Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran a short article about picky eaters. While I can't find a link at the moment, the article suggests making dinner into a game. Children receive stickers when they eat very small amounts of the "Do Not Eat" food. The idea is if they can stomach small amounts and get a reward, they are more likely to accept larger portions of the food without a reward after about three months of the game.
That might work. But what if your dad is a picky eater? He didn't encourage you to eat Brussels sprouts because he didn't want to eat Brussels sprouts. He decided to make mac and cheese instead. What if he unknowingly passes some of his food prejudices on to you?
Now, I want to be very clear. I love my father. He is wonderful, and loving, and a great father. But he didn't really make it his top priority to encourage adventurous eating habits. My mother is nowhere near as picky as the rest of us, but she was overwhelmed by a family of picky eaters. How was she supposed to encourage my father to eat foods on his "Do Not Eat" list? He's a grown man! Is she supposed to give him stickers??
This brings me to my point. How do you encourage a picky adult to eat gross food? My father had a Pakistani friend growing up, so he's always liked (very) mild curries. Now, he's eating curries that are more spicy. While this doesn't seem like a huge progression, talk to my mother. She can finally cook more recipes from her beloved Indian cookbooks. Is my dad going to head up to Devon Avenue any time soon and sling back some Aloo Gosht? No, almost certainly not. But he's making progress.
I think picky adults change their habits more gradually (if at all). My father created a baseline of curry tolerance as a child, and now he pushes that tolerance the very slightest bit 2 or 3 times a month. He's not really looking to branch out much further than curry. When we went to a Mexican restaurant, he ordered a hamburger.
Stickers probably aren't going to work for me either. But I really want to expand my culinary horizons. Am I doomed to the kids' menu forever? Clearly not. Since August, I have discovered that I like beans, green peppers, and Worcestershire sauce. I've come to terms with the fact that I might have to eat chicken some time, although it will never be as delicious as pork.
My "Do Not Eat" list is very long and won't be conquered in three months or probably even three years. Stickers are not going to motivate me to change. Only I can do that. Wish me luck!