When I was about six, my family and I went on a trip to London. One of our last nights there, we were out to dinner and I ordered a cheese pizza. I (allegedly) proceeded to complain that it tasted funny and I couldn’t eat it. Now the UK isn’t known for its culinary greatness (please see beans on toast), but it’s pretty hard to mess up cheese pizza. My parents, being so over me, took a bite to prove there was nothing wrong with the pizza only to be met with the culprit: nutmeg. The pizza was covered in it and let me tell you – pizza and nutmeg is not a great combo.
Unfortunately for my parents, there were blessed with a picky eater – me. My diet consisted of cheese pizza (no nutmeg please), the right kind of chicken nuggets, and buttered noodles. I ate carrots but only raw (gotta get them nutrients). And just the slight deviation from what I wanted caused a hunger strike and/or a tantrum. (I’ve been teaching my family patience since 1995. What can I say it’s a talent.)
As I got older, my diet has expanded. I am still partial to a cheese pizza (hold the nutmeg) and my ultimate comfort food is still buttered noodles, but traveling as a picky eater isn’t easy. I’ve learned to love plenty of new foods, discovering new loves everywhere I go.
While traveling, I don’t always have the ability to only eat what I want. So I use a couple of tricks to not starve, which might be helpful to reassure fellow picky eaters or those traveling with picky eaters, young and old:
I implemented something we used to use with the three-year-olds at summer camp and I always try to do a “no thank you” bite – give it one bite to taste and say no thank you if I still don’t want to eat it. I can happily say I’ve tried escargot and crocodile meat, but I am happy to never eat them again. At the same time, I’ve gotten to try quite a few new foods that were a little tastier.
Especially when traveling with friends (and especially when traveling with less picky eaters), it’s a nice part of traveling to taste test the local cuisine, but maybe the picky eater in the group is concerned about trying something new. Solution: share a plate of the new and exciting food and give it at least one bite. Splitting a plate gives everyone a chance to try something new, but not feeling the pressure to miss out on your safer meal.
Speaking of safe meals, if you’re picky, bring a back-up. I always pack a Cliff bar or two in my bag. Better safe than starving. I also highly recommend stopping by a local grocery store (partially to skim what is and isn’t the same to your home) and grab some snacks. Maybe you’re scared of the local spice level or maybe you’re in a town where everything closes at 8:00 p.m., but having a bag of chips or some bread and jelly can keep a lot of hangry fights at bay. (This advice is also relevant to the vegans, the dairy-free, the allergy-prone amongst us…)
So much of travel is putting yourself out there and trying new things. But it can be overwhelming. Doing all of that adventuring while hungry won’t turn out well.