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The Pickiest Eater

My husband is British. And I mean, his mother was evacuated as a child during the World Wars, British. Which means his diet is extremely plain, and almost completely dragged out of those old World War recipe pamphlets that helped people cope with little supplies.
No pepper, salt, or anything relatively "spicy." That I understand, it upsets his stomach. Garlic and onion are repulsive for the same reasons. He hates any sort of bean besides Heinz Beans. He eats chicken, pork or beef, with a side of either peas(Petite, birds eye), beans(heinz) or potatoes (mashed/boiled/roasted). Buttered bread as well (You should see him pick out bread, lol!).
I don't have a problem with it honestly, but I'd love to surprise him with some creativity for the upcoming holidays.

So does anyone have any suggestions? Personally I am EXTREMELY adventurous when it comes to food (I will eat literally anything), so I'm kind of at a loss when I'm asked to dumb it down. He loves cheese (Mild/sharp cheddar… only) So I was thinking something like poutine, but he's put off by some textures as well…

Any ideas?

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  1. Nope. You knew his preferences when you married him. He will not enjoy your trying to change them. You should feel free to cook what you like to eat, and he can fix his own food unless you are willing, and have time, to prepare two different meals. In either scenario, it is fortunate that what he likes is simple to prepare - open some cans, nuke some frozen veg and spuds, saute or broil a piece of meat. He probably would eat instant mashed potatoes. You - or he - can bake or broil a chicken leg, a pork chop, a burger/steak all at the same time, then reheat. So cooking twice a week would take care of 7 days of meals for him.

    Don't make a fuss about it. On occasion, casually offer him a taste of your meal. If he tries and likes it, the next time you plan that meal ask if he'd want it too. How old is he? If he's older than 30, his habits may be unchangeable. On the plus side, though his meals are limited and boring, it sounds like they have decent nutritional balance.

    9 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I wanted to ask how old he is too; I was looking more for something in the ballpark of two years old.

      To the OP: Is he completely not willing to try ANYTHING else, no matter how bland/plain? Does he not recognize that he is crippled socially by these choices (and you as well, by association)?

      1. re: sandylc

        He's willing to try anything and that's a huge assumption for you to make about him. We excel socially, not that I have to prove ANYTHING to you.

        1. re: Sqwuid

          i guess i am not understanding this. he's picky, but will try anything? those 2 don't really mesh. and yes, those heinz beans are very flavorful, not at all bland and hella salty.

          what are his texture issues? does he simply prefer soft food? most veggies can be roasted and pureed with a bit of cream/olive oil and some cheese. cheese will bring salt to add flavor. cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, carrots and peppers all do well like this.

          beans and legumes all cook to a soft texture.

          eggs are soft and can be cooked eleventy billion ways.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I'm trying to figure it out, too. He's picky but willing to try anything. Doesn't like tomato sauce because it bothers his stomach but likes Heinz beans which is made w/ tomato sauce. Doesn't like the texture of noodles but likes pierogies. It's hard to make suggestions based on that. It's almost like 21 questions.

      2. re: greygarious

        Y'all are making this out to be a horrible thing. Like I said, it's fine. I tried the pierogis tonight, and he loved them. Thanks for your help.

        1. re: Sqwuid

          Sounds like you might have exaggerated a bit in your original post.

          1. re: sandylc

            "I don't have a problem with it honestly, but I'd love to surprise him with some creativity for the upcoming holidays."

        2. re: greygarious

          I have a husband like this. After 10 years of marriage, he has made progress. There's hope.

          When we met, it was the trifecta of meat for him: chicken, pork, and beef. He now loves turkey. Occasionally he'll eat pheasant. Still wont eat any seafood (his loss).

          Some recipes that have been a huge hit with him:
          Chicken Delicious (from the crock pot cookbook)
          Railroad salad (lettuce, rotisserie chicken, bacon, apples, bean sprouts, radishes, tomato, and lots of ranch dressing)
          Pulled pork sandwiches (use Chow's recipe and serve it on soft rolls with coleslaw)

          Don't give up. You're a saint for broadening his palate.

          1. re: threeleggeddog

            Just want to show my support for positive responses like threeleggeddog's.

            Some ideas: Yorkshire pudding. Popovers. Roasted squash. Roasted winter veggies very simply prepared with a little oil and salt. Risotto. Zucchini fritters. Meatloaf topped with bacon. Pork chops braised in milk. Pasties or other pastry-wrapped meat dishes. I'm thinking of all the blander foods my mom would make when I was a picky kid.

