The Topic At Hand: How Do You Like Your Eggs?

I look a little hippie-ish, so when I try to tell people about the egg thing, or when they’re trying to drag me to brunch at their favorite Omlette Hut, they assume I’m vegan. I’m not. I love meat. I love milk. I just don’t like eggs, at all. I’m one of those picky eaters. I got to eat what I wanted as a kid, so certain things just fell on to the Do Not Want list. I have a short list of food I don’t like, a list that is getting shorter every year even as I move solidly into middle age. Last year I started liking asparagus, who knows why? My list, one that I give to people who may be cooking dinner for me, is “I’m not crazy about eggs, seafood, olives, and mushrooms.” Until recently, that list included tomatoes. I’m still not sure about artichokes, but it doesn’t come up very often.

When I was a kid, this list included pizza (eww melty cheese!), most cooked vegetables (ack slime!), chicken with the bones in (ptui cartilage!) and any dairy product that wasn’t milk, ice cream, butter or cheese. To me it’s about mouthfeel, and surprises. I didn’t and don’t like surprises, mouth surprises least of all, possibly only second to bug surprises. My feelings about eggs may have been complicated by growing up with a well-meaning though ineffective mom who, when she did cook, was always trying to sneak nutrition into us. So when she’d make scrambled eggs, she’d mix cottage cheese in with them. I always thought this was how the yellow and the white part of the egg looked when they were cooked, and I thought it tasted terrible and felt gross in my mouth. Warm eggy cottage cheese. I don’t remember when I stopped eating eggs, but it wasn’t long after this. We’re a family of opinionated people, and having an opinion about what you wanted to eat or not eat was generally thought of as a sign of some sort of pluck or character, not a personality flaw. So I grew up plucky and picky.


“If it’s eggier than french toast, I probably won’t like it.” is a more complete explanation that I spell out to people who care about such things. I do love french toast. Unless, of course, it’s too eggy. And I live in Vermont so most any syrup vehicle is okay by me. I’m not a purist; if I were on a desert island and my options were poached eggs or starving, I’d take the eggs, otherwise no. I’d eat bugs first. I’d rather find the thing that laid the egg and eat it.

Jeffrey Steingarten in his book The Man Who Ate Everything describes extreme food preferences (pro or con) as phobias. He, like many people, believes that if you don’t like a food you just haven’t had it prepared the right way. He also doesn’t believe that salt is linked to high blood pressure. People like Steingarten make dining out hell on earth for people like me. I do try though. No one likes quitters. So I’ll nibble a truffle while staring into the expectant face of a friend who wants to be The One Who Got Me To Like Mushrooms and then politely say “Thanks anyways.” and move on to one of the many other foods I do like. I don’t see why “Hey, more truffles for you!” isn’t a happy ending of sorts for truffle-lovers.

My picky eating is seen as some sort of a challenge to people, while smokers and drunks and vegans and Hindus don’t get poked and prodded about their preferences when they’re out in public doing their thing. I think it’s because it seems so irrational, that it’s almost as if I were making a fashion statement with these idiot food choices of mine. It’s hard to explain why you don’t like how something tastes or the way something feels weird in your mouth, in the same way I can’t say exactly why I like the color orange or cinnamon toast. It’s a taste thing, in all sorts of ways. I never make it anyone else’s problem. I don’t make faces at food people serve me. I’m not a whiner or a pain at someone else’s clambake, though I do keep a powerbar in my bag just in case.

Occasionally I’ll run into a fellow picky eater. We’re rarer and rarer these days as people with strong food preferences often tend towards vegetarianism or gluten-free diets or something else with a name, making it easier to guess which restaurants they’ll like and more difficult to give them a hard time about what they do and do not eat. I’ll hear someone at the table asking the waitress “Can you tell me if there are olives in this?” and I’ll know — no one is allergic to olives — and I’ll ask “You don’t like olives either…?” and often we’ll compare short lists. It’s rare that an olive-avoider eats all other foods, and I’ve been surprised how many fungophobes there are among otherwise seemingly normal people. It’s nice to feel that I’m not the only one.

How do I like my eggs? Pretty much how I like my olives and my mushrooms and my seafood: on someone else’s plate.


image by -Gep-

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17 responses to “Taste”

  1. MissPinkKate says:

    Mushroom haters, unite!!!!

  2. eileen says:

    how about fish eggs? Seriously, so long as someone’s list doesn’t comprise all edible things known to man and even some questionably edible ones, I don’t see why anyone cares. Especially if you don’t make yourself a pain (and I know you don’t). Big on my list: red sea squirts (piures). I tried, I really did. I want extra credit, and I think you should, too, for trying.

