Look at her.
She looks like such a nice, dutiful little girl with her neatly folded hands and her little braids with the bows and her crooked bangs (cut by her father), but, don't let that fool you. That little girl was a very finicky little girl when it came to food and could case major scenes if forced to eat something that "looked funny."
She wasn't just finicky. She was VERY finicky.
As the audience used to ask in unison on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" when he made a pronouncement like that:
"How finicky was she?"
And like Johnny Carson, I will reply:
- She was so finicky that she wouldn't eat steak because she had to chew it too many times
- She was so finicky that she wouldn't eat spaghetti sauce on her spaghetti, just melted butter
- She was so finicky that when she went to camp she worried more about the fact that she would have to try at least one bite of what was served than that she couldn't swim and might possibly drown
- She was so finicky that her salad was plain iceberg lettuce
- She was so finicky that she wanted her peanut butter toast cut into "fairy cakes" (I think the Brits call them "soldiers")
- She was so finicky that she cried if cooked carrots were anywhere in her vicinity
You get the idea. She was really, really finicky. And as I sit here sipping my glass of gruner veltliner and nibbling on a little piece of taleggio and a baguette, with some baby gherkins and fig jam on the side, I can confess that little girl was yours truly.
So what happened? How did that little finicky little girl turn into a foodie who thinks nothing of crunching away on squid tentacles or relishing a nice bowl of pho with beef tendon?
I tackled some of my childhood finicky food preferences back in 2013 with "A Baby Boomer's Food Memories," where I shared some of my mother's recipes too, so I won't repeat myself here, though I will remind you just how finicky I was.
I don't know how it happened but I did not trust food. Or maybe it was my mother. She liked to make casseroles and those are anathema to someone with food fears. When I would ask her what was in it she would say, "Oh, butter and flour and meat and other good things." I was suspicious that she would sneak something I didn't like into it, to say the least (which she often did), so I just said, "I'll have a tuna sandwich." And when I say tuna sandwich, I am not talking about tuna SALAD. Oh, no...that would include onions and mayonnaise (I only ate Miracle Whip in those days) and, horror of horrors, possibly mustard. No, my tuna sandwich was plain albacore tuna laid out on bread that had been spread lightly with Miracle Whip. Or if my mother was feeling particularly motherly, she would serve it to me on toast that was buttered on both sides. Yum.
So besides tuna sandwiches, what else would I eat?
- Cottage cheese (I liked to stir a little milk into it to make it more like soup)
- Kraft dinner with pieces of bacon mixed into it (most people call this Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but we always called it Kraft dinner - I guess because it WAS dinner)
- Soft-boiled eggs with a dollop of butter
- Peanut butter on toast
- Campbell's Cream of Tomato soup (made with milk, not water, and sometimes my mother would float pieces of peanut butter toast in the soup - I know it sounds weird but it's actually delicious. Peanut butter is one of those things that goes with everything! See there was a bit of the foodie already starting to creep out though I can't quite explain why tomato soup was OK but tomato sauce on my spaghetti was not)
- Grilled cheese sandwiches
- Fish sticks
- Hamburger with just ketchup
- Likewise hotdog with just ketchup (I abhorred yellow mustard and actually still do - if I was presented with a sandwich with mustard on it I would go hungry rather than eat it because once that yellow goop gets on the bread, there is no getting it off no matter what you do!)
- Potatoes in any incarnation
- Chicken and turkey (but only the dark meat)
- Jello and anything sweet (but no coconut)
- TV dinners if the vegetable was corn.
(Speaking of TV dinners, I don't think anyone these days realizes what a big deal TV dinners were when they were invented back in the 50's. I think my mother must have died and gone to heaven, even though she was a really good cook and cooked most things from scratch. But when you have a finicky kid like I was, she just had to put one of those babies in the oven, then set it on the TV tray and put me in front of the TV and she was done. Yes, we had TV trays).
So growing up, that was about the extent of my food repertoire.
And, yes. If I didn't like what my mother made for dinner, she would fix me something different, one of my acceptable foods.
Now I can just hear you parents out there thinking what a spoiled child I must have been and you certainly wouldn't do that for your child. My mother would prepare the meal for the family, and then if I objected to the menu, make something special for me. I probably was spoiled in many ways, but I don't think that is one of them. My experience has been that most parents force their children to at least try the food that is put in front of them, that they eat what the rest of the family eats or go without. Some parents even make their kids sit at the table until they eat what is put before them even if it takes hours. And if that is what you believe is the best way to raise your child, then that is your right, but I am also going to say that it is also the quickest way to create food issues for your children.
