Friday, December 31, 2021

Am I a Picky Eater?

 If you know me, then you probably think I’m a picky eater. The biggest thing you have to overcome is that I don’t eat meat. I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years. I can’t give you an exact date or time when I decided to stop eating meat. It was a natural progression.

Growing up, Saturday night in my family was steak night. My dad would usually cook the steaks outside on the barbeque grill. It was Texas, so unless it was raining there were only a few weekends in the year when the weather was too cold for grilling outside. I don’t remember ever having a steak. I just remember hating steak.

Since it was steak night and the meat was being barbequed, it didn’t take long for my parents to stop buying steaks for me and instead buying chicken breast. Slathered in enough barbeque sauce and cooked to being charred, I could usually force down a small chicken breast, although sometimes it became an episode of Let’s Make a Deal with me convincing my parents I had actually eaten enough of the meat to not drop dead from a protein deficiency.

I remember eating hot dogs and bologna when we lived at our first house, so before I was 12 or so, but at some point I jettisoned those items from my diet. I was sent to elementary school with a bologna sandwich in my lunchbox and would convert it into either a mayonnaise sandwich or a potato chip sandwich once I was at school and it was time to eat. I pulled a lot of slices of bologna out of sandwiches in my youth, throwing them in the trash at school. If you gave me a hamburger from a fast-food place, I usually pulled the patty out after a little over half-way and refused to eat another bite of it.

When I finally moved into my own apartment, in my early 20s, meat was not allowed in the house. If my mom came to visit, she could buy meat for herself but it had to all be gone by the time she left, or I was throwing it away. I think for a few visits she thought just by leaving a bunch of meat in my refrigerator I’d feel guilty and eat it after she left. Well, she gave up on that fantasy pretty quickly.

I don’t understand the vegetarian who adds meatless meaty things in their diet. I don’t like meat. I don’t understand meat. (I think the world of animals and have trouble convincing myself that any animal would taste good enough to justify killing it.) I don’t eat meat. I’d rather have a hamburger bun, tomato, lettuce, onion, ketchup and cheese without a Beyond Burger than with one. I will order a hamburger without the meat at fast-food restaurants and sit-down restaurants alike. If I’m eating a veggie burger, I want the patty to be made of recognizable vegetable parts with the consistency of vegetables.

Other than meat, I can’t stand peppers. This goes for anything called a “pepper” ranging from a bell pepper to a jalapeƱo to a peppadew to the black pepper you might crack over a salad from a comically large grinder. Again, this was hard for my mom to understand. She’d buy pepper when she would come to visit and if she was cooking, I had to remind her not to put any pepper in the food until it was on her plate. If there is black pepper in my food and I bite into a piece of it my meal is pretty much over. My mouth is on fire and I can’t taste anything else.

I am one of those cilantro people. If I order something in a restaurant and don’t realize it has cilantro in it, I’ll spend the meal wondering why the kitchen doesn’t rinse their plates and utensils better to clean off the soap residue. Disgusting! I’ve never been eating something and thought to myself, “This would be improved by a little drop of dish-washing liquid.”

Beets taste like dirt. Brussels sprouts make me want to throw up. Green beans? Yuck.

I don’t know what got me to researching the topic, but somehow I found myself looking at some articles about “super-tasters” and reading comments from these super-tasters. Aside from super-tasters supposedly not liking sweet foods, like cake and cookies, I fall into the category. I’ve never been tested, but it would explain a lot.

As the articles all go on to explain, super-tasters don’t have an edge over normal-tasters or non-tasters. It has nothing to do with having a good palate. They/We are tortured by food to some extent. Things taste supercharged. So yes, beets taste like dirt. Cilantro tastes like soap. Coffee, although it smells good, tastes terrible and I’m not going to try to get past that.

We like our meals to be “bland.” We avoid hot sauce and spicy foods. A trip I took to an Indian restaurant with friends a few years ago turned out to be a terrible decision on my part. There was nothing there that tasted even remotely edible. I felt terrible for making my friends feel terrible that there was nothing but rice for me to eat. And at a Japanese restaurant, I’ll probably eat rice. At any restaurant known for their flavorful, exotic cuisine, I’ll probably just eat rice. (I love rice.)

Bland food isn’t bland to us. It has a lot of flavor. I like acidic foods and sweet foods. I love balsamic vinegar. A caprese salad is one of my favorite things to eat. I go through lemons like they are going out of style. I’ve developed a taste for kalamata olives, but don’t try to feed me a green olive. I can taste the differences in bottled water and, by the way, Dasani water should be illegal to sell it tastes so bad.

