Food Fight, Part II (#269)

I am a picky eater with a sensitive gag reflex. My parents learned that trying to force me to eat Hamburger Helper would result in puke all over the kitchen. They turned a blind eye when I fed it to the dog.

My Chinese-American husband, on the other hand, is literally the embodiment of the Chinese saying, “The Cantonese will eat everything on four legs except the table.”

Andy is also immune to food poisoning and the stomach flu. I have spent days on the bathroom floor with both while he whistled and continued on his merry way. Never mind that we ate the same food and commingled bodily fluids.

Andy’s uncle has a theory that weak stomachs were weeded out of the Chinese gene pool ages ago, possibly because the Chinese eat quite a bit of undercooked food. If your stomach couldn’t handle it, you’d never survive to reproduce.

There is only one food so horrible, so hideous, that my husband gags at the very thought of it.

Are you ready?

It’s…

MINT. CHIP. ICE-CREAM.

Yes, the eyeball eater thinks chocolate and mint together are gag-worthy.

Peppermint Patties terrify a man who savors sweetbreads.

I, on the other hand, once stole and ate two boxes of the Andes Mints my grandmother was saving for her bridge club.

I found it strange that Andy hated my favorite ice-cream, but I understood and respected his hatred. I knew what it was like to loathe certain foods, after all.

Andy was less accepting of food intolerance, especially once we had a kid. Then he insisted that my picky eating was due to the processed food of my childhood, rather than genetics.

Our child proved him wrong (and made me proud!) by refusing to eat my least favorite food.

You’d think that Andy would have given up on trying to mold his son’s unmoldable taste buds after that.

He did not.

He kept insisting Baby D at least try a few bites of everything. Andy’s frustration was palpable when Baby gagged and spat out anything that was too bitter or too spicy. My husband would sigh loudly, arguing that there was barely any asparagus in the salmon tart and it was ridiculous that Baby D wouldn’t at least try another mouthful. Glares were exchanged across the table until I intervened.

Unlike my husband, I felt that Baby D was doing just fine. He loved all meats, especially bacon and ham, but he liked tofu, too. Indian and Mexican foods were fine (without onions). He didn’t clamor for soda or juice. He devoured mushrooms and eventually accepted broccoli as edible.

Of course, Baby D’s favorite foods were gummy candies. We limited his intake, especially after his dentist told us that Baby D had deep grooves in his molars.

“Go for chocolate when it comes to treats,” she advised us. “That’s less likely to get stuck and cause cavities.”

See’s Candies, all decked out for the holidays.

I immediately introduced Baby D to See’s Candies, an old-fashioned chocolate store where the staff gave out free samples. Baby D soon settled on a favorite. Every visit, I would lift him up to counter height and he would lisp, “May I have a miwk choc-co-wit peppermint, pwease?”

The staff behind the counter would coo some variant of, “Oh my gosh, you’re so adorable! And such grown up tastes! You can have FIVE peppermints!”

One evening, Baby D offered some of his bounty to his father.

Andy recoiled. “Ew, God, no! Get that abomination away from me!”

Baby D was utterly perplexed. How could someone not like milk chocolate peppermints? Inconceivable! I sympathized, even as I explained how everyone’s tastebuds were different about a thousand different ways. Over a thousand different days, because toddlers.

Over the next few years, Baby D repeatedly offered milk peppermints to Andy, sure his father was just kidding. Andy declined every time (with extreme prejudice).

Baby D eventually realized the full potential of chocolate mints–as weapons.

One April Fool’s Day, he instructed me to buy two packs of M&Ms: one plain, and one mint.

The mint chocolate green M&Ms on the left, regular M&Ms on the right.

If you haven’t seen them, the green M&Ms in these two different chocolates look nearly identical. Baby D put two mint M&Ms on top of the plain M&Ms in the plain M&M wrapper. Then he waited, heroically resisting the urge to eat those M&Ms himself. For hours.

The minute his father came home from work, Baby D offered the pack of “plain” M&Ms to his father.

Andy, touched (and foolishly unsuspicious of this unusually generous gesture), tossed a handful of M&Ms in his mouth. He chewed.

And then bolted for the sink, gagging and spitting.

Baby D howled with mirth as his father finished rinsing out his mouth and said, “Why?! Why would you do that, young man?!”

“April Fool’s!” chortled Baby D. Eyes glittering, he added, “That is exactly how I feel about asparagus.”

Last weekend, Andy made a salmon and asparagus tart. But this time, he made a second tart with ham and mushrooms for Baby D.

Welcome to dinner table détente. Finally.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

20 thoughts on “Food Fight, Part II (#269)”

    1. And to me, too. It’s hard to say what’s innate and what’s environmental, though.

      I also met a bunch of Australians who absolutely loathed a raspberry truffle brownie recipe. Turns out Australia had a similar tasting cold medicine when they were kids.

