Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Don't Like Your Food

Jeff and I have found a subject where we can't seem to find a reasonable compromise. So I'm turning to the internet to help me come up with creative solutions.

I love food. I love good food. I love food from different cultures. I love everything from a really good cheeseburger to the finest in haute cuisine. My perfect night out with friends includes going to a favorite food spot- tapas or sushi or the English brew pub down the street. I love to try new things. I have an adventurous palate. There are few things I flat out won't eat- tongue, brain, and that sort of thing.

Jeff likes crappy food. Jeff likes junk food and fast food. Jeff likes bland food. The only "seasoning" Jeff will ever choose is onion. Jeff thinks of himself as a meat and potatoes guy- as long as you don't do anything to the meat or the potatoes to make them flavorful.

We are at an impasse. We have made yet another attempt at eating out less frequently. And the cycle, yet again, repeats. I cook. He doesn't really like what I cook. He eats it but there is no joy. I have no recipe I can make for him that I know is his favorite. When his birthday rolls around, he wants Texas Roadhouse and cheesecake- not a homemade whatever. We've had many conversation about it. But we are finally starting to realize that there isn't a middle ground between us.

I love food. I love the complexities and layers. I love how food is enmeshed in culture.

He... doesn't. Food is just... food.

Last night, we were having a discussion about it. And, in the middle of a paragraph about his feelings about me making meals, he actually said the words "I don't like your cooking." Not that I am a bad cook. But he doesn't like how he perceives the way that I cook.

I honestly don't bring my love of food into my own kitchen because I know it would just go to waste. So I'm not exactly wure what it is he doesn't like. Especially since any cooking I've done lately hasn't really been cooking- sandwiches on the deck, eggs (made to order, in fact), chicken nachos (ingredients: rotiserrie chicken, chips, shredded cheese). I've been making food that I know the family will eat. And I make my own dish that I can dress up and fancy up any way I please. Adding peanut sauce and fresh veggies or putting pico de gallo with my eggs or slicing avocado on my turkey sandwich. But there are still disgruntled people in my house and the food is still not well received.

So this is where we stand...

I could make food for me and the kids. I've done this before. Jeff is then on his own- he can have some of ours or make his own food. However, this doesn't set the best example for the kids. Also, Jeff has a tendency to feel- or at least seem- put out by not having dinner made for him when it has been prepared for everyone else.

Eat out. Again, not the best example for the kids. Also, expensive.

Keep making simple foods like chicken nachos, eggs, sandwiches. Take the focus off dinner being any kind of a "big deal" and look at it more like just an end of day snack.

I just don't know. Yes, it hurt my feelings that he said he "doesn't like my food." I've been trying for a long time to get my food satisfaction kicks on my evenings out with friends or by making my own variation of the dinner we are having. But it still just isn't working. Something is disconnected and I don't know what it is. I do know this- coming home after working all day and taking time away from my family to make a dinner that isn't going to be appreciated or enjoyed isn't working for me.

So how do I change my attitude? Or what compromise do we need to make? How do you handle meals in your family? Are you married/partnered to someone with a completely different attitude about food?



mimbles said...

Hoo boy. Liz my heart really goes out to you on this one. It is such a huge effort to get food on the table for a family every evening and being met with constant lack of appreciation is soul destroying. When you love diversity and strong flavour in food, being stuck with repetitive blandness is pretty deadly too. That's why we bother to teach our kids to eat a variety of stuff - so we can move on from endless kid-friendly food to the fun stuff like vindaloo!

Food is so bound up with our emotions, I don't think anyone can really get away from that. It's how we say we love someone, it's how we celebrate, it's how we comfort. It must be really hard for both you and Jeff for that way of caring for each other to be so fraught.

I think it matters that kids learn to enjoy lots of different foods even if for no other reason than to give them social competence (and there are lots of other reasons too!). One of Caitlin's friends is so fussy that she makes Cait look positively adventurous. I HATE having her come over for a meal and I'm sure it must be just as awkward for her when I ask what she's willing to eat and we go through a long list of the options I have available and nothing appeals to her.

I also think it matters that families eat meals together. Family meals are an opportunity for conversation and bonding and if you head into the teen years with a habit of coming together and communicating regularly as a family then you're laying a foundation that can save a lot of grief later!

