June 22 was the day that everything changed. Prior to that day, I ate no fruits or vegetables and stuck to my “safe” foods. But on June 22 as I sat at a table in Beijing, China, everything changed. The array of foods on the table ranged from pineapple to tofu, and I hardly recognized anything. In any other setting, I would have lied and said “no thanks, I already ate” but this situation was different. I tried everything on the table.
Since that day, my life has changed a lot. And since that day, I’ve been trying to pin-point exactly what it was that made it okay for me to try all of that food that day. I’ve narrowed it down to a combination of the following things:
In China, it’s common to serve food family style. Everything on the center of the table on a giant lazy susan for everyone to take what they would like. This aspect is what made me feel most comfortable trying new foods. Had I been given a plate that I was expected to eat everything from, I might have had a mini-meltdown. Instead, I was able to take what I wanted and eat it from my bowl without anyone else having a part in it.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t known as “The Picky Eater”. Picky Eaters have it hard when it comes to labels. I used to hide behind my title of “The Pickiest Eater You’ll Ever Meet” because it gave me power when it came to food. I was embarrassed about my eating habits but I owned my title and it gave me some sort of control. But my label also held me back a lot. If I was considering trying something new with someone who know about my eating habits, they would (in support) cheer me on and watch intently as I tried it. Or, even worse, they would let me know that I wouldn’t like it before I even tried it. Neither of those are conducive to exploring new food in a safe way. For the first time, I was free of my title.
I was learning how to use chopsticks. