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Tim Istock column: Pass the peas, please … right on by!

By Tim Istock
For the Clemmons Courier

I’m not exactly sure when I officially became a picky eater, but I strongly suspect I was born that way. You see, while most folks seem to be endowed with a nice diversity of easily excitable and adventurous taste buds, I was apparently equipped with but three types of introverted tongue sensors — the good, the bad, and the ugly, the important point here being that two out of the three are undesirable.

Now the fact that my parents used to make me hang out at the dinner table until I either ate my lima beans or we moved, whichever came first, certainly didn’t help matters when it came to enhancing my overall appreciation of food, and in the end likely only served to reinforce my distaste for certain foods that I already intuitively knew would never voluntarily become one with my stomach.

Well-intentioned but poorly disguised psychological leverage directed at me in the form of such dumb questions and statements as:

“Oh, this is so yummy! Wouldn’t you like to try a little?”

“How will you ever grow up to be big and strong if you don’t eat your vegetables?”

“Think about the starving kids in _____  (fill in the blank with your own favorite impoverished third world country)

“How do you know you don’t like it if you won’t even try it?”

… had no impact on me whatsoever.

For starters, previous claims of things being “yummy” that actually turned out to be pretty darned “crummy” left me with the realization very early on that my folks’ idea of what was fit for consumption and my assessment of what was potentially edible were not even in the same universe, let alone the same ballpark.

Second, if not eating Brussels sprouts or spinach meant that I was destined to end up puny and weak as an adult, well then, that was a price I was willing to pay because it beat the heck out of the alternative which was to grow up big and strong and perpetually nauseated.

Third, and forgive me Lord, but at the ripe old age of 6, I confess that I was far less concerned about my hungry childhood brothers and sisters in some far-off country than I was about what might end up being forcibly ejected back out onto my lap if forced to choke down a turnip or a beet or some other disgusting plant masquerading as real food. As an aside, and to prove I was wasn’t completely devoid of compassion even at such a tender age, I once politely suggested to my mom that maybe we could pack up the broccoli on my plate and send it off to those poor unfortunate starving kids she was always talking about. That I got my mouth washed out with soap for the recommendation does not in any way negate my altruistic intent, although it did put a definite lid on me offering up any such suggestions in the future.

Last, and probably most important, the knowledge of what was palatable nourishment for my body versus what should be avoided like the plague was based on two simple but infallible rules: 

• Rule No. 1 — If it don’t look good, and it definitely don’t smell good, you can pretty much bet the farmer’s market that it probably don’t taste good either. 

• Rule No. 2 — If our perpetually hungry, garbage scavenging mutt wouldn’t bite on something — and I’m talking about the very same dog I once saw eating her own barf off the front seat of my dad’s 1960 Chevy Impala station wagon — then what in the name of Sam Hill was I doing even considering it? 

At least now as an adult I no longer have to worry about eating what I don’t want to eat or feeling compelled to justify my paltry food preferences, although I still get the occasional raised eyebrow and dumb question from a foodie who just can’t seem to fathom my severely limited taste palette.

 “Oh really? Why don’t you like mushrooms?”

“Why? Because to me they have all of the pizzazz of used pencil erasers, that’s why.”

So listen, the next time a picky eater passes on your gracious offer to go eat sushi or try out some of your delectable home-made pimiento cheese spinach dip, don’t push the issue. Instead, give them a slice of bread and a glass of water. They’ll be much happier and your carpet will thank you for it in the end.

 Now, off to have some pizza — plain of course, cheese only and regular crust.

Yummy!