Were we all picky eaters?

When I was a child, we ate at home. Eating out was something you did on vacations, which were not annual events in our family.

McDonald's Tampa 1979 05 02

There was, however, this one McDonald’s where my father would stop on our way to our grandparents’ town.  It was near the halfway point of the four/five hour drive, which we made several times each year.

My siblings would look forward to this treat, but I dreaded it and wished we would not stop.  We always did.  Then the ordeal began.

I would ask if I could just have french fries, not a burger (these were pre-McNugget days).  My parents would insist that I needed to eat meat, so I would order a plain hamburger.

My family would eat their meals while I waited, and waited, and waited at the counter for the staff to grill a fresh burger for me.  (Special orders did upset them.)  I’d eat it walking to the car (no eating in the car), while my parents complained about the inconvenience I’d caused.

I don’t deny that I was a picky eater, but my parents were misguided in thinking that I took any delight in mealtime drama.   The only thing worse than the embarrassment would have been the stomach cramps and nausea from the vinegar in all the condiments.

Who doesn't like mashed potatoes?Of course, it wasn’t just McDonald’s where the food drama occurred.  It was a regular feature of my childhood.  I was the picky eater, the one who couldn’t swallow the fried liver, didn’t like the mouth feel of mashed potatoes, and was disgusted by the smell of canned green beans.

My siblings and parents could not relate.  To them, a potato was a potato.  Mashed, boiled, baked, fried, or instant did not matter.

As an adult, I came to believe that I was not the only picky eater in my house.  My parents claimed to “eat anything,” or at least “normal foods,” and it’s easy to see why they were able to delude themselves.

My father, like many others of his generation, was only served meals that he already knew he liked.  My mother only cooked foods she liked.  There were set meals that he and my mother ate, and those were rotated on a regular basis, with only small substitutions.  (Look, we’re having creamed corn instead of regular corn tonight!)  Neither of my parents were adventurous eaters, and my mother was not a good cook, but most of my friends described the same meal-rotation that my mother employed.

I can understand why having a child who didn’t like six of the ten meals they regularly ate would be incomprehensible to them.  Their childhoods were marked by food rationing, necessitated first by the Depression and then by the War.  The idea that a child would refuse to eat perfectly good food must have been maddening.

Nobody talked about sensory integration issues or food sensitivities in those days.  Picky eaters were just being difficult.

In retrospect, sometimes I was.  After so many bad food experiences, I dreaded mealtimes and the ensuing battles.  My guard was always up.  The best I could hope for was to not be noticed.  The only meal I enjoyed was breakfast, where I could eat my bowl of Kix or Rice Krispies alone, in peace.

Cold cereal is still a comfort food for me.  I still prefer to eat alone.

It wasn’t until I moved away that I began to discover foods I liked.  None of them come from McDonald’s.  On road trips, my family is welcome to get whatever condiment soaked meat they want while I walk the dogs.  I’ll happily eat my apple and graham crackers when we all pile back in the car.

What were the mealtime staples of your childhood?  Did you love them, endure them, or hate them?


20 thoughts on “Were we all picky eaters?

  1. I wasn’t a picky eater and to this day, I’ll try just about anything. My granddaughter on the hand, lives off of fruit, vegetables and pasta. But it could be worse.

  2. I really wasn’t a picky eater–in hindsight, I kind of wish I had been! I did hate liver, and wasn’t crazy about canned beans, but in our house food was hard to come by. Our mother didn’t like eating or cooking, so the grocery store trips were always kind of minimalist…which meant we ate what we could get, when we could get it.
    Great post!

  3. I was not a picky eater growing up and liked most of what was served, especially fried chicken. In a house of 10 people you ate what you could get before it was gone. When I was younger I would beg to be able to eat McDonalds, but my Dad was a believer in home cooked meals. My husband always orders the quarter-pounder without cheese which results in a freshly cooked burger every time.

  4. I wasn’t allowed to be a pick eater when I was a kid. I guess my desire not to be in trouble out weighed my dislike for certain foods. I can relate to this food rotation, not so much from my parents, but my Grandmother. She was a meat, potato and vegetable cooker. Nothing unusual. She made the same meal for every holiday.

    My daughter does not care for meat. She likes vegetables and fish. She is a little picky and I let her be. Mealtimes were not fun in my house. There was a lot of stress around eating when my dad was around. It wasn’t a fun time to be with family. I guess enjoying each others company is more important to me than making my daughter eat things she doesn’t like.

  5. I wasn’t a picky eater but there is one food I hate to this day…brussels sprouts. My dad made me sit for hours at the dinner table and then gave them to me for breakfast when I wouldn’t eat them.

    • That sounds horrid. My husband has bad memories of brussels sprouts, too. He was made to eat them at holidays. I never even saw one as a child; I’d guess that my father did not eat them. Now, I like them.

  6. Very well written and a thought provoking post! I really appreciate you linking up with me at NanaHood so that my readers and friends can read it too. I think others can relate to this. I know I can!

  7. when I was young, I wasn’t picky. But I notice as I get older, I lean more and more toward veggies, fruits and less and less beef. Also, I really enjoyed the Hoagy Carmichael video on you last post! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Well obviously, I love this post, and am so glad you visited me from Honest Mom. I have always known picky eaters, but truly did not understand the idea of SPD until my son. It also didn’t help that every other child I knew had no trouble eating what he was given, yet my child would gag or throw up if I gave him something that seemed perfectly reasonable. I believe there are degrees of this as well. I am sorry you had to suffer through something your parents were clearly incapable of understanding, my mother-in-law still refuses to understand why my son won’t eat mashed potatoes! Thanks for sharing!

    • Some people don’t want to understand. I’m sorry your mother in law is one of them. For your son’s sake, I am happy that you do, because, really, does it matter if a child eats mashed potatoes?

Be extra nice and share!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s