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Cooking for a picky eater...

So I am trying to assemble a list of recipes that I could make for my boyfriend and me, but he is a rather picky eater and doesn't like a lot of the things I like, so I'm having a bit of trouble...
Here are a few things he doesn't like:
1. Cheese (and I love cheese and cheesy things)
2. Italian food (I love italian food)... he says he doesn't like the flavor scheme, so things like chicken parmesan, marinara sauce, and alfredo sauce he just really doesn't like...and we've been to Italy and he still doesn't like the food there, so I couldn't even try recreating some of my favorite authentic Italian dishes...
3. ANY vegetable except broccoli. Well, he'll eat tomatoes and cucumbers (he doesn't call them vegetables though) but of course those are two veggies that I can't stand
4. Beans

I know it may not seem like a lot, but it's difficult cause I've taught myself how to make a lot of Italian-style things that he doesn't like at all, and things like chili and mac-n-cheese that are simple but he won't eat them (he might eat chili sometimes...) and his whole life he's always just made do with frozen pizzas and frozen dinners and dining hall food at school (lots of hamburgers) so... my first instinct is to make my Italian food dishes I like 3 times a week but thats 3 times that he simply won't eat more than two bites so I want to change that...

Can y'all help me out with some recipes? He likes most meats and he likes to grill/eat grilled food.

You might say just let him live off of frozen pizzas but I enjoy cooking and I don't mind cutting down my preferences when I'm dining with him, I just need more creative options...my culinary skills are a novice level, but I'll extend myself a bit if necessary.

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  1. similar issues here, you two may have lots of notes to share

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/970888

    1 Reply
    1. re: hill food

      There's also another active picky boyfriend thread and searching on this board and General Topics will yield many picky child/family member threads.

      You have your own strong likes/dislikes. Perhaps a way to begin negotiations is to agree to have one of your preferred foods and one of his at every meal, or alternate favorite entire meals. You're both adults.
      Assuming no allergies or serious intolerances, you both should be able to get down a food you don't care for.

      Roasting vegetables is one of the most successful way of getting people to like vegetables. In general, 1" chunks tossed with oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and/or herbs/spices, roasted on a sheet pan for 45 min at 400F, turning veg over at the 25 minute point. Softer ones take less time, root vegetables the most. Don't crowd the pan since that will inhibit browning.

    2. With all due love, respect and affection for another Hound, you may need to sit HIS butt down and tell him that if he's that particular about what food you prepare that he'll actually eat, than he needs to help you establish a menu.

      I've discovered my "picky eater" (we're talking a guy who never had a taco till he was 20, Chinese food till 22 and only vanilla ice cream till about 24!) - actually isn't half as picky as he thought... just mostly scared of things he doesn't already know he likes.. (At 28 guess who just tried carrot cake for the first time and was relieved to find out it wasn't a "vegetable loaf"!)

      So I'd say ask for input, push the envelope a bit, and if something falls flat with him... as grandma would say "eggs and bacon are in the fridge - you know where I keep the skillets!"

      1 Reply
      1. re: CaliforniaJoseph

        "just mostly scared of things he doesn't already know he likes.. (At 28 guess who just tried carrot cake for the first time and was relieved to find out it wasn't a "vegetable loaf"!)"

        My husband. He adamantly hates cucumber, but loves tzatziki. Adamantly hates cream cheese frosting, except for the kind I made him. Adamantly hates pumpkin, except for the kind we can get in Malaysia (which is also closer to the texture of Canadian pumpkin). Hates... Well, the list goes on.

        Over the years, I've made some of the things he thinks he hates in ways he hasn't had them before, and while he hasn't always liked them, he has enough times that it's still worth experimenting. I ask him to try one bite only, not eat the entire serving, so it's also a reasonable request on my end.

        At the same time, there are foods that I always thought I hated until I had them cooked in a different way. Sri Lankan curries (the husband is Sri Lankan) has made me change my mind on cabbage, potatoes, chicken gizzards, beans, and other things. I still don't like brain, liver, tripe, and so on, but I find them much less revolting when cooked in a Sri Lankan curry than when cooked in other ways. In other words, I can tolerate some things in small doses when done as a Sri Lankan curry that I would make me want to vomit when done in other ways.