I applaud my mother for not making a big deal about food and what I ate.
The way I see it is, the best way to create an aversion to certain foods, or saddle your children with food issues, is to make them eat what they don't want to eat. You have no idea what a casserole looks like to a little kid. Certain foods would literally make me gag and that was not creating a very relaxing dinner table.
Yes, I was a finicky little girl and my mother catered to me, but I grew up to be a woman who has no food issues and eats just about everything. I was never a model, but I was in the normal body weight range for most of my life (and if you want to know why I am now no longer in the normal range, read my post "My Menopause")! But I digress.
Though I didn't appreciate it at the time, I believe the fact that my mother catered to me in that way also made me feel very loved and looked after, which in turn led to the confidence I would need to go out and make my own way in the world. And looking back, being a mother myself, I know she didn't mind doing it, because she was able to show her love. My mother was not a particularly outwardly affectionate woman, but she showed her love in ways like that.
So how did that little girl who cried if there was mustard on her sandwich or considered iceberg lettuce "eating her vegetables" turn into a foodie?
After years of spending massive amounts of time trying to avoid most foods and causing a scene while I was doing it, I had an epiphany my senior year in college. I realized my finickyness was affecting my life. I mean, it is a bit embarrassing to ask at a Thai restaurant if I could have a cheese sandwich.
But I do have to give myself a bit of slack. It's not all my fault. I didn't exactly come from a foodie background. I grew up in the Midwest and a town that would hardly be called a fine dining town. Howard Johnsons was my parents idea of fine dining and even then we were not allowed to order anything special to drink or dessert, because that was extra and my Dad only wanted to pay for the entrees. He would have a heart attack if he knew what we pay for wine these days when we dine out. Sometimes the wine is a bigger part of the bill than the food! It was also not a town with a lot of diversity in the food options nor were my parents very adventurous. Let me just say that my mother once told me she had tried "Thigh" food. I think she was almost 80 at the time. I didn't have the heart to correct her pronunciation.
So when I moved to San Francisco after college, I vowed that I would no longer be finicky but rather I would eat EVERYTHING.
Though San Francisco is a town renowned for its food, when I lived there I was, shall we say, a bit cash deficient and thus not really able to avail myself of all of the fine dining the town had to offer. But I was still able to hone my love of Chinese food in that City's famous Chinatown, eat Chicken Kiev at a local Russian mom and pop, try kimchi in Korea Town and expand my hamburger orders to include onions and tomatoes. I was getting there.
Then when I moved to the Monterey Bay Area where I was married and raised my family, it was all about seafood - sand dabs, abalone, sushi and calamari were favorites.
But it wasn't until I moved to Seattle over ten years ago, that I became a real foodie.
Seattle is the premiere food capital of the Pacific Northwest (sorry, Portland), and I embraced it with a passion.
I discovered that I loved not only eating food, but reading about the restaurants serving the food and the "celebrity chefs' who were making it. The city was awash in new restaurants, and I read every review and attempted to go to every restaurant. I even made a list of the best restaurants A-Z and started my quest to sample them all in order. (However, by the time I got to the "F's," I realized that more and more new restaurants were opening with names that began with letters before "F," so I changed my strategy to restaurants by neighborhood).
Moving to Seattle, I became a fervent foodie (and if you want to know which restaurants are my favorites, you will have to check back on this blog) and embraced all things foodie with a passion!
I also threw myself into food-oriented TV programs. I am an avid viewer of "Top Chef" and have also watched all of Gordon Ramsay's TV shows from "Hell's Kitchen" to "Master Chef. I read Marco Pierre White's memoir (he was the first enfant terrible of the kitchen), as well as all of Tony Bourdain's books (I watch all of his TV shows too). I even paid extra for the VIP tickets so I could meet Tony when he did a show here in Seattle (he was very nice).
I "starred" on an episode of "Check Please," a PBS program that plays in several cities across the country. The Chicago version can even claim a young Senator named Barack Obama (check You Tube). The gist of the show is that you and two others choose your favorite restaurant. Everyone goes to each other's restaurant choice, and then we get together with the host of the program to be filmed as we talk about our experiences.
(Here it is if you care to watch it).
And there I was expounding about food. And watching myself, realizing I was doing it insufferably so.
