Confessions of a Food Separatist

I may or may not have mentioned before that I have food issues.  But I’m here to tell you . . . I do.

Part of it probably stems from my Midwest upbringing, where, in the 70s and 80s, the most “authentic” cuisine you could get was a handful of Mexican restaurants scattered about the area.  We honestly thought Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Little Caesar’s were the best pizza you could get.  It wasn’t until I’d moved to New York, that I learned just how wrong we were.

La ChoyAlso, when cooking at home, we thought what you found in the La Choy cans (that were attached by some weird plastic-string) was really good Chinese food.  And most of our vegetables were acquired by opening a can and cooking it with butter.  Heck, I didn’t even know there were other types of lettuce (besides Iceberg) until I was in my late 20s.

So, my palate had been weaned on “milktoast” foods.

I mention this simply to explain why I’m not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods.  It’s only within the last couple of years that I ventured out to try a Burmese restaurant on the island–which is WONDERFUL, by the way–and I still haven’t tried the Cambodian place that’s here.

But more than being wary of new foods, one of my bigger issues comes from food touching.





I am a food separatist (which is probably a term that I’ve made up, but it makes sense to me).

I’m not talking about foods that exist solely because they’re mixtures of other foods (e.g. Salad, Goulash, Stir Fry), I’m talking about different dishes touching each other on the same plate (e.g. salad and goulash or stir fry).  Eeeuuuuggghhhhh!

I’m serious!  This is something that I’ve carried with me since childhood, when I would spend much of  Thanksgiving dinner moving my corn away from the oozing gravy that adorned my mashed potatoes.  If I didn’t save a kernel in time, I just didn’t eat that one.  As I got older, I learned to put the oozing stuff on my plate last, so that no leftover juice/gravy would touch whatever I had on my plate first (This might be one of the reasons I loved going to buffets – they EXPECT you to use a new plate each time).  And even to this day, if I’m eating at someone’s house and have to use the same plate for seconds, I’ll rinse that plate off first.  I don’t want any cottage cheese juice making my stuffing all soggy.  And I DEFINITELY am not having any savory flavors mixing in with my sweet flavors.  *finger to mouth to stop the hurling*

Mind you, I don’t make a big deal about it when I’m at someone’s home.  I’ve learned to surreptitiously scan for whether or not we’re eating off of disposable dinnerware.  If not, then I discreetly take my plate to the kitchen, rinse it off and come back for more.  Most people probably don’t even recognize I’ve done that.

But at home I have my own remedy:  separate plates.  I started doing this when I lived on my own if my meal had dishes that might try to mix where they didn’t belong.  It kind of worked on another level, too, because I’d just use smaller plates for each portion of the meal, which helped with portion control (sometimes).  Even now, Craig and I are eating off of smaller plates.  Originally we did this to help me learn better portion control, but this practice also makes my inner food separatist very happy.  Yes, it’s more dishes dirtied, but I’m okay with that.

I have heard all the arguments for why I’m “crazy” in this arena; the main one being “It all mixes together in your stomach.”  Duh!  I know that!  But then just my stomach has to deal with the flavor battle, and my tastebuds can be spared.  I don’t care what you say, gravy does NOT make corn taste better (or peas, or what have you), nor is it something that my sensitive palate can simply shrug off.  If my buds are expecting mashed potatoes, and there’s a bit of corn (or peas, or stuffing) mixed in, there’s honestly an internal jolt that shoots through me saying “Ugh!  What WAS that?!”

I have one or two places where this policy of mine gets thrown out the window (cottage cheese and Cheetos . . . Try it!), but those are VERY rare.  For the most part, I don’t want one dish thinking it can consort with the others on the plate.  I don’t have an internal freak out as often as I used to, but I definitely make sure there’s a good valley between each pile of food, so I don’t even have to risk it.

Call me crazy . . . but my tastebuds just like it better that way.

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