To much of the restaurant-going world, chefs seem to have exchanged “the customer is always right” with another saying: “No substitutions.” Seeing those two words at the bottom of a menu can sour the mood, if not your palate, before you’ve even taken the first bite. It’s a needlessly pre-emptive, passive-aggressive kind of note. Imagine if a hotel contract stated: “Don’t even think about asking us if you can stay in your room past noon.” It’s one thing to have a policy and quite another to deny a request before it’s even been made.
And yet, the increasingly ubiquitous no-substitutions policy is a reaction to customer demands run amok. But rather than choose a side, I think there’s a middle ground - a set of rules that, if followed by both restaurant owners and patrons alike, could benefit everyone. First, let’s take a close look at where each side is coming from.
Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a Bay Area writer and editor. Her first book Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, a humorous non-fiction narrative and exposé on the lives of picky eaters, will be released by Perigee Books on July 3.
My Dearest Anderson Cooper,
You need to be rewired, neurologically speaking.
Let’s back up. First, I watched with sympathetic awe as you took to your talk show and admitted that you are an adult picky eater who really isn't too jazzed about the whole eating thing. Next, I got a little teary as you brought on other adult picky eaters who have long lived with the undeserved shame of their limited diets. However, when I got to the part where you attempted to eat spinach live on television, I dropped to my knees, tore my hair, rent my garments and wailed, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING ANDERSON COOPER?"
Dealing with a child who is a picky eater is tough enough, but trying to satisfy the tastes of a picky eater at Thanksgiving is nearly impossible.
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Thirteen-year-old Mitchell Lefreve is one such picky eater. “I like cheese and meat,” said Lefreve. That’s pretty much it. But it gets even more interesting. He’ll eat cheese pizza, but not with meat on it. He’ll eat French fries but with cheese, hot dogs also with cheese, no other condiment.
David Solot is a Ph.D. student in organizational psychology at Walden University, with a Masters in clinical psychology. His background includes the study of animal sensation and perception, and conditioned responses to sweetness in foods.
Is there a food you just don’t like, and you can’t explain why? Or perhaps a food that made you sick once, and now you can’t come near it? It could be the result of a million-year-old survival mechanism.
When I was about six years old, I started hating cherry Jell-O. There was no apparent reason for it. I liked cherry Kool-Aid and shaved ice, and I was fine with other flavors of Jell-O. But the sight or smell of cherry Jell-O would instantly make me nauseated.
My reaction to it was so bad that my parents used to tell people I was allergic to it, just to avoid my reaction. They even wrote it down under “allergies” on a school form. I just couldn’t touch it without feeling sick.