So as with most passions, it is easy to overdo it.
The finicky little girl who only liked her spaghetti with butter on it, had turned into a true foodie who could rave about her calamari steak, but as you can see, she had also turned into a huge, insufferable food snob! I mean I am even saying on the show in front of millions of people that I don't like to dine in a restaurant with children!
If I were to revise that list of how finicky I was when I was a little girl to a list of how finicky I am today, it would look something like this:
- I am so finicky that I send my steak back if it's not perfectly medium rare (even though I know I risk the chef spitting on my food)
- I am so finicky that if I want pasta, I don't even eat spaghetti anymore - more like lobster ravioli or braised monk fish on a bed of spiralized zucchini
- I am so finicky that when I am at a high end restaurant I am disappointed if they don't give me an amuse bouche
- I am so finicky that I won't order wine if the restaurant doesn't have a nice Oregon Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc
- I am so finicky that haven't set foot in a Denny's in over 10 years
- I am so finicky that I refuse to be seated in a restaurant near the door, bathrooms or kitchen
- And I could go on, but I won't
And I am not proud of all of that.
I have also turned into a person who chefs don't even like.
I read an article recently where Seattle chefs shared food terms that are overused and they hate to hear:
"Foodie" is right up there but how about these?
- Like butta
- Sando (for sandwich)
- Food porn
- "Chef" as a verb (as in "cheffing)
- Ethnic food (as in throwing all food that isn't European into that category)
- Umami (using that to describe any flavor your don't understand)
There's more, but I will let you read the article for yourself.
My point here is that I have used over half of those words myself and finding out that, if a famous chef heard me say any of those words to describe the food I was eating, he or she would describe me as an idiot, has made me rethink this whole foodie thing, er, I mean this thing about food snobbism.
I may eat everything and actually savor all kinds of great food that I would never have touched as a child, I may love to read restaurant reviews and talk about my dining experiences, I may know what buerre blanc and veloute are, but in so doing, I have gone in the other direction and my newfound passion has turned me into a finicky snob about food.
I have reverted back to that finicky little girl.
However, there is hope.
The difference between me now and that little finicky girl who expected her mother to cater to her finicky nature is that the adult Rosy realizes she can be a pain in the butt about her passion for fine dining, so from this day forward I vow to continue to enjoy good food, dine in fine restaurants and review them (watch for the occasional restaurant review in my Friday "Week in Reviews" posts), but I am going to watch my language and stop showing off.
I may know all about galettes, aguilettes and semi freddo, but I don't need to be snooty about it. I don't want to be that kind of person. You know the type.. describing her meal and acting all shocked and snobby that you didn't know what she was talking about ("You don't know what bucatini is? Well, bless your little heart!") or telling her that you are not a big fan of chicken feet and her looking all sorry for you, not to mention your nodding off because she was boring you to death.
No, I don't want to be that person. I certainly don't want to shame people about their food preferences, just as I wouldn't have liked it very much if people had made fun of me when I was young because I had never tried pizza (it looked funny). Well, they did, but I got over it.
Food is like art. It's a matter of taste.
So for those of you out there who consider yourselves food experts, or god forbid, foodies, this is a cautionary tale. Realize that not everyone knows what rillettes are, and more importantly, not everyone even cares. Gauge your audience, realize everyone is not as gung ho about food as you and stop showing off. No matter how passionate you might be about something, nobody likes a show off, even when it comes to food!
And, finally, there is a little irony in all of this.
Despite my food snobbism, in weak moments or when I am depressed or late at night when no one is looking, I revert to my childhood. That finicky little girl who didn't like much in the way of food, whose mother catered to her, is still in there. When I am craving something to eat, I don't whip up a cheese soufflé or a fancy omelet or potatoes lyonnaise. OK, sorry, a fancy potato dish.
No, in those quiet, soulful moments, there is nothing like a piece of toast with peanut butter on it (cut into "fairy cakes, of course) to dip into some cream of tomato soup or a soft-boiled egg mashed up with a dollop of butter or a toasted tuna sandwich buttered on both sides to make me feel better.
Those comfort foods from my past take me back to that finicky little girl back home again being cared for by her mother.
And nothing served to me in even the best restaurants in the world can compare to that.
That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!
See you Friday
for my review of
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
I Die Project."
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer
Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).
Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in. Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen. Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.
NOTE: On some entries, this has changed. If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.
Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."