I do not consider myself to be a fussy eater, but there are certain food stuffs that I prefer not to eat. I have developed and changed my preferences over a number of years as I have aged. I will try most things at least once before I decide if I wish to repeat the experience based on my enjoyment. I have no interest in what others think I should like. How could others possibly know what will please me?
Take shellfish as an example. I just adore the taste of the shellfish that I have tried, but I now refuse to eat it for a reason. When I was on my honeymoon, my husband and I stopped for lunch one day at a lovely little coastal cafe where I ordered a crab salad. This was the first chance I had ever had to try crab and it was delicious. Around fifteen minutes later, feeling decidedly unwell, both lunch and breakfast made a dramatic reappearance.
The incident reminded me of a similar experience a few years previously when I had disgraced myself at a friend’s house after consuming a yummy prawn curry, lovingly prepared by his mother. After the crab incident I decided that perhaps shellfish were not for me.
Most people will understand and tolerate such preferences. I have a similar issue with raspberries, once again discovered when I was presented with these delights in a pudding at a friend’s dinner party, and spent the next few hours miserably contemplating a toilet bowl. I realised that I had encountered similar issues on previous occasions and added these bright red fruits to my list of banned substances.
There are, however, less dramatic preferences that others seem unwilling to tolerate. Like many British people, I enjoy a nice cup of tea. As an aside, complicated political events mean that I am also Irish, a fact that gives me a certain amount of nostalgic pride. However, I have chosen to carry a British passport so claim that as my nationality rather than the land of my birth. I know a lot of Irish as well as British people who choose to drink their tea very strong.
I like my tea to be made with an ordinary teabag in a pot, with just a splash of milk at the bottom of a large mug before it is poured. I also like it weak. This seems to offend so many people who are convinced that, because they would not choose to drink weak tea, I cannot possibly wish to have mine served in this way.
It is such a simple request to make, to pour my tea before the leaves have had time to fully brew as that is the way I like it. Others look at me aghast and cannot believe that I could enjoy such a beverage, because they would not. Thus I am presented with a drink that I will not enjoy. Often when I am out this results in me asking for coffee, which I do like strong, and drinking tea only when at home and in control of the pot.
It is not just friends and acquaintances who refuse to allow me to indulge certain preferences that they cannot approve. When I am eating out in a fine restaurant the talented chefs will rarely cook my meat the way I like it, particularly beef. Despite the fact that I am paying for this meal, and ask that it be well done, it arrives pink and chewy, sometimes even bloody. In this instance it seems that the customer is not always right.
Now, I get that a piece of quality beef does not require a lot of cooking, and that connoisseurs believe that the animal need only to be shown the heat source briefly before being served. If that is how others choose to eat their beef then that is fine with me, I just wish that they would be as fine with my choices.
Fellow diners wrinkle their noses and decry my wish to spoil a delicacy by incinerating it. If that is how I wish to eat it then why does this annoy them? What is it to them how I wish to eat when I am not asking anyone else to do as I do? Once again, I will rarely order beef when out as I know I will not choose to consume what is presented to me. It is a shame as I enjoy a good piece of beef, but only when cooked through.
I would never claim to be an expert on food or wine, yet I know what I like. I am willing to try new dishes but, if I know from experience that I will not enjoy some supposed delicacy, then I see little point in eating it just because the rest of the world rates it highly.
I mentioned wine. I have lost count of the number of people who have turned up their noses at my choice of wine. In this area I am only too well aware that I am not an expert. When I have been out with others who know what they are doing I have been offered some delightful choices. I have also been offered sweet or paint stripping concoctions that ensured I went home half a glass short of sober.
I generally know which of my friends and acquaintances I can trust to choose my wine for me, those who will select a bottle of something that I will consider nectar. I also know those who have preferences that differ so markedly from mine that I will order my own bottle and leave them to enjoy theirs. This is not an insult to their taste as they sometimes seem to think, but simply a difference. Why do some people not understand that it is fine for individuals to enjoy different things?
When it is just me drinking, I choose what I know I will like, usually a Chardonnay. This may not be considered classy, but then nor am I. There is no need for others to turn up their noses, laugh at my choice, or mention some television show that mocks this widely derided grape. Wine is to be enjoyed, so I drink what I know I will like.
I feel frustrated when my children refuse to try new dishes. Once tried though, once given a decent chance, each of us will favour different things and this is okay. If my preferences lower your opinion of me then I can live with that. Just please don’t ask me to drink strong tea or sweet wine. And pressure me into eating shellfish at your peril.