Some of us boomers started out eating only white: bread, pasta, rice… that’s about it. Most of us ultimately expanded our appetites and, alas, our tummies, but at least we developed a taste for the finer things in life. But not Barbara Greenleaf’s husband, whom she calls the Food Nudge. Writing from her home in Santa Barbara, California, you’ll like her story, which she calls, “If he didn’t eat it when he was five, he ain’t gonna eat it now.”
There have always been three of us at the dinner table: I, my husband, and his kindergarten self. His eating habits are so childlike that a green — anything green — has barely crossed his lips. I can’t blame his limited palate on his upbringing because other people our age also had mothers from the Cheez Whiz School of Culinary Arts, and they managed to move on.
Not so my beloved. His idea of the ideal day, food-wise, is scrambled eggs with fried salami for breakfast, a hot dog for lunch, and a hamburger for dinner. In the old days he would round out every meal (including breakfast) with a box of Oreos, a quart of whole milk, and a giant-size Snickers bar. He’s a little more restrained now — but not much.
Of course we all have our food hang-ups. I still remember my panic as a little kid when I was served liverwurst at a friend’s house (I didn’t return), and eggplant has never been my favorite. But I did learn to love such grown-up foods as artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and oysters. I took the try-it-you’ll-like-it approach; you-know-who didn’t.
Eating out with the Food Nudge is a challenge. Suffice it to say that he has ordered le hamburger in such culinary meccas as Paris, San Francisco, and New York. When we finally moved to a place with no deli, I thought, “Ha! That will fix him.” But no, he found three other culinary troglodytes with whom he drives once a month for one hour — more if there’s traffic — to eat a pastrami on rye. They’re more determined than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to whom, come to think of it, they bear a striking resemblance.
Eating in with my husband isn’t much better. When I open a cookbook, I always start at “Little Kids Parties,” where I know I’ll find consumer acceptance. Zagat will never give my cuisine five stars, but at least my offerings don’t merit an indignant, “You know I can’t eat that!”
True, I don’t have to fuss over or even feed my husband, but it pains me that we’re eating the way people did when a sandwich cost 50 cents, the TV dinner had just been invented, and a malted was considered health food. Believe me, I don’t want to be married to someone who’s first in line at the new Tibetan restaurant or who yearns to sample authentic Aztec cuisine. But I wouldn’t mind a walk on the (mildly) wild culinary side every now and then, either.
I always felt that if you cut open my husband’s veins, bologna on white would come gushing out. Now I fear that this is true of me, too. For instead of my converting him to the delights of international cuisine, he has converted me to the delights of school cafeteria fare. In fact, I think I’ll rustle up a PB&J right now.
Want one? They’re really good.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Greenleaf