5 Things I've Learned About Cooking for My Picky Husband
"Wow, you are so lucky!"
That's the first thing everyone says to my husband, Dan, when they find out he's married to a food writer. (The second thing they say: "How do you not weigh 500 pounds?") Little do they know — while I get a thrill from digging into homemade bucatini with lamb Bolognese, Dan would be just as happy (if not happier) if I set a bowl of plain buttered egg noodles in front of him.
Yes, in a rom-com-style twist of fate, the food writer married a picky eater. And after 14 years of sharing our lives, I've come to terms with the fact that he's probably never going to split a lobster roll with me, but that doesn't mean I love him any less. Here's how we both stay happy and well-fed.
Let him have a routine ...
Dan loves routine. Seriously, the man ate a peanut butter sandwich every single day for school lunch as a kid. I would go crazy if I were forced to cycle through the same 10 meals over and over again, but it's comforting and calming for him, and I can totally understand the pleasure of eating a favorite food.
So when I'm making a meal that I know is right up Dan's alley — like stuffed chicken quesadillas — I'll double the batch and freeze it in single-serving portions for him to take to work and reheat at his convenience. This way, he can get his fill of the foods he loves and I can make penang curry or sushi while he's at the office. I might get tired of making umpteen quarts of his favorite veggie chili all winter, but it's a lifesaver in the long run.
… but realize that separate meals don't mean separate lives.
Although I might be churning out a buffet's worth of dishes each week as I develop recipes, there's no guarantee Dan will eat any of them. (Breakfast casseroles, yes; soups or hot liquids of any kind, no.)
But because there's usually so much food in the house, we always have a lot of options to choose from — and we don't necessarily have to eat the same thing even if we're sitting next to each other at the dining room table. He doesn't dig my clam chowder? Fine! He can eat ricotta on toast while we both crack up at Bob's Burgers.
Sometimes you gotta keep your mouth shut.
A "don't ask, don't tell" policy has its place in the picky eater's kitchen. Dan makes a mean plate of nachos, but he doesn't really hang around when I'm cooking for the most part — that's how he happily sucks down my signature spaghetti carbonara, even though it contains the otherwise-forbidden egg yolks that he doesn't see me tossing with the pasta. (He'll eat fried eggs, finally, after years of cajoling.)
Likewise, he's aware on a subconscious level that his favorite Caesar dressing has a few icky anchovies in it, but as long as he's not the one dropping them into the Vitamix, ignorance is bliss.
Patience is a virtue, but change is possible!
Maybe it's just me, but as hard as I try to be cool with Dan's many aversions, there's a part of me deep down that keeps saying, "THIS IS AMAZING STUFF JUST TRY IT DAMMIT!"
I've learned to tamp down that little but persistent voice 99 percent of the time and focus on the great — though glacier-like — progress we've made in expanding Dan's food horizons over the years. Crispy onions and caramelized onions are now on the table (especially when on burgers), as are the aforementioned fried eggs or even an omelet if we're gearing up for a big day of hiking. If I have to accept that he's not into cooked fruit, I can spin it into the idea that it means I get cherry pie for breakfast all week. Aw yeah.
Let restaurants do the work when introducing new foods.
I cook a lot at home. A lot. And sometimes I want to have someone else cook for me, which means going out to a restaurant. Sometimes that means I want to eat oysters or really anything that's not a burger or a fried bar appetizer. Prepping Dan for our honeymoon meal at The French Laundry was like a Rocky training montage and deserves its own story — but on a more quotidian level, negotiating a meal away from the gastropubs is a prime opportunity to bring new foods into the repertoire without wasting time prepping the meal myself. If my Thai craving needs to be satiated, Dan can order fried rice or basil chicken and try a bite of whatever I'm eating.
This is how I'm going to convince him that ramen is amazing, by the way. Just give me 10 more years of marriage.