Tastes Not Acquired: The Intersection Of Jewish Cuisine And Picky EatingTo say that I’m a picky eater would be a gross understatement.

I didn’t eat bananas until I was 25, I didn’t eat avocados until a few years later, and I generally steer well clear of condiments and sauces. It was so real that as I kid I would set up “barrier rice” on my plate to keep juices and sauces from contaminating the pristine rice on the other side of my plate. I liked, and continue to like, what I like, and I can’t help it: I yuck other people’s yums on a regular basis.

This food thing does manifest itself for me in challenging ways when combined with Jewish rituals and observances. I mean, what do I do when I really DON’T like certain Jewish staples?

This isn’t an example of not liking matzah. The reality is that most people can eat matzah with no problem- it’s not a matter of matzah tasting bad, per se, just that it tastes like cardboard. And I actually don’t have a problem with mazta; it does the job and I happily make and eat matza fry. The hang-up for me is about the truly offensive flavors and/or unhealthy options, or just tastes that don’t work for me.

Exhibit A: gefilte fish? This is a total non-starter. I had it once, circa 1985, when I promised my grandfather that I would have some at Passover. And believe me, there was no way he was going to let me get out of it. He was a Rear Admiral in the Coast Guard, a professional psychiatrist who ran a school for troubled boys, and a stern, no-nonsense kind of guy. So I ate it, I suffered through every bite, and there is no way I will do it again. Like ever.

Exhibit B: deep-fried jelly doughnuts at Chanukah. Three words: not so much. Two more words: very fatty. One final word: ugh. But in theory this is something that I COULD eat, but WON’T out of principle. (Pay no attention to the pumpkin donut I ate this morning.)

Exhibit C: cheesecake or cheese blintzes at Shavuot. Sorry, invented-tradition-of-dairy-at-Sukkot, I haven’t had a glass of milk in 18+ years and have never/will never eat cheesecake. Of course, this prohibition on dairy does not extend to pizza. Because that would represent rationality and consistency. But who’s paying attention?

Exhibit D, and most relevant for Rosh Hashanah next week: honey. Yes, honey. I have a real aversion to honey as honey, honey on challah, and honey on apples. It’s way too sweet, way too sticky, and there’s way too much potential for mess when my kids deal with it. But I do like sweet things, so I think in lieu of apples and honey next week, I’ll have some manner of iced tea that is lightly flavored with honey to honor the tradition, as I do hope and pray for a sweet new year for everyone.

Shanah Tovah, and good luck in your holiday food adventures for the next few weeks.

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