Growing up, I was the pickiest eater you'd ever meet. At restaurants I would eat pasta with butter, and on vacations we had to stop at McDonalds for a happy meal or I'd go hungry. So how did I become the adventurous eater I am today? More importantly, why does everyone need to go and eat something crazy as soon as possible?
Everything changed when I was 16 years old, and living with a French family on a student exchange trip. My host family had a policy that was simple in design, but completely revolutionized my experience with food. Every time they'd make something for dinner, they wouldn't tell me what was in it until after I tried it. Being forced to experience new things despite being a picky eater was life changing. I could no longer hide behind my preconceived notions of what I did, or did not like They exposed me to things I never would've eaten, if I had the chance to turn it down.
The city of Grenoble where my host family lived. getty images
The immersion was slow. It started in the comfort of their home. Barbecuing out in the yard, they made some steak for dinner. Except, it wasn't beef. Only after I'd tried the meat did they tell me it was horse. Though I was a little disconcerted at first, I couldn't be disgusted and spit it out in protest; I'd already learned it was delicious. I started to step out of my comfort zone little by little, and they encouraged me every step of the way.
It seemed almost comical to them that I was confused and frightened by some of the foods that were staples of their diet, and core to the national identity of France. These weren't bizarre and terrifying foods. They were comfort foods, delicacies, and favorite meals. Knowing this helped me overcome my fear of trying something new.
The best part of escargot is the herb garlic butter that you can soak up with your bread.getty images
They took me out to a nice dinner at the end of my stay and delighted in having me try the special French foods they couldn't make at home. I tried escargot for the first time; it's now one of my favorite foods. I also tried steak tartar and discovered I was not a fan. That's a huge part of the thrill of being an adventurous eater. The risk versus reward of trying something new. You could try something and not care for it,or you could find the most delicious thing you've ever had.
Ever since leaving France I've continued to travel. Through vacations and semesters abroad, I have been lucky enough to see some great parts of the world. And everywhere I go, there's one thing on my mind; food.
Food from Morocco, Scotland, NYC, Philadelphia, and Germany. I was all delicious.wakemanorigins
If you're a picky eater or know someone who is, the solution may simply be travel. To see how other people interact with food you deem strange, or maybe even disgusting, is key to changing your mindset. These foods aren't bizarre to them. They're delicious, and if you try them you might just agree. There's no rules with food, my golden motto is... hey, I'll try anything once.