  1. I’m weird about chocolate mint. Don’t like the ice cream but love peppermint patties. Sounds like Andy is a slow learner but he comes through at the end. Or maybe Baby D is smart.

  2. Applause for Baby D. He clearly has the sneakiness gene. Also, I’m sympathetic to the “let the toddler eat whatever they will eat” POV. Forcing a three-year-old to eat gourmet food is much more likely to result in an angry three-year-old than in a fellow gourmand.

    1. I think there is a balance to be had. Really, we parents should keep sugar to a minimum. It’s like crack. And healthy meals with lots of fruit and vegetables are excellent. The less processed food, the better, but not everyone can afford/ has time to make them every day.

      Kids should definitely try foods, but you can’t shove it down their throats if they gag. But no dessert until they at least try it. And if there is a neutral type of healthy food that they will eat, no dessert until that’s all gone, either.

  3. I am so glad to be able to read your posts again! For a while, I got some message of denied access. Your kid is so smart! And he is “several years” old already. I knew you are not up to date with the timeline, but I didn’t think you were several years back. That’s good, a lot of nice stories to come.
    I ate almost everything you mention Andy eating: brain, chicken feet (which are delicious, both fried or to make a thick bone broth), chicken eyes, pork stomach and intestines, tongue (I get a tongue sandwich every time I go to a Jewish deli). But I can’t eat lamb or goat. I can’t stand the smell and I feel it from a mile away. It’s a shame, because people rave about it, yet I detest it. My parents would make a special dish with goat organs and lots of veggies and greens, and in their opinion it was delicious and had no bad smell. Of course, they are 2 generations older than you, and from another land, so when I refused to eat it, they didn’t just take away desert, they kept my at the table, under a full sun, until late in the night, to make me eat it. After 10 hours, numerous slaps, throwing up, legs and arms covered with mosquitoes bites (you’d think that stinky soup would at least keep those beats away!) I was finally allowed to go to bed, under the threat that I’ll start the next day with a fresh bowl of soup. But nature took pity on me and I got sun struck, keeping me delirious for 3 days in bed. They got scared enough to never force food on me. And I still remember the dream I had right before I came back to my senses: flying colorful fish, all around me. The first time I snorkeled, well into my adulthood, I felt the same joy of getting healthy after a long struggle. I still hate goats, except for the fainting goats; I get a weird satisfaction when I see them drop.

    1. I’ve heard many horror stories over not eating like yours, although yours might be the most extreme. And this is why I see no point in forcing a child to eat. It will never make them like that food. Maybe their taste buds will evolve, but is that really the hill to die on — or to have your kid die on?!

      Goat and lamb are very strong tastes, with very strong aftertastes. Not for everyone.

      I am glad you have access again! WordPress and I have been dealing with a lot of trolls and you might have gotten blocked accidentally. Sorry!

  4. Oh, my gosh! This is so funny and so incomprehensible! How could he not like chocolate mint chip?

    Baby D has a very advanced sense of humor.

    1. Baby D has a vengeful sense of humor and he loves to put one over on his dad. He got April Fool’s immediately.

      But the mint chocolate thing seems incomprehensible to many of us. Just like Andy’s cousins not liking sweets. But they were raised in Hong Kong, mostly, where there was a lot less sugar.

  5. Wow, what a mischief maker, Thanks for the laughs. I am pretty sure my monkey has been mischevious. ( He hates socks and shoes. We have tiled floor, grandma doesn’t let him walk, so I have to carry him everywhere…)

        1. I think he’s a lot less charming–he’d rather order people to do something than figure out a way to charm and manipulate them into it.

          First Nephew hated walking on grass as a toddler. Possibly because he lived in a cold climate and grass/bare feet were only an option for a few months at a time.

  6. My parents used to make me sit at the table until I ate some horrid food. Everyone else had left, the table was cleared except for my spot and I would just stare bleakly at pot roast. My mother, like your husband, was an excellent cook. And according to every damn one else this pot roast was something special. I thought it took all the good things in life and turned them into an inedible mush. I just gagged with each bite. Taste buds do change though. I had a similar feeling about mushrooms and spinach but now I love them. Still hate pot roast though.

    1. I think we all sat at tables, staring at food we couldn’t choke down. I don’t actually see the point, because, as you say, tastebuds do change.

      But trauma from your childhood? That’s forever.

  7. Ah, this brings back the memories. As I kid I hated the way my mother prepared cooked zucchini and eggplant, made me gag/retch every time. She tried so much that eventually both items were rejected by me, in any form.

    I finally got old enough to tell my mother that I will eat everything else she cooks, other than those 2 items. I was not picky about other food(eating everything with 4 legs other than the table haha), and definitely not a dainty eater(ravenous wolf), so missing out on those 2 items was not a huge sacrifice on my mother’s part.

    I am willing to eat zucchini bread as an adult, since I can see it is mostly bread. I still abhor cooked zucchini and eggplant. I concur that trauma from your childhood can last forever, although in some cases it can be minimized.

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