Friday, 20 June 2008

Confessions of a Fussy Eater

I was just thinking about what my parents, grandparents and anyone who has known me since I was very young would think about this blog (obviously they can read it and see for themselves as well!) because although I think they would say I was a good cook, I'm not sure they would consider me a "foodie", exactly, because I have for most of my life been known as one of the fussiest eaters in the world. I still am, actually, but my repertoire has expanded quite a lot and I am much more willing to try new things. Part of the reason for starting this food blog, actually, is to help inspire me to keep creating and trying new things, but there are still some things I just won't touch - I think they fall into various categories:

1. Mixed foods - I don't like foods which should be separate but which merge into each other. Shepherds Pie is out (I don't mind the meat or the potato, although mash is my least favourite way to eat potato, but I hate the part where they meet. I think this is specific to things with mashed potato and other blendy foods because the thing I don't like is that the mash sort of becomes meaty mash, and it tastes horrible). In the past, I would only eat plain pasta or just with olive oil and salt. Now I will sometimes have something with it, but not tomato sauce. I just don't like the blandness of the pasta combined in my mouth with the sharpness of the sauce - that's the only way I can explain it. However, I will eat something like vegetable fried rice or noodles - for some reason this is different to me since they are cooked together with the other ingredients and not cooked separately and then added together later.

2. Cheese - this deserves its own category! I like Laughing Cow (I know, it's not really food, let alone cheese) and cheddar (if not too strong) and will eat both of these on bread, cold. That is IT. All other forms of cheese, but especially cooked cheese, cheese in sauces, cheese grated on top of things, really everything to do with cheese including cheese pizzas I abhor and will not eat. Blondini says he feels the same - actually, he eats pizza and cheesecake so I don't think it counts but we'll just have to keep arguing about that one - and my dad does actually feel the same and hates all cooked cheese and anything that he declares to be "cheesy" (sometimes these "cheesy" things don't actually have cheese in them but whatever).

3. Dairy - building on my cheese hatred is general dislike of dairy products. I loathe milk, and I don't know how people drink glasses of milk, and I hate cream. Dairy as a category though probably isn't accurate as I like (love, even) ice cream and I don't mind yoghurt if it is fat free and I have started drinking cappuccinos made with skimmed milk. It's not a weight-conscious thing, it's just that full fat or any fat milk products make me feel a bit sick, I just find them too rich for me.

4. Fat - and moving on from dairy, obviously I can't avoid all fat in my food, nor would I want to - I couldn't do without kettle chips. I am fine with olive oil and various other vegetable oils that I deem healthy, but I obsessively cut all the fat off the chicken breasts I use before preparing them, I pull yards of fat off my chickens before roasting them, and - well, I wouldn't anyway because it's not kosher - but the thought of things cooked in "dripping" makes me want to vomit. I'm also not a big fan of the hard chemical block that is Tomor margarine but I know that sometimes it has to be used.

5. Dodgy Jewish foods - moving from general fat to schmaltz - rendered chicken fat - I don't think you'd find this in many households nowadays as people have woken up to the facts of heart disease and high cholesterol but the idea still makes me feel a bit sick. I also hate cholent, a particularly horrible throwback to the ghetto - people seem to absolutely love this and for many this is the cornerstone of Jewish food. For me, it doesn't get any worse. It's actually two of my food categories in one: mixed foods and fat - it combines meat, potatoes and vegetables in a stew (the mix) and because it's horrible cuts of meat, all the fat from the meat is absorbed into the potatoes and vegetables. Add to that a cooking time of around 20 hours and you can start to imagine the smell and taste of this dish. Yuk. I also hate chopped liver, kugel (worst form = broccoli kugel), gefilte fish and, although I've never tried it, always claiming that I'm allergic (well, I might be), carp in jelly. It's the way it comes with that sliced carrot on top, looking all pale and pasty on the plate like the yeshiva boys who eat it. No thanks!

6. Bad food - this doesn't sound like it needs to be a category - who likes bad food? An awful lot of people, it turns out! I'm not talking about politely finishing something a friend has cooked for you, I'm talking about when people say things like, "yes the sandwiches at Pret are horrible, but I'll eat them anyway" or, even worse, when people cannot distinguish between good and bad food. They'll eat some delicious apple pie I've made and say, "yeah, it was nice, but I would have been just as happy with one from Sharon's Bakery…"

Six categories in, and I think I'll stop because this is now reminding me of The List, written by my dad one summer in France. It was a very long list of all the things he won't eat, and he wanted it to be kept in the kitchen to be consulted before anyone made a meal. Since dad was never the one making the meal it was quickly consigned to the bin, but I remember the process of making it and of everyone saying to me, "now I know who you take after with your aversion to all this food."

Anyway, I am improving, and one of the main reasons, I think, is because I now cook all my own food. My mum is an amazing cook and I trusted her not to put anything I didn't like in the food (she used to run a sort of restaurant at home, cooking different things for everyone every night), but I didn't like trying new things. Now that I am cooking I know exactly what is in everything, plus I don’t want to eat the same thing every night, and I want to impress Blondini with my culinary skills! (I'm putting an exclamation mark but it's true…)

I was quite busy cooking last night as friends are staying over this weekend so I needed to make food for lunch on Saturday and then snacks and things for during the day and evening so I'll be back later with some actual food postings and photos.

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