So. My ideal, what I aim for in our house (note I said "aim for" not "have achieved"), is this: we all sit at the table each evening, all eating the one meal, preferably homecooked, and no one dares to say anything other than "Thank you for the lovely meal" when their plate is placed in front of them. (I kid! Sort of :-) That was a rule I introduced when the kids were young and dinner times were hell, it quickly turned into a joke. I'm pretty sure if I put tripe in front of them now there'd be a chorus of "Thank you for the lovely meal" by way of expressing revulsion.)

However! When ideals and reality clash, something has to give and it's far better to bend on the ideal front than to risk the destruction of reality ;-)

mimbles said...

Some ideas to consider:
* Not every dinner has to be a "proper" family meal, can you perhaps aim for say 3 or 4 times a week where you all eat the one meal? The rest could be the simple end of day snack options or eating out if it fits the budget.

* Does Jeff cook sometimes? Even if there's just one meal that you all enjoy that he could prepare once a week. Doesn't have to be dinner - Adam is the breakfast cook in our house - but I think it would be good if he was cooking (not buying!) a dinner.

* Breakfast on the weekends can be a sit down family meal too - and cooking to order for breakfast makes much more sense than cooking to order for dinner. Lunches too - we often have a ploughman's lunch with bread, meats, cheese, pickles and salad laid out on the table for everyone to help themselves from.

* Be open with the kids about Jeff's and your different feelings about food. You haven't said whether Jeff thinks it matters what the kids' food preferences are like, but if you're in agreement then for them to know he wants something different for them than he has when it comes to food, and why, I think that could be a good thing. This then makes it a little less of a problem if Jeff decides to prepare a different meal for himself some nights.

* If at all possible get the kids into the kitchen and preparing the meal with you in the evenings so that it becomes family time rather than time away from the family. When David was Teagan's age we aimed for him to "cook" dinner once a week. (Ok, he stirred the pot. And maybe peeled a carrot or two.) I know, easier said than done but I find it transforms the kids' attitude to a meal when they've helped prepare it.

* Get both Jeff and the kids involved in meal planning and in the process of compromising so that everyone's preferences are being considered.

Ultimately though, and to be blunt, it's really a question of who is the odd person out here. Whoever that is should firstly not be obliged to serve food that they don't enjoy eating themself and secondly should be willing to provide for themself cheerfully if they can't come at what the rest of the family is eating. So it kind of comes down to what you both want for the kids and who is expected to do the cooking.

Expats Again said...

Wow, this post gave me food for thought (no pun intended). I loved mimbles comment, "Food is so bound up with our emotions." She is so correct and I think she hit the nail on the head. My husband is not thrilled with my cooking either. His mom basically roasted meat and potatoes and he associates that with comfort food. He, like your husband, doesn't go for spices, so it tends to be rather boring for me. I have given him the choice to cook for himself, but he has never cooked in his life and refuses. We haven't figured it out either. We eat out, but that can get tiresome and home cooked meals are so much more enjoyable. I have no answers, but would love to hear what everyone else has to say on the subject. For us, it's a sore topic as well. It sure takes the enjoyment out of cooking when you know it will not be appreciated or liked.

Lola said...

Generally speaking - in my house- I have a standing "If you don't want to eat what I've made, then there is cereal in the pantry" rule. I don't have the same dilemma though- my husband generally eats anything I cook. That rule also applies to the kids though -and the only caveat to the rule is that they must at least TRY what I've prepared.

I love really spicy food - but my husband does not- so my compromise there is to prepare it to it's closest to final stage as I can without all the spicy spices and then separate his out (or mine out if I'm the only one eating spicy). I've learned to adjust chili recipes or the like.

I feel for you though- you want variety in your meals as you try to eat healthfully - and a bland grilled chicken breast and a veggie won't cut it every single night.

