One of my best friends. Not sure if he is what most people would class as unadventurous because what he likes is spicy food. The hotter the better. He also has a philosophy that food should never take longer to cook than it does to eat and lives in a state of utter confusion about why I would choose to spend an entire Sunday preparing a meal and/or baking. In fact, his personal preference is that food should take no longer than 3.5 minutes to cook. He lives on microwave vindaloo and, to his credit, can give you a detailed review of every supermarket and food brand’s version of the dish. At least twice per week he will have a takeaway – again always Indian, always vindaloo. Actually, I lie, in the past year he has discovered Nando’s which has considerably broadened his foodie repertoire – although he happily admits to only ever ordering a load of chicken wings with the hottest marinade then sucks the sauce and skin off the wings, leaving the best part of a whole chicken on his plate. He never eats vegetables at all and is visibly repulsed by anything green or any kind of fruit. This includes throwing a tantrum if his vodka and coke comes with a slice of lemon. Interestingly, his last relationship was with a vegetarian and they managed to live together for five years. He only eats chicken and only when cut up into very small pieces as he says he doesn’t enjoy chewing meat. This is one of the criteria for assessing his takeaway and ready meals. I have attempted to cook for him three times – the first was a large Burns Supper to which I invited him but emphasised that I would not be offended if he preferred to come afterwards, he did come for the meal but turned up 40 minutes late because he claimed not to understand the concept of having to time a meal and begin cooking before guests arrived, then made a big show of forcing down one tiny forkful of haggis and dramatically retching. He ended up with a plate of oven chips. The other two occasions were curry nights which I thought he would enjoy but he was far too suspicious of a curry that had been made from fresh ingredients and said I had ruined his enjoyment of curry because it made him think about all the strange and weird things that were it in. So now, when he comes round, we just order takeaway – seems easier. In fact that happened just last weekend but we also had other friends join us, one of whom is pregnant and could not stomach the thought of Indian food so we ordered pizzas. Of course this bloke went for the hot option with lots of extra chillies then we watched in amazement as he scraped all the cheese and toppings off, ate that and binned the entire base.
The main problem with this bloke is that he genuinely does not see that his attitude towards food is different to anyone else’s and frequently tells us about meals he has been forced to attend in an incredulous, what were they thinking type of way and is constantly amazed when nobody agrees with him. He also has a very good job, which required him to attend formal dinners and events and he reports back to us thus “they served this weird thing and I was told it was asparagus, I mean, who has even heard of that? Do they want people to enjoy the food or not? Of course I didn’t eat it…”
/ “I couldn’t believe that all around me, people were actually cutting into this lump of beef with pastry and other stuff. They called it beef wellington. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all ill afterwards. The menu was shocking, there was nothing I could eat and it didn’t even come with chips
.” / The restaurant apparently had one of those Michelin stars – god know why, if you had been there you would have seen my point. There was nothing worth eating – I mean… fish????? To eat????
But we all have our faults and he remains a very close friend.Exhibit b.
My Father-in-Law. Not so much unadventurous as just unconfident. He will try – and often likes – new things but as long as someone else also orders it, preferably my husband. If we go out for dinner, he will look blankly at the menu and say he doesn’t understand a word of it and just ask OH to order two of whatever he is having. He gets extremely suspicious of anything that sounds “exotic” and will not eat any spicy food. He claims to have a long list of dislikes but when put to the test, he rarely has a problem. I think (unkind but true) this is down to MiL’s cooking. For example, at a recent meal out, he told the waitress loudly and proudly that there was too much chicken breast on the menu and he only eats leg meat because breast is dry and even the best chefs in the world cannot make it taste nice (of course, the leg meat needs to be removed entirely from the bone because the thought of the bone either on his plate or in cooking makes him feel ill). Both the waitress and an eavesdropping chef tried firmly but politely to reassure him this would not be the case so OH eventually forced his hand by ordering chicken breast – have what I have or choose your own… It was a revelation to him. Similarly, when invited for a meal at my parents’ house, he got uppity and sniffy that my dad was cooking lamb which he claimed to hate – then had thirds… Exhibit c.
A former friend. Vegetarian but hates fruit and vegetables. Existed only on cheese and tomato pizzas, cheese toasties or tinned spaghetti hoops. Was known to cry if anything green turned up on her plate. Pulled out of being bridesmaid and refused to attend a very good friend’s wedding when she was told she could not “order a pizza for delivery to the top table”. Once, we went on holiday to Crete together with a third friend. The other person and myself got fed up of eating in the same “chips with everything” tourist trap restaurants every night and so went in search of lovely authentic Greek food. Found a nice taverna which randomly had a “Greek Pizza” on the menu – we spoke to the owners in advance and asked if it could be made without the aubergines, olives and herbs and our friend was willing to give it a go so we booked a table. That evening we turned up to find there had been a power cut and the restaurant could not cook anything, including the pizza. Instead, they had laid out an enormous table buffet of anything already prepared and improvised dishes using what they could; there were beautiful salads, pulses, marinated vegetables, dips, bread… but no pizza
. It turned out to be one of the best meals I have ever had in my life and the restaurant refused to charge for the food, only for wine. Our friend however actually threw a toddler-like tantrum, banging her fists on the table and cried noisily into her empty plate whilst the lovely staff tried everything to cheer her up and tempt her with cheeses and salads, honeyed walnuts and figs and other amazing delicacies. Extremely embarrassing for us but my other friend and I went back to the restaurant the next afternoon with flowers for the staff and to give them very sincere thanks for their help.Exhibit 4.
A childhood friend who would only eat campbells meatballs, chips and pizza. She came to our house for lunch once and knowing her habits, my parents made beans on toast, thinking that fitted the brief. She threw it on the floor (she was around 12 years old!) and howled for her parents who were summoned to come get her. Of course they treated my parents as if they had tried to poison their daughter
. That was the end of that friendship but I sometimes see this person around where I grew up – she is severely obese and uses a wheelchair at the age of 33.Exhibit 5.
My younger cousins. Brought up by my aunt to be suspicious of food rather than trying it. The family once came to our house for dinner when I was around 16 and had made the main course of Spanish pork which had marinated in olive oil and paprika for a long time and roasted until it could be pulled apart with a spoon. I was so proud but upon looking at it, my aunt demanded to know what there was “for the children
” which resulted in a microwave lasagne being dug out of the freezer – then my aunt and uncle decided that looked better so they would have it too. On another occasion my mother served melon which my youngest cousin started tucking into quite happily until his mother said “do you realise that’s fruit?”
at which point he spat it out and threw a tantrum because he doesn’t eat fruit. I invited them for dinner a few years ago and thought I was safe with roast chicken but no, it had “bits on it” – referring to pepper. The annoying this is that the aunt and uncle are not that bad as eaters themselves – they don’t do “foreign” but certainly eat fruit and veg and all sorts of other stuff but they brought up their children to think that only chicken nuggets and chips were acceptable food so they never developed a palate and now that they are both in their twenties, still refuse to eat anything green or anything of which they have never heard before.