Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Suffering Succotash

Until I read Stephanie Lucianovic new book, Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, I didn’t quite realize the range in picky eating. I had often referred to myself as a picky eater, the kind of person that only likes good food. Of course I qualified the word good by saying things like healthy, local, organic, or even just tasty. In Stephanie Lucianovic’s book she attempts to determine why kids, and “finicky eating” adults, decide not to eat foods based on looks, taste or feel. Why do we have strong aversions to certain foods and, while we’re at it, what is succotash?

Simpler than I imagined, succotash is a mixture of sautéed lima beans, tomatoes and corn. It actually sounded pretty good, but I’m not twelve. Lucianovic grew up as one of those “three more bites and you’re done” kind of kids. She tells us she complained about things touching on her plate, steered clear of any food with a skin and more, subsisting on a narrow list of approved items from the four food groups. Just the cherry from the fruit cup please. Lucianovic had ways to manage the bad foods on her plate; she had places to hide them (try the books in the living room) and physical techniques to swallow them (deep breaths and lots of water). She was a food vanishing magician.

In addition to sharing her own funny stories, like when she was forced to eat “squishy and maple-syruped and gross” squash before she could leave the table, Lucianovic interviews friends and colleagues who were also picky. Like her chef friend Julie, who wouldn’t eat anything that she thought was “’wet,’ like a condiment,” or her friend Jeff, who “has a complex relationship with tomatoes”:

Chunks of tomatoes, like in salsa, are fine, but a quarter of a tomato is too much. What about slices of tomatoes? “I won’t eat them sliced,” Jeff tells me. “In fact, I just pulled one out of my hamburger and threw it out the window on my way home this morning.” 

Read the entire review, originally published on The Inquisitive Eater.

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