Maybe, just maybe, give Jeff the responsibility to plan, buy for and prepare 2 meals a week. He's not allowed to order takeout or get fast food to fulfill it - maybe it will be bland, maybe it will be simple- but at least you'll get a break from the kitchen, he'll be eating exactly what he wants and also see how stressful it can be to plan meals and have variety in them as well.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This is tough. I love food too and love to cook and experiment. The first thing that comes to mind is - tough. He is an adult, he can learn to like it. But maybe that is selfish. When I make family dinners and the kids didn't like something, they had a choice to make something else - within reason. I didn't purposely make something they didn't like, made sure it was balanced, not too weird and didn't look gross. Also, I think the kids will pick up on Jeff's pickiness and you don't want that.

So, what to do? Not sure but I don't think you and the kids should have to suffer just because he doesn't like food - or food with flavor. I don't think I could eat boring food all the time so a compromise would be necessary. I guess you have to start looking for that compromise.

Call Me Cate said...

Wow, Liz, that's a really tough one. I do think you're right though in considering the implications for the kids regardless of what you choose.

Joe and I have very similar tastes and both love to cook. Our big differences are minor compared to you and Jeff. Joe loves black pepper. I have some things that really upset my stomach. All easy to work around while still enjoying the same meal.

I have no idea what the solution will be for you but I would continue exposing the kids to healthy, yummy food. My mother's cooking was always bland (and awful) and as a result, we all grew up being very picky eaters. I've largely overcome that but my brother STILL won't eat a whole lot beyond burgers and spaghetti.

I hope you figure something out.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I didn't read all the other comments (cuz they were looooong!), so I don't know if this has already been said, but how much input does Jeff have in the meal planning? I think having more communication about what to eat and how to fix it might help. If the two of you sit down on the weekend and try planning for the week, that might help you both to feel more included, getting more of what you each like, and still managing to dine together regularly.

kbiermom said...

Well, first, you have my empathy. Cooking dinner is becoming torture to me b/c of the way my kids receive it. Nuff said for now on that.

One observation -- I'm seeing a connection between this post and the one you wrote about your mom's chocolate cream pie. I see you associating food with love. When your mom baked that pie for your brothers, they didn't appreciate it in the same way that you did. I'm thinking you want Jeff to find something that you make for him that makes him feel the way your mom made you feel when she made you that special pie. Instead, he's sort of indifferent-to-negative about your efforts, and that hurts. Am I on the right track at all?

designHER Momma said...

My deepest condolences. This is just not right. I don't know what to say, other than I'll meet you at a Tapas restaurant any day of the week.

Bill Lisleman said...

I don't think you meant to make a good pun in the middle of this.
"...I know it would just go to waist..." Yes it would go to your waist.
The food issue in our house is my lack of cooking. I enjoy good food but I don't want to try to cook it. I will cook but it is always the simple approach. The best cooking invention is the microwave. I don't even ask my wife to cook but she is the best cook I know and I've have told her so.

There's a few things she likes and I don't some the other way around. Over time we have worked out the differences.

I think it is reasonable to expect your husband to make his own dinner if you are having something everyone likes and he doesn't. Not that you would do that too often but once in awhile what's the big deal.

One more thought - people that grow up not knowing or trying the variety of food of the world will limit their world and not realize it.

Alison said...

I've only skimmed the other comments, but I do think Jeff needs to be more active in the kitchen. Take turns: three days of your cooking, three days of his, another day where you cook together.

Or, since Jeff's the one unhappy with what you're serving, put the onus on him to find recipes he likes. And if he doesn't care enough about what he's eating to make that effort, then he's got no room to complain. (Sorry, I know that sounds harsh...but he's a big boy!)

I am a much pickier eater than Miss Chef, but we have so many food magazines lying around that I inevitably find recipes that I show her and say "I'd like this." Sometimes she makes them for me, sometimes she says, "Go for it." So maybe Jeff should browse the food magazines in the check-out line while you ring up your fancy furrin' food. :)

Alison said...

I went back to read the comments more carefully, and I think kbiermom is VERY perceptive!!

Unknown said...

Gary doesn't like how I cook either. It is very frustrating to me... Very, very frustrating.

Garret said...

Great conversation/comments on this post. I get similar from Jim when I cook. Nothing has enough flavor and is just "OK" yet he doesn't like spicy. I've told him do many times it's disturbing to get a "it's OK" compliment. He now digs up some compliments here and there. It can be discouraging. I think you all should just stop eating and have soylant green instead.

Katherine said...

