I am a notoriously unfussy eater. In fact, as I often say when people ask me what I like to eat, I would probably eat sheet metal if someone else cooked it and washed up after me.
I have discovered that my pets are also unfussy – having watched people at the shop where I work buying teeny tiny little pots of special dog/cat food that is ‘the only thing he’ll eat’, I consider myself fortunate in having dogs and cats who will eat a range of things from leftovers to coal. I put a lot of this down to ‘competitive eating’. One dog or cat might just get to be fussy, but when a bowl hits the floor in this house, every animal comes running – it’s either eat it or watch everyone else eat and starve yourself. My pets have chosen the ‘eat it’ option. Sometimes it turns out that they don’t much like what they are eating (I can tell by the range of faces pulled, especially by the big dog, who has a selection of ‘bluuurrgh’ faces that would put a diva to shame), but they eat it anyway, in case someone else does.
So why, I ask, does this not apply to people? I’ve managed to raise five children, without causing too much damage, and, at some point or another, every single one of them has gone through a ‘fussy’ phase. To be fair, one of them went vegetarian for a while, which isn’t really the same as ‘fussy’, but it did require separate meals, so I include it under the ‘I won’t eat that!’ heading. I never fell for cooking each one a different selection of foods (except in the case of the vegetarian, if we were eating a meat-based meal), so dinnertime in my house was a series of food-trades that would have put the EU to shame – whereby sausages would be swapped for potato, beans for bread, and I swear one of them spent a fortnight eating nothing but peas, but they all grew up. And now they eat a huge range of foods, although why they couldn’t have come to the conclusion that carrots wouldn’t kill them when they were younger, I have no idea. All this experience means that when I am confronted by a ‘fussy eater’ who is over the age of about twelve, I have very little patience. If someone has taken the trouble to cook a meal, regardless of the contents, I feel that meal should be eaten, unless there are serious allergies/texture aversion problems. I have seen adults dismiss an entire restaurant menu because ‘there’s nothing there I like’. Really? Nothing? Maybe we should open a new chain of restaurants – The Picky Eater – where everyone pays, then a single bowl of food is put down, and if you don’t eat it you go hungry., whilst watching everyone else tucking in. Or restaurants where you can walk round trading food with others – pate swapped for extra chips.
Works for dogs…
Jane Lovering is an award-winning Yorkshire author