say "Gotcha! You DO love spinach, you have been eating it for weeks in your meatloaf"

            Yeah, about the same as I would feel if my husband did the same thing.

            Its one thing to add things to boost the nutrition of different foods but its another to lie about it.

            1. re: foodieX2

              Oh, I wouldn't lie about it, I would just include the "offending" ingredients in a lower profile way. For example, if spouse didn't like onions but I wanted onions in the meatloaf, I would cook the onions down to mush as to "hide" their presence.

              I don't like the sneaky cookboks either.

            2. re: sarahintexas

              Mr. Pine hated all sorts of vegetables when we met. I gradually cooked some in foods he did like, and at first I tricked him by taking out the cooked "hated" items, pureeing them, then adding 'em back, sort of like how you'd get kids to eat cooked carrots. He never noticed. Then I began leaving some chunks of the items intact, then regular pieces. Worked, and 35 years later, his list of hated items is down by at least 3/4. I didn't feel like I was manipulating him, just introducing items in a way he wouldn't have an instant veto over.

            3. I am a reformed super-picky eater. The first steps I took towards getting outside my comfort zone were always at buffets. At a buffet, you can take just a little of something, and if you don't like it, no pressure, no big deal. Since I wouldn't recommend you start a buffet in your home :D I'd start introducing flavors through optional side dishes at meals, something you'd make for yourself anyway and enjoy. He can have a bite-size portion and decide if he wants more and won't walk away from the table unfed or unfulfilled.

              1 Reply
              1. re: antennastoheaven

                Thumbs up to antennastoheaven's approach - no pressure, just put it on the table and don't make a big deal out of it when he does try something. (This, BTW, is a recommended tactic for introducing children to new foods.)

                I would also start "sneaking" in ingredients. Like Westminstress mentioned, I hated onions until I was past 30yo but then I realized that I was eating them well cooked in many dishes. It was the texture of the raw/undercooked onions that I hated, not the taste.

              2. I have a friend who doesn't like cooked onions in recognizable pieces, but she likes the flavor of onions if chopped finely so they melt into the sauce. I'd try that, and do the same with garlic.

                1. Make healthy, interesting meals that include a wide variety of tastes, textures and flavors. Always include at least one tried and true food-in other words don't make a meal of all "new" foods/dishes/flavors so there is at least one food you know he likes. Then he can eat (or not) as he sees fit. If he doesn't care for it or is still hungry he is welcome to grab something from the fridge.

                  While at the table keep the focus away from the food. Don't beg, cajole or try to persuade him to eat.

                  Marriage is about compromise. You shouldn't have to be the only one doing it.

                  1. My husband and I have two distinct preferences that creates a lot of compromise.
                    One example is I have always been a low quantity meat eater and high quantity vegetable eater. He likes most vegetables and is willing to eat vegetarian dinners a few days a week. With some food items that last one should be able to round out a meal simply if there is something offered and unaccepted. I keep pickled carrots or green beans, or cheese and crackers either can snack happily. Or peanut butter, fruit, cereal.
                    Maybe for now to simplify things buy a few prepared sauces to modify/spice your portion. My husband loves BBQ sauce on many things, I like it on very few. I have quite a few hot sauces, some he loves others he doesn't go near.
                    I also like the idea of quick pan sauces as chowser suggested. Most likely you can just tent the meat with foil.
                    I know each house works differently, mine is not a buffet yet is has choices. Plus, while I have had two teenage boys go through my house and they had different guidelines. For us its about enjoying sharing a tasty meal with low stress and this is what works for us.

                        1. He's damn lucky, in half the households in this country nobody cooks.

                          1. When I married my husband he thought a tuna casserole made with Kraft mac & cheese and sprinkled with saltine crackers was a great meal, had never tried curry and thought sushi was weird and exotic. Fast forward 18 years and this year he has been enjoying my efforts to cook southeast Asian, middle eastern, etc cuisines and dishes with complex, robust flavours from Ottolenghi cookbooks. So I just want to reiterate what others have said about gently encouraging him to try new foods and making them available on the table without trying to pressure him to eat things that he thinks he doesn't like. As your interest in cooking grows, your skills will improve with practice and you may find you can tempt him with more and more dishes that were once unpalatable to him.

                            Meanwhile, I have had to learn how to substitute or cook separate versions of the same recipe, thanks to having kids who are vegetarian, intolerant to various foods, have strong aversions to particular textures/flavours, etc. Many recipes you can adapt by leaving out certain ingredients till the end, then remove one portion of the plainer version of the dish before you add the other elements. You can also set some ingredients aside as toppings for those who want them, instead of mixing them in the dish. Worst case scenario, you can cook almost the same dish in two pots but add different ingredients to each (for instance, pasta with two different kinds of sauce). You don't have to be a short-order cook but you do need to build in a certain flexibility in what you choose to cook.

                            Has your husband indicated that he's willing to work on this and try to overcome his food aversions? Also, what do YOU like to cook? The people on these boards are so resourceful & may have some specific ideas for adaptable recipes based on your food interests.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: geekmom

                              Geekmom: I am so glad you asked that all-important question! Yes, ask him "Do you want to broaden your food horizons to make MY mealtime and cooking easier and happier?" 'cause if he doesn't. then all this strategizing is a waste of time.

                            2. I agree with those who recommend that you gently make certain foods available as sides, for him to taste and challenge his preconception that he does not like certain foods, and in the meantime learn techniques that allow you to add those ingredients into dishes prepared for yourself, while keeping plainer versions available for him.