        3. Im basically with Grey on this.

          If he's that fussy -- he might be put off by poutine even though he likes cheese -- you should do more of your own research and experimentation on him.

          But to give it a go:

          He likes cheese?


          1 Reply
          1. re: C. Hamster

            I'll try it tomorrow, suggested it to him and he said he was excited about trying it. Pierogis were tonight and they were a success. :)

          2. Is something with tomato sauce upsetting? You could use Hazan's recipe and just simmer with onion and remove... Chicken Parmesan perhaps?

            Cheese my first thought was Welsh Rarebit...

            Or perhaps a cheddar soufflé.

            Why not a British dish like Bangers and Mash? More fun for you and less unknown to him? You could tweak your own mash to your liking, and leave his plainer.

            How does he feel about Indian flavors, without the heat... Just the warmer spices. Some naan, some (less unknown and pretty common in the UK) less spicy tikka masala, rice, unspicy pea paneer ;)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Emme

              Tomato sauce does upset his stomach unfortunately, I've tossed around the idea. he doesn't like the texture of pasta very much. But the white sauces are fine. In stews and things like that. :)

              I'll delve more into the british recipes for sure. It's just a struggle with so many dishes! lol!

              As far as the indian, he hates even the smell of it xD I dunno, maybe I'll put something small down in front of him, it's worth a try.

              1. re: Sqwuid

                does he get an upset stomach from the beans? i know some have stomach acid issues, but maybe the starch/tomato combo helps alleviate this for him?

            2. You might ask him if he has any fond memories of foods he had as a younger person that he would like to eat again. You could use that as a basis for something perhaps.

              However, he sounds pretty set in his ways. He probably would not enjoy much change in his diet. No salt? That is odd.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sueatmo

                That's a great suggestion :) I've tried admittedly, at least a tiny bit. He says when he was younger he used to eat everything! But something made him change. I'm not sure if it's habit or what. He's more put off by textures than anything.

                And he is, I'm not trying to change him. Just trying to find new ways of doing plain stuff. I have no interest in trying to force new things on him. :)

                1. re: Sqwuid

                  Have a look at the BBC food section, Delia Smith, The Guardian recipe section, Simon Hopkinson and Nigel Slater - for ideas. Try not look at it as dumbing down, there's lots of delicious food that is also plain and simple.

              2. How about potato pie? Mashed potato mixed with some cheese, maybe mix some peas in there too, make a couple wells for eggs and if he likes bacon, top with bacon and bake.

                Or maybe keep it real simple and say make him a loaf of bread. I know, not a meal, but something that he'd perhaps appreciate more.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Musie

                  I was thinking along these lines, too, like a shepherd's or cottage pie, made with beef instead of lamb.

                2. It's interesting that he doesn't like any spices/tomatoes/etc. but liked Heinz beans because that's full of them.

                  Beans (51%), Tomatoes (34%), Water, Sugar, Modified Cornflour, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Spice Extracts, Herb Extract

                  Can you use those ingredients as a base to introduce more flavors? That's the basis for barbecue sauce. What about meatloaf w/ that baked on top?

                  1. I am thinking the same process for myself. So have you thought about dessert. I don't normally eat it. But I really should start again as it was the reward for eating my Brussells sprouts and beets.

                    cupcakes, ice cream, apple pies, mince pies, trifle, puddings.
                    All items that you can make in individual portions so there isn't the fear of tossing the chocolate cream pie that did not succeed.

                    Different sauces on the meats. If you have them available, I have found the Knorr sauces to be tasty and economical enough that I don't feel guilty getting rid of a half cup of bernaisse sauce. And you do not have to add wine in any great quantities if that does not suit him.

                    And do not feel like you are the only one with this dilemma. One of the families I cook for have a father and son that will only have corn, potatoes, and turkey and ham at our Thanksgiving. This will be the 25th year and I have not successfully breached the ramparts. But there will be one veggie dish I hope they will at least try.

                    1. I have a suggestion - don't attribute his limited diet to being British.

                      1. If he's such a picky eater, my guess is that he would probably not like a surprise...but then again, you do know him better than I!

                        I'm extremely Irish, as in, dual citizen, parents live there, all extended relatives live there, so I understand the limited british / irish palate. Popular dishes there = fish & chips, mushy peas, chicken vol-a-vent, "curry"- it's really not spicy at all.

                        Is the above everything that he eats, or does he eat things that are not listed here? If tomatoes were OK, or pasta, or eggs, i can think of a great deal of dishes he'd like.

