Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Food Ruins Lives

I'm a supertaster. That means I have an excessive amount of taste buds (like, 5 times the normal, on average). I can pick out preservatives and chemicals that most people can't notice. Being a supertaster isn't necessarily a bad thing. The reason it made me life horrible is because as a child, I wouldn't eat tons of things that were put in front of me. I often went hungry. That whole "she'll eat it if she's hungry enough" idea just didn't work for me. It was to the point where my doctor said to find things I would eat and just let me eat them.

I've spent my whole life getting tons of questions and complaints about why I don't like this or that. It contributed largely to my self isolation, something I still deal with on a regular basis. Having dinner with someone is among the worst situations you can put me in. It's stressful, and usually I just want to leave and cry. I can't eat people's home-cooked meals, and as soon as I turn down food, the questions start. "Well what do you like? I want to know so I can cook for you." No. Please don't. Please just let me crawl into your oven and kill myself first, okay? It would be preferable.

Then there are always the people who say I'll grow out of things, or that I can learn to like things if I just eat them enough. On the contrary, I've actually grown to dislike a lot of things I used to eat as a kid. As for forcing myself to eat things, that won't work, either. If I eat something I don't like, it gets worse and worse the more I try to force it down. It triggers the gag reflex really easily. If you don't want me to throw up, don't tell me to keep eating things.

I get a lot of complaints from people that I don't like trying things, either. Of course I don't. It's the worst when there's a food with a bunch of stuff in it and among the ingredients is a food I dislike. Don't think that I won't taste it. In fact, since I don't like it, I'll notice it a thousand times more. I have a really clear idea of what I like and what I don't like, so unless the food is totally different from anything I've ever had, I can say with probably 95% accuracy whether I'll like it or not. And really, it's no one's business if I don't want to try something. All that does is stress me out. I spent years of my life having people watch me eat just to see what I ate and, in some cases, if I ate at school at all. I was always done before everyone else was even served by the cafeteria. Being a really, really shy person, I cried my fair share of times in elementary school because of stuff like this. It was a legitimately traumatizing experience for me, and I always hoped it would stop once I was around people who were more mature than the average 8-year-old. It really hasn't.

I've also had people who don't understand the whole supertaster thing at all and tell me I'll be fine if I just dilute my food. No. It doesn't work that way. If the flavor is there, I taste it, and if it's something I don't like, I won't eat it. If I do, that gag reflex thing comes into play. It's not a matter of making things less flavorful; it's a matter of using flavors I like.

Anyone reading this who doesn't know me in real life may not have a clear idea yet of how miserable my life is because of my horribly specific diet. Let me list some stuff (I'm sure I'll forget some things) that I will and will not eat.

Things I Won't Eat
-Cheese. I used to like it, stopped eating it, and then couldn't stomach it again. It's sickening. No matter what cheese I try, it ends up being really gross. There's only one exception, and that's cheese curls. They're different somehow. As you can imagine, hating cheese rules out a huge chink of the world's foods.
-Pasta. The only pasta I'll eat is ramen, and even then, I'm picky about flavors and brands. There's another large chunk of options gone.
-Seafood. No exceptions.
-Sandwiches. The mixing textures of bread and other things is really awful to me. I used to like bread and peanut butter. Can't handle that anymore.
-Mexican food. I know that's general, but pretty much all of it makes me nauseous just smelling it.
-Beans. There are no beans that don't induce nausea by smell alone.
-Citrus. Lemon is okay in some teas and stuff, but I can't touch orange or lime.
-Pizza. No exceptions, for pretty much the same reason as sandwiches. This really screwed me over as a kid, especially since it seems like a food that everyone is expected to like and eat.
-Jelly. Not even in pastries. Yuck. 
-Egg. Unless baked into something, eggs are awful. 

Things I Will Eat (Conditionally)
-Chicken. I will only ever eat breast meat, and unless it's some sort of fried, I probably won't like it. I have tons of ways to season chicken that I fry in the oven, and they're all very delicious. I can actually eat a lot of restaurant chicken because most places have chicken tenders that are breaded and fried, which is the way I like it.
-Pork. I eat thick pork chops and pork tenderloin. Pulled pork is a texture I can't deal with. I like my meat in chunk form, thanks. Also, never breaded. I just want my meat.
-Beef. Only as a roast, and only if done with the right seasonings and well done. Most marinades I've tried are gross.
-Some fruit, like bananas, apples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and black olives. That's about it.
-A few veggies (some are fruits that are considered veggies), like cucumbers, lettuce (if totally plain), and potatoes, if done with very specific conditions. 
-Bread. I like Italian the best, but I regularly munch on cinnamon bread. There are lots of breads, bagels, and muffins I like.
-Oatmeal. I eat it dry, much to most people's confusion.
-Cereal. I'm not terribly picky about cereal, but there are definitely a bunch I prefer over others. Crispix is my favorite.
-Pancakes and waffles. Blueberry waffles, however, are a bad idea.

So I guess that's about as much as I want to write without thinking over my diet in excruciating detail and breaking down the really varied snack foods I eat. I guess the point of me doing this at all is to have something to send people to when they ask me irritating questions in the future.

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