Wow, people have a lot to say about this! So much so that I only skimmed other comments, so sorry if this is repetitive. I think it's normal to like different foods. My husband would eat Taco Bell and Burger King every day if possible. My kids would eat nothing but cereal and chicken nuggets if we let them. I'm like you, I love food, new foods, different foods, local fresh foods. Dinner is very important to us, especially since we're not all home together for any of the other meals. Dinner is always sit down together. We split meal planning. A couple times a week, my husband cooks what he likes. Twice a week, I cook what I like. We have a "safe meal" a couple times, and then once a week, we usually eat out or get pizza. It's a varied diet, and regardless of what it is, we emphasize that effort, thought, and love were put into the meal, so be nice! I can't wait to hear a summary of all this and to see what you do.

Tracy said...

Wow. I sometimes feel like I'm in a rut, but I always know that my husband usually loves my cooking (whether it's Indian cuisine, American cuisine, random pantry experiments or cookbook forays) and even when he doesn't, he was raised to be grateful for the food, eat it, and not complain.

I get hurt if I love something and he doesn't automatically go "mmm. yum!" because I know then he doesn't like it. That's the biggest clue I'll get.

That said... I have to second (and third) some of what has been said in previous comments. Is Jeff taking part in menu planning (other than suggesting restaurants) and cooking on a regular basis?

I keep thinking about my favorite cookbook as well. Julia Child's "The Art of French Cooking." There's a lot of weird stuff in there, but there are also a lot of simple simple simple foods that are stunning on the palate. Simple bechamel sauce (butter, flour, salt and milk) when made properly is delightful and completely changes a boring pasta sauce when added in. Simple Roast chicken when done with care and passion (and no more spices than salt, butter and some carrots and onions in the pan) is stunningly delicious. My point... is it possible to find a cookbook that focuses on simple food and mastering simple techniques that could satisfy your love of cooking and good food AND his love of simple clean flavors?

I recently ran across a blog post who talks about how she does menu planning on a monthly basis. I think you might find it interesting and helpful.

Good luck. This can be so so so hard.

kbiermom said...

(thanks, Flartus!)

I thought some more, and here's what I suggest: "Jeff, It's important to me to show you how much I love you through food sometimes. If something I made for you really makes you happy, then that means to me that we have that as a special connection in life. I need you to help me figure out a couple of go-to dishes that I can make that you will love. The day-to -day stuff will fall into place somehow -- I just need a little love from you in this area of our lives."

Unknown said...

I'm with kbiermom on this one...this has Gary Chapmans 5 Love Languages written all over it. You two are speaking different languages. Her suggested phrasing is excellent. I would also say that if he comes back with an indifferent response again to food, that may just not be a language he can speak. If it works out this way, don't get offended, just ask to work with him on how he would like for you to show him that you love him and let him know that a way that he can show you he loves you is to be responsive to your cooking. Might spark some crazy conversation, but ultimately it will be for the good...

sorry to add to the "long comments"

great topic...

Jeff said...

I still don't remember actually saying "I don't like your cooking", but Liz heard it so I must have said it. I don't need anything special to eat. I don't equate food with satifaction neccesarily. I equate food with need to survive. I do have some favorites, but I can get by without them. I'm still mad China Star closed.

I know Liz feels love when she cooks, but it just doesn't affect me that way. That's why I just shutup and eat.

Momza said...

I have a simple solution:
You and Jeff sit down together and make up a menu...take turns cooking the menu.

Seth M. Ward said...

Maybe sign up for a cooking class together. Maybe the instructor can pull something out of him that you haven't yet and find a common ground.

Be good to yourself.

Angie @ Just Like The Number said...

You've gotten tons of great comments, and I don't really have much original to add other than I feel ya'. My husband likes my cooking, but he's very picky and so what I cook for my family is vastly different than what I would cook if it were totally up to me. Mike has input on meals and I plan around my family's tastes 90% of the time. I take advantage of evenings when Mike is out of town or working late to prepare something a little more adventurous. And then there are those days when I just cook what I really, really want and let him eat it or make his own meal.

I second what Emily says, though - we can go out and eat fun stuff anytime you want!

Shell said...

Had to go back and see what you were talking about! I love that your readers came up with great suggestions for you and that it is causing some change for you! :)