Thursday, July 02, 2009

The book of food rules

Due to an aforementioned unwanted talent, somehow the conversation always manages to get turned to my so-called bizarre eating habits. I don't like talking about it 24-7, but I don't mind explaining some of my peculiarities with people who are genuinely interested. My problem is that so many people seem to be JUDGING ME. I know it's judgement because of their responses. I can read between the lines ("Really? What a freak. How interesting.") or read their flat-out rude look (one appalled eyebrow up and corner of lip down in a sneer). So first it gets pulled out of me unwillingly, and then I get made fun of.

Not a recipe for a Cool Laid Back Attitude. No, pretty much it stirs up all kinds of hyper-sensitivities and issues.

So, for the relatively few who are actually interested, here they are. I am writing out The 5 Food Rules in My Land because I'm thinking of it as a writing challenge. It's a pretty small number, considering the severity of my "condition," but it's so complex--each rule has a sub-set of rules that are equally important--that I don't know how this post is giong to turn out.  But I have to try.

1) Texture is key, summed up by the statement "I'm a purist."
2) Continuation of "I'm a purist": Don't mix!
3) Some foods Go Together
4) As God intended: cooked versus raw
5) Exceptions prove the rule, right?

1) Texture is key! Summed up by the statement "I'm a purist."
This is the most important rule, and usually trumps any other rules. Basically the concept is that a lot of things don't Go Together. Unless they . . . uh, do. Some foods Go Together as described in Rule #3.

Sub-rules of #1
-Nothing goes with everything.

-Lumpy/crunchy Doesn't Go with smooth
Examples:  yogurt with fruit or ice cream with nuts is bad, plain ice cream or smooth/custard yogurt is good.

-Rubbery Doesn't Go with anything
Examples:  Noodles are "rubbery."  The only thing that goes with noodles is a chunk-free sauce (say in the case of plain marinara or alfredo sauce).  Big chunks, especially anything hard or crunchy like celery, does not go with noodles.

-Chunks Do Not Go with anything
Examples:  for the most part, chunks are just bad all around: stewed tomatoes in sauce, pulp in juice. Et cetera, ad infinitum.

-Dry/soft Doesn't Go with wet/crunch (Unless! Unless it's actually wet/dry/crunch)
Examples:  cheese (which is dry) on salad (lettuce is wet) is bad.  However, cheese Goes with lettuce in the case of tacos (because the taco shell changes the entire game.  It's now a wet/dry/crunch).
This rule is basically where most sandwiches fit, although the type of bread makes a difference too. See Rule #5.

-Floaters are always bad
Mojitos. Sigh, I'm sure the flavor is awesome, but the chunks of weeds floating around kills me.
Spices like basil and chives are semi-floaters. I definitely prefer sauces sans chunks (spaghetti, alfredo, etc), but I do really like the taste of both my examples (and some others) so sometimes I will "put up with the chunks." It's not easy though, I'd like to point out. Usually you'll see me picking out the especially floaty (er, large) chunks of spice. That creates a problem though:  what do I do with them after I've picked them out?  Sometimes the inconvenience isn't worth eating that particular food. I can't risk a chunk making it's way back into the sauce once it's been picked out. Chunks that have been removed are never, ever, allowed to go back into the pool.  It gives me the willies just thinking about it; chunks that have been picked out and pushed to the side are food boogers. Same thing for crumbs on the table.  I never eat crumbs or anything else off the table.  It disgusts me to see someone use their finger and press down on a crumb and lick it off.  Yuck!

2) Continuation of "I'm a purist": Don't mix!
With the exception of foods that go together (see #3), all foods should keep their hands to themselves.

Sub-rules of #2
-Extra dishes
Juicy, saucy, drippy, jumpy foods probably need their own dish, depending on the probability of having a lava flow (gravy) or jailbreak (peas). For example, peas must be served in their own bowl due to their roly-poly nature. Can't have them rolling into something they don't go with! Peas that roll into something they don't go with (e.g., mashed potatoes) have to be pushed to the side of the plate and kept separate from the uncontaminated peas and whatever they rolled in to (another food booger situation). They just don't make plates big enough for that kind of circus.

-Extra utensils
I don't use my lips to clean my fork; I've always used my teeth. Not sure why, it's highly inconvenient, but you can't teach an old dog new tricks. It's just the way I am. Therefore, sticky/saucy foods that get caught between the tines of the fork always require their own utensil (e.g., mashed potatoes, spaghetti).

-If I'm a guest or unable to do what I want
When there are no extra dishes and/or utensils available (or if I'm too embarrassed to ask for them because I know it will spark a "Why?" conversation about my eating habits): Foods must be eaten in a particular order, cleanest to stickiest, so as to preserve the utensil as long as possible. For example, in the case of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans: veggie first (cleanest), chicken second, mashed potatoes last. If there are two sticky foods and they don't go together (most sticky foods don't Go), the last resort is to clean the utensil on my napkin before moving on to the next item.

-Potlucky foods
Not sure what category or rule potlucky foods fall under, but for the most part, I'm against potluck foods. I don't like potluck situations for a multitude of reasons. First:  by the very virtue of it being a POTLUCK, I don't normally have access to the quantity of dishes and utensils I need. I'm Green and I hate wasting a bunch of plasticware and styrofoamware, but I can't not
Also, potluck foods are generally made to travel; not served "fresh out of the oven." Dishes are prepared with the intent of going to room temperature (see also #4 about food temperature).
The fact that I've got all these rules should make this next statement unsurprising: I'm also a little bit OCD, and question the preparation of and edibility of potlucky foods (or should I say, advisability of eating).