                        Do you ever experiment with roasting techniques for above meats or potatoes, or experiment with herbs? There's perhaps nothing lovelier than chicken roasted in olive oil with rosemary. What about pizza with handmade dough? Fresh mozzarella? Dare I say Arugula?

                        More info needed!

                        1. A surprise for the holidays, that would fit within his parameters, might be Yorkshire pudding (served with a roast).

                          1. What about trying new carb options like spaetzle? Or a knish? Or potato latkes, arepas, crepes.....
                            My mother has a similar limited palate and has enjoyed other cuisines' carb options.

                            Do you ever make traditional english cottage pie or shepard's pie? Individual ramikens can be more special occasion feeling than a casserole.
                            I suspect he would also like a beef wellington, maybe a pea soup, gnocchi, a croque monsieur sandwich, twice baked potatoes.....

                            1. Darren McGrady wrote a cookbook called "Eating Royally," (he worked for Princess Diana) that has a lot of great British recipes, including the cottage pie that Prince William insisted was served at his wedding breakfast. I specially love his stuffed eggplant recipe.

                              1. I understand picky. I have a son on the Asperger's spectrum and he has maybe 20 foods he will eat. Texture is huge with him. What almost always works is crunchy, not saucy. For example, my son claims to dislike cod, but loves fish and chips, even when it's made with cod. So start by adding a breadcrumb coating to whatever meat you're making and then subtly add some spices (for example if you're making a tagine for yourself, give him a baked or fried chicken breast with some of the Moroccan seasoning in the breading.) I do stuff like this all the time for my son.

                                1. I would just run recipes by him before you make it....eg, "honey, I'm thinking of making a cottage pie, does that sound like something you would like?". If he's at least interested in trying it, then give it a go.

                                  1. Perhaps expand his protein choices: Game birds, venison, boar, buffalo, frog legs. Can he eat fish or seafood? All cooked plain, of course.

                                    1. Your husband reminds me a lot of my grandfather and his tastes. He was the child of poor Polish immigrants so he grew up eating simple Polish food, ketchup on spaghetti, etc. Yet my grandmother enjoyed cooking and experimenting so it was always a struggle to find things everyone could enjoy!

                                      If he liked the pierogi, perhaps ravioli would also be agreeable even if he isn't fond of typical pasta-and-tomato sauce recipes? You can do a lot of great things with different ravioli fillings, often enjoyed best with a basic butter or white sauce.

                                      Borscht was always a big holiday enjoyment in our family and beloved by all (including my picky grandfather). Potatoes, white based soup, sausage and other things to add on the side to your taste (horseradish, beets, hardboiled egg etc). I was a picky kid myself and always enjoyed this because I could adjust it exactly to what I liked. In fact I bet there might be a lot your husband would enjoy in Polish/Russian food, some of the creamy salads and cheese/sauced meats.

                                      If his reaction to onion and garlic is an intolerance for raw/barely cooked versions, I totally can appreciate that as I have the same issue (and it runs on the Italian side of my family, no less.) Consider using garlic like Marcella Hazan (RIP) often does in sauces and braised meats: whole crushed gloves just to flavor the cooking oil, then removed so as not to add too strong of a flavor or cause stomach upset. This works great in, say, preparing an elegant, inexpensive braised veal breast which is lovely served with scalloped potatoes for a holiday feast.

                                      Some more "exotic" things my picky grandfather did like that might be worth a try: veal or chicken marsala, very dry "Northern"-style lasagna and baked pastas (more meat sauce and bechamel than tomato sauce); chicken or turkey pot pie, stuffed pork loin, chicken paprikash, coq au vin.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: sockii

                                        Your post reminded me of a homey food my parents and grands liked--potato soup. Now that I think about it, I suppose this was like a chowder, but without any protein. I'd probably add a little frozen corn, but then I wouldn't make potato soup at this stage in my life.

                                        As I remember it, potato soup was a milk based soup with butter and diced potatoes, served with lots of pepper. Skip the pepper, and serve with whatever sauce or condiment the picky eater really likes. Stay away from garlic, but consider using a leeks instead of the onion I remember. Dice the onion or leek fine.

                                      2. Would he perhaps like a turkey pie or a chicken pot pie? Or a beef pot pie.

                                        How about croquettes of chicken, or salmon?

                                        Does he like egg dishes? A quiche made with cheese and mild ham (or a frittata like that) might be good.

                                        Apple pie with cheddar might be a treat as a dessert, or a nice custard

                                        How about gnocchi with a mild butter sauce and a bit of salt? They're potato based and not too toothsome, similar to potatoes, and nicely bite-sized.