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?



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.

Taste Test (#268)

I am a picky eater. Take onions. I’ve hated onions with a passion since biting into my first McDonald’s burger and recoiling in horror over the raw, diced bites of bitterness wrecking my burger.

Unfortunately, onions are everywhere. No burger, sauce, or burrito is safe.

I’m normally a people-pleaser. Not when it comes to onions. I will quiz the wait staff before ordering a new dish. I will send that dish back if an onion shows up (very nicely and apologetically). And then I am NEVER going back to that restaurant.

My Chinese-American husband can and does eat anything. Animal brains? Check. Animal testicles? Check. Bitter melon? Check. Fish eyeballs, jellyfish, chicken feet? Bring it. The guy could have killed it on Fear Factor.

Because Andy adored me and wanted to keep me happy, he never said a word about my picking eating. He listened to me sympathetically when I ranted about how nasty diced raw onions are and how onions should not be standard on burgers. He kept track of all the restaurants that made it onto my “Banned Due to Onions” list and knew better than to suggest eating in any of them. Since Andy’s the cook, he modified all his recipes to either substitute garlic or puree any onions into oblivion.

Not until I got pregnant did he ever express any irritation if I didn’t eat his food. After he’d spent hours making brie-stuffed steak and I fled the house, gagging, he sulked. Ditto after he smoked pork.

“Dude. I can’t help it,” I insisted. “The smell of any meat makes me puke right now.”

Andy scowled. “It’s that bland white diet you grew up with. Your parents should have given you chicken feet.”

“Yeah. I bet I’d’ve thrown that up, too. It’s no good, honey. You don’t understand that it is literally impossible for some of us to choke down certain foods. Especially right now.”

“I blame your parents. Our child is going to grow up with vegetables. Fish. He’ll learn to eat anything. Even…onions.”

“Good luck with that,” I told him.

Baby D was a good eater from day one. He gained weight steadily. Andy made him pureed sweet potato for his first solid food and Baby D gobbled it down. Same with all early baby food.

Until we tried vegetables. Baby D declined. Sometimes violently. For years, the only vegetable he’d eat would be frozen peas, probably because he was teething.

I shrugged and stocked up on berries and frozen peas. When Andy wanted to insist that Baby D eat vegetables or not eat at all, I overruled him.

“He’s not gonna eat the goddamned kale,” I told Andy. “It’s a pointless battle. He’s got my tastebuds. If you insist he try, he’ll gag, and I have enough of his bodily fluids to clean up, thanks very much. Give him some peas.”

Andy muttered for months about how our child’s “genetically sensitive taste buds” were a crock and it was all parenting.

Until the day Andy returned from a trip to McDonald’s Playland with Baby D, sighing mightily.

“How’d it go?”

“I ordered him a cheeseburger instead of chicken nuggets.”


“He took one bite and spat it out and told me it was icky and peeled back the bun and pointed to the onions on it and told me they were terrible! And he refused to eat another bite!”

“Wow. If only we could have seen that coming.”

The Good Dad (#255)

When Andy and I were skirmishing negotiating over having a child, I extracted certain concessions. First, my husband would have to take Family Leave for 12 weeks and help take care of Baby D. Since California only covers 6 weeks of paid leave (a partial rate), we’d use my saving to pay the bills.

The idea of not saving money was almost physically painful for the son of Chinese immigrants. Dipping into savings might as well have been a mortal wound. (He never did fess up to his parents.) But I was adamant. Andy reluctantly agreed. We had no helpful grandparents to rock babies, make dinners, or do laundry within thousands of miles.

Besides, if Andy wanted the baby, he was not going to saunter off to work and leave me covered in poop and spit-up. He was gonna help. Continue reading The Good Dad (#255)

Pets Versus Dinner (#176)

Christmas Bunny, just prior to attacking a confused cat.

My family has always had a multitude of pets. I grew up with dogs, cats, turtles, rodents, and more. We even had a very special Siamese rabbit named Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Normal people have bunnies named Peter, but, hey, my little sister was only five when she found him in a New Jersey parking lot. Christmas was a New Jersey street tough masquerading as an adorable bunny. He spent ten happy years terrorizing the family Labrador and several cats while eating the antique Italian Provincial dining room set. Continue reading Pets Versus Dinner (#176)