‘Dinner SOS’ is the podcast where Bon Appétit answers your highly specific cooking conundrums thanks to host and food director Chris Morocco and a rotating cast of cooking experts. Here Chris goes deeper into this week’s kitchen emergency, which you can listen to here.
What do you say to someone who is so picky that they have never tried a carrot? Meet Maddy, the latest caller on Dinner SOS, a self-professed picky eater. She’s never tried cooked salmon, raw onion, and countless other foods, including, yes, carrot sticks. If that sounds shocking to you, trust me: I’m with you, and you can listen to our full conversation on this week’s episode. But why was I using a carrot as the arbiter of someone else’s culinary experience?
Of course, the carrot could be anything. Our culinary histories are highly idiosyncratic and often don’t follow any logic. Exposure to foods, at the right time, in the right place, or even just by the right person can make all the difference in terms of whether we like them. And of course there are many practical reasons somebody wouldn’t eat something—from allergies to sensory avoidances and more. But those aside, I wonder: Why do I personally revere the sweet earthiness of a carrot but believe all parsnips should be left in the ground? I love every type of pea, yet I think fava beans are highly overrated, not worth the effort of preparing, and at best result in the taste of pea fart.
Should I keep trying fava beans? Maybe. My wife and I heard it can take kids 19 times of trying something to overcome the reflex to reject any new food and truly be in a position to know if they like it. Nineteen is a lot of times to witness theatrical gagging on spinach over the trash bin, or watch someone pick all the “crispy bits” off of a meatball. It is 18 chances to be annoyed at another human because they don’t like the same thing; 18 ways to overreact because they are rejecting something you sacrificed your time and money for.
Deep down I know I have very specific likes and dislikes. I also know that those things can change suddenly. I woke up a few months ago and realized I craved dark-roast coffee. Years ago I discovered I suddenly loved cottage cheese despite barely having tried it. I continue to make myself try things I am pretty sure I hate. Sometimes I still hate them but I try to keep an open mind. If you can promise that you made a good-faith taste of a carrot between 1–18 times and genuinely don’t like it, I promise I won’t hold it against you. Take it from Maddy, though, and be sure to give it a try.