3) Some foods Go Together
Due to the psychological (note, psychological is not logical) element to my pickiness, these don't always make sense to the rest of the world (or even to me, when all is said and done). But just trust me:  some foods are allowed to break my rules (mixing textures or touching) because they follow the "Go Together" rule.

Examples of foods that Go:
-Mashed potatoes and gravy are allowed to touch most meats because it all Goes.
-Bread, cheese, vegetables, and sauce can be mixed in the case of pizza.
-Noodles*, cheese, meat can mix in the case of lasagna.
-Noodles*, vegetables**, meat*** can mix in the case of yakisoba/teriyaki noodles.

*The more noodley (and therefore less saucy/vegetabley/spice-y) the better.  That is, I don't put much sauce on my spaghetti because I really just like the noodles.
**Only certain vegetables.
***Not sure why I say "meat" in the generic sense when I really only meant chicken.

Just as some foods Go Together, some foods Don't. Which is to say, the food doesn't go with ME; I dislike them on principle. Either I tried it once and hated it, or I just know.  Either way, don't ask me to "just try it" because once my mind is made up, then that means the psychological wall has been constructed. If you try to trick me into eating something I've said I don't want, that just reinforces the blockade. I can even do this to myself (unwillingly).  I.e., by telling myself "Just eat it!" or "Be polite, and just try it!" it will usually result in me pushing the food around the plate to make it look like I at least tried a bite.

I am an expert in making it look like I've tried something.  I rarely try foods; I can almost always tell just by looking/smelling if I'm going to like it or not.

Grown-up update: since figuring myself out, sometimes I can break the psychological wall down. But I have to want to want it. When the issue gets forced, by myself or someone else, then the "I ain't gonna, it's yucky, you can't make me" involuntary part of my brain takes over. And I have never met anyone more stubborn then me when it comes to eating something I don't want to eat.

Examples of foods that Don't Go with me:
-Can we say bananas. Always and forever.
-Shrimp (and any fishy-smelling fish)
-Spinach dip (I like spinach plain; green floaters don't go with cheese though)
-Crab salad (I've never tried crab, but somehow I know I don't like it)
-Chicken salad (chicken should be served hot (see #4)
-Coleslaw (mayonaise grosses me out)
-The list is endless

4) As God intended: cooked versus raw
If God wanted broccoli served cold, then He wouldn't have STEAMED IT!*
Likewise soup: if He wanted it served cold, then he wouldn't have COOKED IT!

*That was supposed to be a joke of wording. I don't think it quite worked out. Sigh. Raw broccoli should be served cold, but steamed broccoli should be served hot. For the record: I loooove steamed broccoli, and only sort-of like it raw.

Without fail, the Sub-rules of #4
-Cooked foods should be served hot.

-Raw, uncooked foods should be served cold/room temp.

There are very, very few exceptions. In fact, I could only think of one: pie. pumpkin pie is--obviously--cooked, but it should be served ice cold out of the fridge. Preferably for breakfast and lunch after Thanksgiving.

Example of food I won't eat due to breaking this rule: pasta salad is one I run into a lot. It's a popular potluck dish, which in and of itself is bad enough. I do eat some potlucky foods, and the main reason I won't eat pasta salad or any other kind of noodle salad at a potluck is because I don't like cold noodles (not because of the potluckiness or even flavor or the mix of ingredients). I would even guess, if I ever tried it, I would probably like the flavor. Unless, of course, it's gross. But it doesn't matter; even in the case of a non-chunky, pure noodle salad of just plain noodles, I still won't eat it because it's served cold.  In my mind, it would be the same as eating a cold noodle that fell out of the dish and got pushed to the back of the fridge.  A dish of noodles that you don't remember making, it was so long ago.

That's why I don't understand why y'all peeps continue to wonder why I won't "just try something." If I don't like cold noodles, why on earth would I intentionally eat cold noodles? I don't need to try different flavors of noodle salads to know I don't like cold noodles! Do you need to try something that you don't like conceptually? How come no one picks on vegetarians ("Just try it! It's chicken.")? Give me a break, guys.

5) Exceptions prove the rule, right?
Sometimes even I can't explain myself. Green bean casserole is a perfect example. It breaks all the rules, but I love it.* I've got quite a few things on this list that are oddities to my own nature.

*When I've made it myself, or a family member or person I trust has made it. I would never eat it at a potluck.

Examples of #5
-French dip sandwiches with au jus (note it's a different kind of bread; not Wonder Bread. And the texture changes by dipping it in au jus. A very un-sandwichy sandwich!)
-Grilled cheese sandwiches (even if it's Wonder Bread, the texture is changed by grilling and it becomes something I like)
-My mom's taco salad (no one else's). Go figure!


Steph said...

Hi Kate! Wow you are so brave to share this with the world. It is 'interesting' (and not in the 'you're a freak' way!) to read about other peoples rules - as a person who has heaps of rules themselves. I vary from eating nothing to eating everything is sight. At all times there are rules though. For example... I hate pork products - but i can handle bacon in pasta, I love all fruit when i am 'restricting' but when I am in a binge cycle I dont touch it at all. Cheese makes everything taste nicer - but I avoid it like the plague when I am restricting. Hot and cold should NEVER be served together - hot mean and salad is wrong and if *heaven forbid* they touched each other I wouldnt go near it! I totally agree about potluck... my worst nightmare! not that you dont trust people but you just never know.

Anyway well done on the blog - amazingly brave and inspiring... look forward to reading your updates!

cashdelladee said...

Hey... New to blogging and very excited to find people talking about stuff that hits so close to home.
I've struggled with my pickiness to the point that I am underweight because I just won't eat the cheap crap that grosses me out and don't want to cough up the dough to buy foods I actually enjoy! Thanks for posting, I look forward to any updates.

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