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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.