I realized the other day, as I sat down in front of a plate of sweet potato and black bean tacos with diced avocado and feta cheese, that being an extremely picky eater may actually have some benefits.
For the past ten years or more, I have been actively working on my diet, forcing myself over and over to try every iteration of the many foods I despise, looking for “safe” ways to approach them. There are two equally important aspects to this process: My physical, or sensory, responses to foods, and my mental and emotional attitudes toward them. I tend to perceive my own picky eating primarily as a sensory issue, pertaining largely to textures, although taste, scent and visual appearance play a supporting role. However, I now accept the extent to which my mental attitude toward any given food influences my ability to eat it, and how far I have come in the past decade in my mental approach to both the kitchen and the table. As I plan our meals, I consider all the sensory combinations of flavors, textures, and temperatures, but I also present myself with culinary challenges: for my technical abilities in the kitchen, for my picky eating issues, and also for my health. In fact, even cooking three squares a day for my family, I feel just a bit lazy if I don’t make some effort to improve myself in at least one of these areas every day.
What I’ve realized in cooking meals for my parents and husband over the years is that even though they consider themselves normal or “unpicky” eaters, I have in many ways become a more adventurous eater than they are because I have made a habit of pushing myself out of my culinary comfort zone. They are content to eat the same dishes over and over, while I seek out healthier ingredients and new techniques. This is not to say that I don’t have a little moment of panic every time I sit down in front of something new, or that my family rejects the unusual foods I bring to the table. But I stretch my limitations actively on a daily basis, an approach that is so beneficial for all aspects of life, not just when it comes to food!
Since my new little guy was born in May, I’ve been concentrating on increasing my consumption of healthy fats, which translates to pastured organic animal products, coconut oil and milk, flax and olive oil, lots of raw nuts, wild salmon–and avocados. I have never liked avocados. I find them slimy and squishy, with an unnerving color and an unpleasant grassy flavor. But they are loaded not only with healthy fats, but with antioxidants like vitamins C, E and a host of carotenoids, B vitamins, minerals like potassium and magnesium, and both soluble and insoluble fiber. And, interestingly enough, I have found myself much more willing to eat avocados since this second pregnancy, almost like my body is telling me it wants all these nutrients.
I started out small, adding a quarter or half of a frozen avocado to my morning smoothies or using them as a butter substitute to frost my son’s chocolate birthday cupcakes. Since then, I have branched out to the use of avocado as a condiment on sandwiches and tacos. My lunch today was an open-faced fried egg sandwich with avocado on sourdough toast, and I marveled at the affinity of texture between an avocado and a barely-set egg yolk. And last week, I painted our plates spring-green with smears of tangy avocado rémoulade, a condiment that is typically mayonnaise-based and served with seafood. It was a delicious sauce for pan-seared wild salmon, potatoes roasted in bacon fat, and buttery braised Napa cabbage–I relished every last bite, and will certainly make this easy recipe again.
1/2 ripe avocado
1 good squeeze of lime
1 T quality olive oil (citrus-infused would be lovely)
1 tsp minced shallot, green onion or garlic
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T fresh parsley (I omitted this because I didn’t have any)
Combine all ingredients in a small blender or food processor and puree until silky smooth. Serve with practically anything.
Source: Slightly adapted from Simply Recipes.