My boyfriend (Brain) is constantly admonishing me for my relationship with food; he accuses me of being picky, which tends to catapult me into an irate state of melodrama that involves me screaming “I AM NOT PICKY, I AM THE OPPOSITE OF PICKY, I AM FAT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, ISN’T IT OBVIOUS THAT I LOVE FOOD IN ALL ITS GLORY?!” before listing items of food that I enjoy eating, that many people wouldn’t enjoy eating, either because their tolerance for dead animals and the food created from their insides is significantly less than mine (read: non-existent) or because they are vegetarians/vegans and their love of vegetables is so extensive that they would eat things that I never would without wanting to smother everything in thick layers of cheese and probably also some chicken.
However, and this is something that I have never told Brain, through genuine fear of him turning into the haughty, self-righteous know it all that he loves to be when he realises that he has bested me and that I am, as predicted, an unending example of persistent contradictions that render all of my arguments to the contrary positively inept (like, seriously, bro, how perceptive do you really need to be? Give a girl a break!) and that I did for a long time have genuine issues with food and most of my culinary discoveries only happened in the last, perhaps, one to three years of my life.
I still maintain that I am not picky, but that I grew up in an environment where culinary exploration wasn’t really a high priority; that set meals and an avoidance of foods that my mother didn’t want to cook was imperative and as a result, my palette was relatively infantile until I went to university and discovered an abundance of cheap restaurants that allowed me to explore food in more detail. So, if you are the type of person to read between the lines, I guess you’ve come to the conclusion that, not only do I blame my alleged pickiness on my mother, I also blame her for being fat too.
Isn’t that always the way: Slightly fat human in her mid to late twenties blaming her mother for her current state of tear inducing chubbiness that no amount of Spanx can conceal? Let’s not acknowledge the fact that I don’t live with my mother and that I haven’t done full time for the past three years and that, since the age of perhaps sixteen or seventeen, she had no actual control over what I ate for lunch or dinner unless I ate at home and no she doesn’t know that today for lunch I had a handful of Skittles and salted popcorn with extra salt, because she would judge me harshly. Quite rightly too.
You see, my mother is the true picky eater in this game of life we all play and therefore, my lack of knowledge where certain foods were concerned is because of her dislike for something. Chicken, for example, is something we very rarely ate; we would sometimes get a chicken curry for tea, but not very often because she hates touching it and thinks we are all going to get salmonella and die, which is why I have never been too fond of cooking chicken, because I’m frightened of getting salmonella and dying, fitting in all too well with my upbringing. This is also why I very rarely order chicken in a restaurant, because I will sift through the chicken, sticking bits in the face of the person opposite me asking if the chicken looks too pink to them. And that if I taste a piece of chicken that tastes too chicken-like, I will refuse to eat any further and want to order something else. And this is from someone who loves chicken.
I remember once we were ordering a very rare Chinese takeaway when I was a teenager, my sister and I opted to share a chicken curry together and my mother, who was writing down what to order so that she didn’t forget, looked at us with a face full of genuine concern and said: “chicken… Are you sure you don’t want beef?” prompting, naturally, my sister and I to burst into fits full of giggles and retort with something pithy and harsh, but all very well-mannered that no, we actually want chicken and if we’d wanted beef, we would have said. But, her attempts at coaxing us towards the evidently far better takeaway option of beef did work, because I remember eating it thinking “this tastes too much like chicken. I don’t think this is cooked. Actually, I don’t think this is chicken at all…WHAT AM I EATING?!” and I have never ordered a chicken curry from anywhere since.
My mother has always had a genuine difficulty with handling meat (much to the lament of my poor dad! HA, sorry, but a good innuendo/inappropriate joke about one’s parents’ sex life should NEVER be missed…Let that be a life lesson to you!), and whilst we can’t class her as a vegetarian due to her love of beef roast lunches and the occasional lamb dish, we can’t class her as a meat eater, because she’d never eat spaghetti Bolognese or fish and chips if it was cooked by anyone other than the one man she trusts to cook her fish. Up until Christmas last year, she hated pork and was quite pissed off with my dad for buying a huge joint of pork and cooking it in her oven, until she popped her head around the kitchen door where my dad, myself and my sister were huddled, practically suckling the pig fat dripping from it’s delectable carcass and she actually tried some. Now she likes hot pork sandwiches. (Another great excuse for an innuendo, but I’ll let it slide.)
So, as you can see, any pickiness that I have exhibited is not pickiness at all, but a deep rooted loyalty to my mam that no one – not even you, Brain – can judge. And whilst I have always heartily enjoyed meat, rarest of rare steaks and chicken in abundance (only if it doesn’t taste too much like chicken), it wasn’t until the past few years I’ve discovered food that I like:
Haggis – as a result of my ex’s dad who played bagpipes and took me along to a Burn’s night where I had Haggis Neeps and Tatties for the first time (also the first time I realised I love turnip, but only if it is cubed) and it was divine.
Black Pudding – through walking in Tesco with my dad who asked me if I liked black pudding and before I could answer, my mam shouted, ”NO, SHE DOES NOT LIKE BLACK PUDDING!” prompting me to feverishly stuff it in my mouth next time I saw it on a menu in a restaurant, which was positively divine. I think I went home that evening, pointed at my mam and screamed “I DO LIKE BLACK PUDDING, WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE, YOU HARLOT!*” and locked myself in my bedroom because I am mature and not at all melodramatic.
Mussels – I didn’t realise I actually liked mussels for a very long time, mostly because I thought choosing this dish in a restaurant meant that I was eating the muscles of fish, which seemed an unnecessary delicacy that I didn’t want to try. I mean, I had tried sushi and some of it was lovely, I’d tried salmon and loved it cooked, but would never try it raw and the idea of eating a fish with it’s head and eyes and bones still attached freaked me out, so why would I eat a fish muscle served in a white wine sauce? Waste of wine if you ask me! Then I realised they were actual shell fish and served in a white wine sauce, because mussles go amazing with a white wine sauce, also a coconut and chilli sauce if you like spicy things and taste more meaty than I would have given them credit for (because I also don’t like things that are too fishy, another trait I owe to my dearest mama).
Admittedly, I have wasted a lot of my life thinking I hated foods when I don’t. I discovered that I love both olives and soft goats cheese this year as well as gnocchi and charcoal cheese. There are also things that I knew I didn’t like, but I tried any way, because Brain peer-pressured me, like camembert, stilton and other cheeses that smell and taste like mouldy, dead people feet. I will try to amend my lack of education in the culinary arts, but only for things I want to try like ostrich and venison and shark, but won’t ever eat pigeon or tomatoes because they are sinister looking and I hate them. So fuck you, Brain**.
*Slight dramatization. Probably didn’t happen like that at all. I’m a liar.
**I say this jokingly. For the most part. Love you, really, kidda!