I’ve recently been trying to incorporate “an apple a day” into my life, to, as the saying goes, keep the doctor away. As part of this, I’ve tried changing up the apple types I buy. Some of them, even when they are advertised as sweet, are so bitter to me that I can only manage a few bites before the apple goes in the trash.

If you love hot sauce on your foods, you probably are a non-taster or on that end of the spectrum of taste. It doesn’t mean you don’t taste anything, it just means you need a lot of help with your food. You need hot sauce. You need spices. You need pepper. I don’t.

I’m not a picky eater, food just tastes different to me than it does to you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

December Book Report and Some Thoughts on the Year: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris


The collection of essays, Me Talk Pretty One Day by humorist David Sedaris, starts with a story of how in elementary school he was taken out of classes to attend speech therapy sessions. Rather than having his speech corrected, he worked around things by expanding his vocabulary to avoid the words with the “s” sounds he was deemed to be not good enough at. What follows are essays woven around the loose theme of talking/speech, presented in (from what I remember) chronological order, following his upbringing in North Carolina, his young adulthood in New York and his adulthood in New York and France. The tendency to choose different words as a workaround for speech problems continued into his adulthood. Rather than learn the genders of words in French, he would order things in multiples, since a “la” or “le” word transforms into a gender-neutral “les” when pluralized.

I found the book to be enjoyable, but largely forgettable. I was most interested in the stories about France, where he would give literal translations of things he tried to say in French and how the sentence structure was different and sounded juvenile in English. But the way he only presented the English end of the translations left me wanting to hear him say the thing again in French. When he talked about his first trip to France where one of the only words he knew was “bottleneck,” I longed for him to tell me the French word for “bottleneck.” Looking it up, Google Translate offers three different choices. Was he saying goulot? I’ll never know. And this is the kind of thing that really bothers me.

There were sections where I laughed, which is a pretty good endorsement, but sitting here today, I can’t tell you where those sections were or what they were about. I’ve forgotten them.

I didn’t actually read this book, I listened to it. It was read by the author. His voice, if you haven’t heard it, is similar to Droopy Dog from the old cartoons. A little southern, a little lispy, a little depressed. It was fine, really, but it drew attention to itself. For a book called Me Talk Pretty One Day, having the voice of the reader be another character in the stories works. A friend who adores David Sedaris was a little miffed that I told her my book report wasn’t going to be an overwhelming lovefest. She adores him and would listen to him saying just about anything. Sure, I feel this way about David Mitchell (the other one) and Richard Ayoade, but I do not share the passion for David Sedaris. I guess I need an English accent along with the whine to really enjoy it.

As far as the production goes, some of the chapters in the audiobook were recorded live in front of audiences and music was added in places, as chapter bumpers and during the live readings. I found this a little jarring.

Did I love it? No. Did I hate it? No. I’m sort of indifferent. If my friend said, “This other book is so much better. Listen to that one!” I would consider it. But I’m unlikely to seek out another of his books/essay collections on my own. It was whatever.


Anyway, I’ve finished my New Years Resolution of a book a month. Yay, me! What have I learned from this experience? I think I already knew it, but just reinforced that I actually hate reading, but I love books. Holding something with ideas inside, looking at the covers, smelling the pages…all great. Filling bookcases? Love it. Going to a bookstore? Love it. Finding a book with a cover drawn by Edward Gorey and adding it to my collection? Love it. But actually sitting and reading a book one of the worst things you can ask me to do. I guess that’s why it took me 10 years to edit my own novel. The idea of sitting down and having to read the thing was torture. Listening to books is better than reading them. But did I “enjoy” it? No. If I had, then the extra books I still have in my Audible library wouldn’t be sitting there, unlistened to. I actually finished this book in November and since then I’ve spent maybe another 30 minutes listening to a book. Knowing I was done and that I just had to write up the book report lifted a weight from my shoulders and no book has enticed me since then.

I’d like to blame my job for my disliking of reading. For work, I have to read a lot of screenplays. Sometimes I have to read a screenplay because of the continuity I’m writing and sometimes I’ll take work proofreading them. Reading = Work. For relaxation, I’m much more likely to put on a record. Listen to music. Practice piano or guitar. Write my own stuff. Do some crocheting or make some jewelry. Dig up weeds in the yard. Pull out my pastels and make some art. Sometimes I can put on an audiobook while I’m doing those other things, but just as often I’ll put on music. Or talk radio. Or a podcast. Or I’ll start the series of QI running at A and let it go. Background noise. A book isn’t background noise. It demands attention and mostly I don’t want to give it that attention.

Next year, my resolution will not involve books or reading.