                              I also agree that you should not try to sneak these foods into dishes without his knowledge -- first because it does not sound like his eating choices are unhealthy, but just boring. Second, because, as others have urged, it undermines the entire concept of trust for you to trick him into eating foods that he has explicitly told you he does not want to eat.

                              I come at this question in part because I am a semi-picky eater now, and was far pickier in the early years of our marriage, when my husband was the principal cook in our family. I really appreciate that he was flexible and never tried to stealth force me to eat the host of items that I disliked then, some of which he really likes -- bleu cheese, olives, anchovies, artichokes. Over the years I overcame some of those aversions when exposed to those foods in restaurants or eating at other's homes (where I sometimes made myself eat things that were out of my comfort zone out of courtesy to the host).

                              I know for some of the CH'ers on this board it may seem sacreligious that he likes plain food but there is nothing unhealthy or evil in his preferences -- it's just a matter of taste. And, when it comes to issues of taste -- whether in music, vacations, movies, etc. -- adults in healthy marriages figure out ways to compromise, which is what the OP sounds like she would like to do.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: masha


                                There are several reasons why someone is a picky eater. Not all extend to ignorance or close-mindedness. If someone has texture or taste issues, they simply do. It doesn't make them a bad person.

                                The best way to grow the marriage is to be honest and straightforward.

                                The best way to increase food & taste IQ is to expose someone to a variety of well-cooked food.

                                Be empathetic. No one wants to be changed as if there's something wrong with them (especially not right away!). Grow together...forward...and make food an adventure you can have together. You don't have to have the same tastes to be on the same adventure.

                                1. re: Tam38

                                  RE: Tam.....good points! My husband is a picky eater + a vegetarian + not very interested in food. He does like what I do make and I try not to include items he dislikes, like chili powder or cumin (taste issue). BUT if I try to push him or cajole him into trying something, he'll push back & then won't eat something just on principle. So try to find some sort of compromise if you can....

                              2. Have you thought about buying a couple of cookbooks and asking him to choose a recipe from them each week to try out (you cook it if he's not able or willing to cook)? It's one way alleviating the boredom of doing the same things over and over.
                                I feel for you as my partner was quite picky when we first met. He's slowly come to accept and love many of the things he wouldn't touch - raw tomato for example. It's taken several years of gently trying things as a side to a main dish and it's still a work in progress.

                                1. I've never been a very picky eater, but as I grew up I came to find that some of the foods I refused to eat or try were because they were ill prepared by my mother as a child. So I got to thinking really WHY don't I like said foods and it was mostly because my mom prepared bland, overcooked, poorly seasoned food......

                                  So maybe it would be helpful to ask him why he doesn't like something.

                                  1. Also, it sounds like you have a great foundation since your husband likes most meats and vegetables. Maybe what is needed to alleviate your boredom is simply trying more different and varied recipes and improving your own cooking skills through practice over time? Why not buy a new cookbook for new inspiration, something like the new Ina Garten Foolproof book which should have plenty of appealing recipes that you can both enjoy. You could also try joining the Cookbook of the Month discussions here, then many hounds would be available to suggest how to adapt recipes if necessary to meet your needs.

                                    1. My fiancé and I have been together for six years. I have been cooking for him since the beginning. I make something new almost every night. He is picky but willing to try. There are a few items he still doesn't like and there are others that he loves. Before we were together he lived on steak with a side of elbow noodles and scrambled eggs mixed together, ham steak, Kraft Mac and cheese, instant mashed potato, the occasional pork chop, and salmon cakes.

                                      If I want something I try to make things he can pick around instead of a dish revolving around the ingredient: chopped or sliced mushrooms in or on something instead of a whole stuffed or grilled portobello mushroom, try using onion powder for a flavor instead of the real deal at first. Mine claims he doesn't like sour cream or mayo but he loves spinach dip. I do the optional side dish thing because we haven't fallen in love with beets and likely won't at this point. If he is still hungry after dinner he can make himself a snack.

                                      1. A friend of my sister once came to dinner on our boat in S. France. Oh yeah. She was a little British 'Contessa' and must have had a room full of 'Picky Eater' trophies. We were well into the 'beef wellington' (It was a 'British' dish so she could eat it don't you know.) She was well tucked in and declared how much she was enjoying the meal. "What's in it?" she demanded. I offered that it was "horse meat". She actually passed out on the spot. When she recovered someone took her home. Sadly my sister lost a friend......'as such' don't you know.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                          so you did this intentionally, just to freak her out?

                                          (horse meat has a rather distinctive taste. I'm a little surprised she didn't suss you out at first bite)

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            No I didn't do it on purpose. I was just trying to be helpful. Eating horse in S. France was very common. Different cuts were hanging in every butcher shop.
                                            My mother cooked with wild game all her life. She could make a haunch of old moose meat taste like a beef prime rib somehow. Lots of strong flavors like cooking onions and garlic etc.
                                            She used to make braised wild hares I'd shoot in the fields around the house taste like chicken. Tomatoes, onions, lard from browning, bay leaf, herbs. Those are the only ingredients I can remember. And some red wine for sure.

                                        2. Surely you are fortunate that his pickiness doesnt extend to restrictions on meats and vegetables. I would have thought the way forward is to work with the enhancements that he does like, rather than worry about those he doesnt. For example, I like to think I eat a varied and interesting diet but might use, say, sour cream only once a year and mayo not much more often. I would, however, struggle to cook without using onions.

                                          You may just have to accept that there are things he just doesnt like. There are things I just don't like and there are different things my partner just doesnt like. Sometimes, we just have to sit down to dinner and eat different things. It's no big deal.