  3. M Wms says:

    Interesting. I’m a mostly vegetarian who likes some seafood (but not salmon, calamari, lobster, clams, mussels, oily fish, oysters, or scallops) and who LOVES all olives, asparagus and artichokes (those are probably my 3 favorite foods) but LOATHES mushrooms, tomatoes — and coffee. I agree with you that it’s about the surprise, or the mismatch, as I think of it. For e.g., for me, coffee smells strong and needs more than a watery consistency to match the smell. Eggs I can take or leave but they can’t be runny. No one complains about my pickyness or seems to take it as a challenge, except my dad, who says he will know I’ve grown up when I enjoy eating mushrooms. I’m almost 48.

  4. Rachel Hile says:

    The summer I was 15, I lived with a family in France for a month. The first night I was there, they served stuffed baked tomatoes for dinner. I felt pretty sure that I would die a twitching death on the floor if I ate that tomato, so I politely told them that I did not eat tomatoes, neither raw nor cooked. My plan, to the extent that I had a plan, was to say some version of the same thing each time they served one of the many foods on my short list. But it didn’t work that way. They were shocked, amazed, and disarmingly solicitous regarding my proscription on tomatoes, treating it like some sort of strange disorder that required their kind allowances. Somehow, and I don’t know quite how, I came to the understanding that I was allowed *one food* on my short list, and I had already picked tomatoes, so I had to eat everything else. Had I known it would turn out that way, I surely would have picked another food. Eggplant, probably, which we ate, mushy and overcooked in ratatouille, every week. Usually I felt in not-even-being-dramatic-about-it danger of vomiting by the end of each ratatouille meal. But I ate it, every week, along with everything else they ate other than tomatoes, my freebie. FWIW, that was the beginning of the end of my being a picky eater. I’m glad not to be a picky eater any more, but I still wish I had picked eggplant (which I eat now, along with tomatoes).

  5. Rachel says:

    I’m with you on the egg thing. I was about 12 when I decided I didn’t like the taste of eggs anymore and haven’t eaten them (much) since. If there is a bit of fried egg in fried rice I’ll eat it, but really eggy stuff like quiche I won’t touch at all.

    I also have avocado and paw paw on my list of things I won’t eat, and explaining to people why I don’t like avocado is almost harder than explaining why I don’t eat eggs.

  6. Kat says:

    I know how you feel Jessamyn. The only way I like eggs is scrambled. I especially don’t like hardboiled eggs. I get a hard time from my family because I looooooove deviled eggs… but only the yolk part. I scoop it out and throw away the white. One time my cousin was badgering me asking me why I don’t like the white, because it barely has any taste. She said, “Is it the texture?!” like I was crazy or something.

    I am a lot less picky than I was as a kid, and furthermore I now will at least try everything once. I typically hate cold mixed “salads” – e.g. potato salad, egg salad – but I actually found one I liked at a deli (interestingly enough, devilled egg salad.) I also hate cold pasta dishes, mushrooms except small ones on pizza, and tomatoes.

    Sometimes I’m just picky about how my food is made. I used to only like most of my veggies raw, like carrots and broccoli. Now I’ll eat them cooked, sometimes. Also, I prefer onions and green peppers to be either sliced thin or else diced pretty small. It’s because I don’t like big chunks of things that come out of my sandwich when I bite into them, like big pieces of onion or pickle.

    Eileen – I tried roe once, it was too salty. I don’t like much seafood either… fish sticks, popcorn shrimp, and crab rangoon. It’s hard though, having a best friend who hates even the smell of any seafood. More than once we’ve had to bail at a restaurant when someone sitting near us was served fish and she’s started gagging. I usually tell her to go to the bathroom or the car while I get our food packed up and pay the bill.

  7. scully says:

    Now I’m curious what’s on your sister’s list of foods she doesn’t like.

  8. fauxscot says:

    We know your food preferences and as polite hosts, always try to aim at them. Twenty years with a wife who would eat anything as long as there wasn’t any food in it trained me to be flexible!

    It’s funny… a lot of people are actually kind of insulted when you don’t like their foods, in the same way they are uncomfortable if you don’t like their dog or mate. When you have more than one friend with dietary restrictions, it makes things a little more complicated, but when that happens, I usually recommend bringing something you like.

    The older I’ve gotten, the more adventurous I’ve become about food, but the criteria for me is taste, texture, followed by some sense of nutritional value, but I am really texture appreciative.

  9. Tara says:

    I *guess* you don’t like cheese curd? More poutine for me!

