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Sunday, February 5, 2023

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We’re Not Picky Eaters. We’re Supertasters!


supertasters
I‘ve been a picky eater for as long as I can remember—though I prefer to call myself a “super taster.” Scientifically (as I understand it) those with a more limited palate simply have more taste buds and thus prefer foods that others might consider bland or plain. For the super taster, a little flavor goes a long way!

As a child, my parents had no idea why I was so finicky. They weren’t fussy eaters; neither was my sister, so where had this strange child come from? Clearly, I was just being difficult. They were determined to expand my diet and we had many showdowns at the dinner table. They won many battles, but lost the war.

Today I am an adult and I eat what I want. Guess what? I don’t eat any of the foods they so lovingly (they did have good intentions, I know that much) forced down my throat: tuna, salmon, salad of any description, spinach, tomatoes, meatloaf, onions … the list goes on and on and my response never varies, “No thank you.” Frankly, I think it’s a near-miracle that I didn’t develop an eating disorder from having to eat so many foods that I found loathsome.

When I had kids I figured there was a chance they’d be picky eaters, I mean super tasters, too. I don’t think that my predilection is a healthy one, nor do I recommend it, so I proceeded with each child as if they would eat anything, even things I wouldn’t touch. They ate pureed spinach, mashed up yams, baked beets and the like. My daughter, Laura, was a gourmand from day one. She loves strong flavors and seldom balks at any food unless it is one of my bland favorites (for example, she hates tilapia in a wine and butter sauce). Joe, my second born, was initially willing to accommodate new tastes and textures, but when he started spitting out mushed up blueberries at about 14 months of age, I suspected he might be a mini-me.

I was right. Joe is the quintessential super taster. He eats exactly one vegetable: raw carrots. He won’t touch legumes. He even has a “secret weapon” in his arsenal, one that I never developed: if something tastes bad enough to him he will promptly throw it up. This has certainly contributed to me aborting many a food-tasting mission including, quite memorably, brown rice (he loves white rice, but its healthier cousin, forget it!).

Lucky for Joe, he has me as his mama and while we don’t have exactly identical food preferences, most of what I serve suits him. When I know that dinner will be a problem I usually fix him a PB&J. I have no desire to relive my childhood dinner memories, especially knowing that in the end the forced eating was totally futile.

I persuade Joe to eat a few peas here and there, encourage him to try a bit of mashed potatoes or sliver of strawberry occasionally. The other day he ate a bite of honeydew! He’s healthy, smart and takes his vitamins like a champ. And who knows? Maybe Joe will someday also be a gourmand — on his own terms.

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