I love food. I love the way it looks like a work of art on a plate when carefully crafted. I greatly enjoy getting my hands into the raw ingredients and following a recipe to the letter to discover what I can make. If this description was made about most people, they might be considered a "Foodie." That term is never applied to me though. I get a different appellation: picky eater.
I don't really remember where it all began, but I have struggled with food for the majority of my life. According to family stories, I ate chicken and cheese sandwiches exclusively as a young child, much to my mother's horror. Doing the best she could as a mother, she began to force me to eat various food items in order to insure I was getting the nutrition I needed. I clearly recall sitting at the table with a serving of black-eyed peas on my plate that I was told I had to consume. I tried mixing the peas in creamed potatoes, mashing them into a paste, and quickly following them with a chaser of Coca-Cola. The result was always the same -- I gagged. To this day, the sight (and smell) of black-eyed peas makes me seriously ill.
My mother eventually felt sorry for me I suppose and the meal time trauma came to an end. I took vitamin supplements and we simply hoped that I would grow into a healthy adult. As an adult, I am aware of how important good nutrition is and have tried to bring various foods into my life. I have spent hours (literally hours!) sitting in a Wendy's restaurant trying to force myself to eat a hamburger with lettuce and tomato on it. I got a quarter of it down when I had to admit with tearful eyes that if I made myself eat another bite, I would find myself in a very embarrassing situation that would be quite unappetizing for the restaurant's other patrons. Meekly, I removed the offending vegetables and tried to finish the sandwich. The burger was thrown away; I was so completely disappointed in myself.
What's the problem? That's a question that I truly wish I could answer. I despise the looks that I receive when I constantly make alterations to menu orders like a child. I rarely accept dinner invitations to friends' homes because I fear offending them by not eating what they are serving. My greater horror is that I will attempt to eat the food served and become ill as a result of my food problem. That is an insult from which even the most understanding friends may not recover.
If I have to explain my relationship with food, I have to start with texture. I don't like anything that is mushy in my mouth. If there is fluid in the food, I immediately go back to the peas from my childhood and gag. This creates a problem for crisp vegetables as well. Despite their crunchy beginnings, as they are chewed, the liquids released from them create a sensation that is simply more than I can bear. It sounds silly to most people....and I have to admit I understand their perspective....but I also know what it is like to live this insanity.
Is it an eating disorder? Not in a traditional sense certainly, but I do think there are some deep seeded issues at work. I have contemplated seeking therapy but that even seems foolish. Why can an adult man not get a grip on his eating habits? I think I'm even more fearful that therapy would not be able to correct my problems.
As you can imagine, I go ballistic when I witness a parent forcing a child to eat something that they appear to physically detest. Please understand that I'm not talking about parents who require a "no, thank you" taste. These are the parents who force children to eat a specific food through their helpless tears in an effort to prove who is in charge. (We all know the difference between a child throwing a tantrum and a traumatized child.) Hopefully not every child who suffers through those situations will end up with the unhealthy food relationship that I have, but I shudder at the thought that they might because I know the difficulty it is and the toll it takes on the individual's self esteem.
i'm still not at peace with my eating habits, but I am hoping that things will improve as I gradually try to introduce new flavors to my palate by including vegetables in sauces and meat dishes in my own cooking. My prayer is that as I become more comfortable handling the ingredients that my mental status will allow me to consume the items. I'm not ready to run out and grab a salad with you, but I'm hoping that I can sit at a table while you enjoy one and not have to keep moving away to avoid the smell. One step at a time......