  10. I didn’t like pizza when I was a little kid. I remember being at a pizza party, and an incredulous waitress saying “You don’t like pizza?” (In retrospect, she may have merely been condescending.) Somehow, for the worse, I got over that dislike with a vengeance.

    It’s interesting how parents’ and peers attitudes about likes and dislikes create a framework for understanding their meaning. I didn’t like fish, but it was served to me every week anyway, a if my dislike of it was just a front that I was someday going to let go of.

  11. A Long and Troublesome Lameness says:

    What about onions? People are always trying to get me to eat onions. “They are chopped up really small, you won’t even notice them,” they’ll say. “Cooked onions don’t taste like anything, anyway” they’ll insist with surprising hostility. Then way do you want me eat them, hmmm? God, I hate onions.

  12. USelaine says:

    I used to enthusiastically order crab and lobster and shrimp. But with time came a different frame of mind, one that I can't shake. They're sea spiders. Big, meaty exoskeletals with eyes very often left on when served.

    • Melissa says:

      I'm a texture girl. I make a piss-poor vegetarian because I can't stand the texture of beans. Give me al dente pasta, slightly crunchy veggies, crusty bread.

      Also–please keep the different elements on my plate separate. Gravy on meat, MAYBE, but never on potatoes, and worse! what if it touches the salad or veggies! Let everything be what it's supposed to be, and never the twain shall meet. I should have eaten from school lunch trays. Imagine my horror at casseroles! Unless it's a corner piece with lots of crusty, maybe even slightly burnt bits. Then it's texture.

      • USelaine says:

        Hah! I've always been amazed by my mother's eating technique. Her fork seems to go to each item on the plate for a little addition into the load, with delicate tap-tap-taps, before finding its way to her mouth.

      • Kyo Shen says:

        Have you ever eaten Japanese bento? It's a type of lunch, but it's served in these really cool boxes — they're deeper and more steeply divided than cafeteria-style trays — and they can be either several single little square boxes stacked up like a tiffin with a separate box for each item, or they can be a single box with many dividers. Here's a cute website on bento:

        Scroll down until you see the pink kitty/bunny one; that has so many dividers that it looks like a sewing box! But they will definitely keep your food items separate from each other — and they're fun to eat with, especially if they have bunnies on them!

  13. Kyo Shen says:

    How interesting — your short list of childhood dislikes almost exactly matches mine, except for the dairy, which I never ate at all, being from a pretty traditional Chinese family, in which cheese and ice cream and milk don't play a big part. I was the only person I knew who hated the melted cheese on pizza and took it off whenever I had to eat it. And I used to be OK with eggs…until the dreaded “Egg Salad” Incident. I put “Egg Salad” in quotation marks because that was what the god-awful Dish of Hellacious Evil was meant to be. My father, never a cook, also tried to sneak nutrition into meals when he (rarely, thank goodness) made them, and to him, egg salad-like matter was nutritious, so he made me eat an entire bowl of this sloppy, drippy, soggy, tasteless, rubbery bilge. I got revenge, however; I immediately yakked it all back up right at table, so he got to clean that mess up and reflect on how he would NEVER force me to eat eggs again. And he never did.
    But please allow me to add to your idea that vegans and Hindus don't get poked or prodded about their eating habits — I am both vegan and Hindu, and believe me, I get serious grief for my diet. I have run the gambit of saying everything from “It's for health reasons” and citing all the ways that veganism improves one's blood pressure, cholesterol level, cardiac function, reduces risks of cancer, etc. to putting on a look that I call my “Mysterious and Otherworldly” one and declaring that I'm vegan for religious reasons. It doesn't matter; either I use the wrong explanation with the wrong people or people just get fixated on the idea of how I do not indiscriminately over-eat (an American tradition). I get teased, insulted, guilt-tripped, and endlessly questioned, “But where do you get your protein?” We vegans and we Hindus definitely are let in for a lot of flak, so I can attest that you are not alone.
    Perhaps one of the issues that you have to deal with is that your short list of disliked foods is (unfortunately) composed of foods that are common and commonly liked. Many are staple ingredients in Italian food, which is almost universally loved. The “strangeness” (to some people) of that might be one reason why they fixate on how you eat. There seems to be a name for every kind of diet: vegetarianism, veganism, ovo-lacto vegetarianism (only eggs and milk are eaten), pescetarianism (only fish eaten, no mammals or birds), plant-based diets, raw foodism, etc. There must be a name for your particular combination of eschewed foods…or if not, perhaps you can invent it! Good luck! And happy eating…of what YOU want, not anyone else!

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The Author

Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West is an American librarian and blogger, best known as the creator of and for her unconventional views of her profession. She is a former member of the American Library Association Council, and she is also a moderator on MetaFilter.

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