        In other words, it may be worth it to try some experimenting with other cuisines and flavours.

      2. Welcome to the home cooking board. There is a wealth of suggestions for cooking for picky eaters on this board, and using "picky eater" as a search term I was able to find a lot of prior threads. Plus there are at least three currently active threads on picky eaters; I don't think each picky eater is so unique that you won't find suggestions in any of these prior threads:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8989...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8621...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3954...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3555...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8760...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7364...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8064...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8317...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2793...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8165...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9708...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9187...

        It is possible that some of these threads have links to others in this list, but gosh, if there are no ideas here there are no ideas.

        1. It sounds like you need to branch out into new cuisines. First I would try Asian food, no cheese, few beans, nothing like Italian and can customize the vegetables easily. Also veg can be very small and covered in sauce so you don't really taste it.

          As for Italian you mostly named Italian American dishes. What about more northern Italian? can you do risotto without cheese? It says he eats pizza, does he pick the cheese off that? Since you don't like tomatoes does that include tomato sauce? Does he eat potatoes?

          Do you like eggs? Frittata and tortilla are good plain options.

          Mexican can be made with out beans and cheeses. Maybe he would like queso fresco which is more traditional than regular stringy cheese like cheddar.

          English food may also be to you liking. Less heavy on vegetables. Learn to braise meat if you can't already. Can you play off of things he likes? Different kinds of protein for the burgers?

          1. I know I've posted what I'm about to say on other threads; my fiancé is one who "don't eat this or that". He's from the South and his palate is nowhere near where mine is so it's challenging for me to get him to eat all the things I love...mostly, the only Chinese food he'll eat is shrimp fried rice, he really don't like pasta and will eat spaghetti once every year or so and that limit's the Italian that I love. Forget about Indian or any other cuisine in that direction.

            Very few veggies will he eat and squash, tomatoes, okra, asparagus unless it's cooked to death and many other veggies don't stand a chance with my fiancé. I adore cheese but about as open minded he gets with that is provolone.

            BUT I've learned to add ingredients in his food that he don't notice like when I make gumbo, I might add yellow or zucchini squash or okra is small pieces that he really won't focus on. Once he eats it, he discovers, hey, it's pretty good. He will usually only eat carrots, shredded in a salad so I sometimes will roast some with potatoes (he loves those) and I get no flak. He had never had brown rice, quinoa or couscous until I slowly introduced it to him without bringing it to his attention. Still today, he thinks couscous is ground rice. I let him think it.

            Finally, I used to limit my menus because my fiancé wouldn't eat everything I like but I've learned to cook what I want and make him something else so a lot of nights we are eating two different things. I got tired of depriving myself. So, my advice is if you want chicken parmesan, make his without sauce and give him some broccoli with maybe another veggie mixed in like carrots or cauliflower so he can get used to different vegetables. Make pasta for yourself and rice for him. Some people will tell you don't go out of your way to make a separate dish for him but it's really not that hard if you start with the same meat for both of you and do different sides. Good luck

            4 Replies
            1. re: Cherylptw

              ^This

              Cook what you like for yourself and make his version how he likes it - as healthfully as possible. Maybe watching you enjoy the more interesting version will pique his interest and he will try and like - maybe he just wants plain food.

              1. re: Cherylptw

                I am trying to understand how being Southern has anything to do with being picky...

                1. re: LaLa

                  Good point, LaLa. I mean, "picky" is basically euphemistic for "ignorant" when it comes to the palate. Lots of the food "intolerance" issues discussed in the myriad threads of this ilk really boil down the the cyclical interplay of a lack of exposure, a lack open-mindedness, and a fear of change. Sure, there are taste aversions, but that would physiologically be based in particular ingredients, not entire cuisines.

                  Geographic location isn't really an issue. After all, I don't think everyone in the South believes the Earth is flat, do they? Or is the point that it's ok for people raised below the Mason-Dixon to be "ignorant"?

                  1. re: LaLa

                    My read on that is that being Southern means his baseline for what foods he regards as normal is different from hers, not that being Southern inherently means being picky.