As a child I developed a bad reputation.
Not the kind of reputation that might lead to tattoos, motorbikes and teen pregnancy, mind you.
No, the sinister reputation I developed was for being a fussy eater.
Some might even have dubbed me the World’s Fussiest Eater. Those same people might think I still suffer the affliction.
I’m here to dispel some of the awful rumours that have been going ’round about Baby Mandy for the past few decades…
I’m not a fussy eater – not any more at least. I eat most things and I’d probably eat everything if it came down to being polite. Like most people, I have certain likes and dislikes. I steer clear of some foods because I don’t like them, but I don’t think that qualifies me as especially “fussy”.
You would never hear me utter the following, for example:
Maria Bamford: I would like a bowl of boiling hot water, with ice, but I don’t want the ice to melt and get all small. And I want my turkey sandwich cut into fourteen quadrants, I know it’s impossible but quadrants, and dropped onto my plate from a height of ten feet with an attitude of regret. Tee hee, sorry to be such a pain!
When I was a child, I’ll own that there were a lot of things I wouldn’t eat. I didn’t like pumpkin, overly-microwaved zucchini, squash, undercooked egg and slimy seafood. God forbid a child should have a dislike for vegetables (and overcooked vegetables at that!) Here’s where I think I got a bad rap.
The most prolific accuser was my Aunty Ros. In fact, she thought all of my siblings and I were fussy eaters. Then again, it’s easy to see why when you realise that her angelic only daughter was eating caviar by the tablespoonful (in taramosalata form) at a similar age.
I remember hearing somewhere that if you want a child to try new food, you might offer it to them up to seven times before they finally try, and like it. And that’s where I’m going to shift the blame and place it squarely on the shoulders of my parents. How many times do you think I was offered caviar as a child? (I’ll give you a clue – the number is egg-shaped too).
With four children, rather than one, to manage, my parents would probably have actually fed us the oft-threatened “poop on a stick” given half the chance. We had a regular routine of child-friendly meals like spaghetti bolognaise and sausages and mash, and we did just fine. Like most kids, if we got hungry before dinner we might whinge at the response “have a piece of fruit” and, like most kids, we poked finger-holes in our ice-cream to trap delicious rivulets of ice magic. We went through a 5 litre tub of vanilla ice cream a week and we drank cordial stronger than some alcoholic beverages. We despised various vegetables at various times and flipped straight to the “kids menu” at restaurants.
In other words – we were totally normal. I was totally normal. In the pre Master Chef World, this is simply how children behaved.
But perhaps I protest too much?
These days, being one, I eat like an adult. I eat pumpkin, zucchini and squash by choice, I cook my own egg more because I prefer it that way, and (as with meat of any kind) I enjoy seafood that isn’t still shaped like the animal it came from with cold, black, dead eyes staring back at me (how anyone can find that appetising is beyond me!) There are a couple of extremely popular things I don’t like (coffee and soft cheeses) that render my taste bizarre to some, but I was never one to follow a trend just for the sake of it. I prefer my chocolate plain and my desserts without a side of cream, just as some people prefer nuts and a huge dollop of the stuff. I’ll eat it either way, but sometimes the calories just aren’t worth it. I’ll try most things at least once, but for some foods – once is enough. Why continue to eat snails, for example, when you can eat chicken? Snails are rubbery and need a kilo of garlic each just to render them edible – this is not so for a well-cooked piece of chicken thigh. I’m not out to impress anyone – the popular, tasty option will do me just fine.
… which brings me back to challenge number 25 ‘Host a dinner party using 3 of your most loved foods and 3 of your most disliked foods’. Unsurprisingly, this challenge was set by my Aunty Ros, who still approaches me cautiously at meals to offer foods my ten year old self might have baulked at. Ironically, we share one pet food hate – coriander. I don’t think I’ve refused one of her offers out of “fussiness” in well over 15 years but old habits (and reputations) die hard.
In any event, I believe I am up to the challenge, and I have a plan to fulfil the challenge in a few short weeks when my Aunty and her caviar-swilling daughter visit 😛
To develop the menu, I decided that there’s not much point cooking foods most people dislike. For that reason, I’ll steer clear of the black pudding and eye of newt, and lean more towards the foods that raise the most eyebrows when I politely decline them. In other words, when I say “most disliked foods”, I don’t mean “the foods I dislike the most” , but “the foods I dislike the most often” – Those foods I’ve been offered far more than seven times and still refuse.
I have planned a 3 course menu using the following formula:
Entrée: My favourite pizza topping versus the topping I pick off
Main: The party food I’ll eat by the plateful versus the one plate I’ll never touch
Dessert: My guiltiest of pleasures versus the ubiquitous dessert favourite
Beverages: Choose your poison – coke and coffee of course!
Each course will consist of loved and disliked foods together in the one dish – forcing my supposedly fussy brain to decide whether to love it or hate it, take it or leave it, like it or lump it, eat it or beat it.
And if my guests don’t like it? Well, they’re just fussy.
Do you have an old reputation that you can’t seem to shake, no matter how hard you try?