Homer's Travels: Food For Thought

Friday, May 04, 2012

Food For Thought

It seems that when I sit down and think about my upcoming trips, my quest for optimism, or just about anything else in my life lately, the subject of food is there, a shadowy presence, just below the surface.

It goes back a long way.  As long as I can remember actually.  I was a finicky eater.  I refused to eat meat of any kind.  Vegetables were not to touch my lips.  The only thing I would eat was fruit, bread, and some dairy.  I drove my parents nuts.  They tried to get me to eat "normal" food but I steadfastly refused.  Mom often slipped stuff into my oatmeal to add extra protein.  I ate the oatmeal but didn't really like it.  They thought this was just a phase I was going through but I took it to a whole new level I think.

I can't really say why I refused to eat normally.  It may have been a fear of the new or unknown.  I would often say that I didn't like the taste.  Thinking back, I wonder, did the food taste the same for me as it did for others?  Did I taste things differently?  I imagine we all wonder about that sometime in our lives.

How I ate, or didn't eat, changed how I associated with people.  I felt ashamed.  I felt embarrassed.  I ate by myself if I could.  I didn't want to go to people's parties because I may have to explain why I wouldn't eat the food.  To a scrawny pre-teen, being different, and I felt very different, took it's toll.  My natural shyness became anti-social behavior.  So when people were learning how to socialize, I was avoiding people.

When I was around twelve - thirteen years old I'd had enough.  I decided to change how I ate - I guess I out grew my phase.  Over time I expanded what I would eat and I found I liked most things I tried.  Despite this progress, I still had a limited food vocabulary.  Sadly, I think it was a too late for me socially.  The damage was done.  I was socially stunted ... all because of an irrational fear of food.

Over the next thirty-six years I have slowly overcome many of my social issues.  I am still a bit anti-social but college, and then work, forced me to learn how to fake it.  I  put a hard separation between work-social and home-anti-social.  That is how I spent a lot of my adult life.  Meeting the Wife has done a lot to bring me out of my shell ... but the shell remains.  The shell is still comfortable to me.

So ... what does all of this have to do with anything?  People who know me, and know my past eating habits, wonder how I will do in China, Nepal, and India.

These are legitimate questions. My palate is still very limited.  I recently came across a "Food List Challenge" on Facebook. Of the one hundred foods any foodie should try - food ranging from Caviar to Hostess fruit pies, Kobe Beef to Chicken and Waffles - I have eaten eight ... and this is after thirty plus years of eating normal food.

And then there is the connection between food and mood.  One of the podcasts I listen to, Radio Lab, had a segment recently about how the bacterial flora in your gut affects you mood.  It seems if you have a healthy and robust bacterial flora, you will be more positive.  Now I wonder if how I ate as I grew up, and my limited diet today, has any relationship with my pessimism.  I've been eating yogurt every day since 2005 and, since December, I've been taking a pro-biotic in the hope of having a strong intestinal biota when I go to China.  I haven't noticed any improvement in mood but it probably would be gradual change and hard to notice.

Food is connected to a large part of our lives.  It touches my travels.  It touches my quest for optimism.  Just about everything that preoccupies my time these days is in some way, directly or indirectly, related to food, my life-long nemesis.  But I have to say ... when someone asks me if I'm worried about eating in China, Nepal, and India, my first answer is "No".  I am not worried.  That shadow, drifting in the depths of my thoughts, is finally beginning to fade with age.  Maybe that pro-biotic is helping after all.


  1. Wow! In a lot of ways, you've described my older daughter in law! Her families idea of exotic was Kraft Mac n Cheese! ANd I know it makes her feel,..well outside sometimes too, cause we eat anything if it don't move and ain't nailed down! Well, actually the old man will even eat it if it's still twitching! Sorry, at least play dead for me please!

    So guess what I'm saying is thanks for another view of what it must sometimes feel like for her.

    There is always...rice!

    1. KSam: You are very welcome.

      True Dat! There will always be rice!

  2. I remember those days and you described your eating exactly. It WAS hard for your dad and me to figure out why you wouldn't try different foods and we came to the conclusion it was fear of new or unknown....just like you said.

  3. I'm a picky eater too. And I gotta say, I STILL have no idea what you're talking about with this pessimism you claim to have!

    1. Miss McC: Your perseption of me is based soley on my comments and posts which I believe have a more positive tilt than my usual self.