Some years ago my husband Ron attended a backyard barbeque. A neighbor seated at a nearby picnic table was enjoying the meal of ratatouille prepared on a grill. (Until the recent animated movie by the same name was released, most people would not know that ratatouille is a delectable combination of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, onion, and herbs de Provence.)
Soon a woman joined the man’s table and began the conversation by saying, “Oh, isn’t this ratatouille delicious?” The man agreed with much enthusiasm, as he continued to stuff his face. The woman then added, “I especially like the eggplant.
Suddenly, the man came to a screeching halt to ask, “Eggplant, where’s the eggplant?” The woman replied politely, “Oh, they are the little white squares with the purple skin.” The man ceased all further eating and said, “Oh, I hate eggplant!” And with that, he pushed his plate away and didn’t eat another bite of that delicious dish.
Now, I ask you, does that make sense? Ron certainly didn’t think so, which is why he came home to tell me all about it.
We all have preconceived notions about what we like and don’t like. A regular question I get in my seminars is, “What should I do if I’m served something I don’t like? Do I have to eat it?
Think back to a time you were three, four, and five years old. Do you remember a food that made you scream to high heaven that you would never eat again in your entire life because you hated it so much?
For me it was canned peas. I gagged and choked on every bite my parents forced me to eat. I warned them I would die if forced to eat another pea. Then years later I tried fresh peas and peas from a frozen package. I discovered peas weren’t so bad. In fact, I now count peas among my favorite vegetables. I still avoid canned peas, however.
Etiquette dictates you must taste at least one bite of all foods served to you. To do otherwise would be rude, particularly if you are a guest at someone else’s table. Don’t insult your host further by saying you don’t like it or by drawing attention to the situation.
Keep an open mind and try bites of all foods you are served. Unless the food item is against your religion, you are allergic to it, or it’s poisonous. Try it… you may like it!
It is said that, prior to the age of seven, children develop eating habits for life. If you are a parent, get beyond your own food preferences. Encourage your children to try new and different foods. Even if at first you must “make” your child taste something, I promise, over time your child will develop a palate more accepting of new and different foods.
As a bonus, your child will also learn to have more awareness of the many cultures in which foods were created. In our global economy, native and foreign food items and other products reach us wherever we are. We must keep an open mind towards them. And as it becomes easier to travel the world, those who embrace, adapt to, and enjoy the cuisines of the world will become the true cosmopolitans of the 21st century.
Besides, when dining with others for business or social reasons, isn’t it always all about whether you like the food and are willing to eat it?… NOT! Your focus should be on the friendship and rapport you are building with your friends, family, or business associates.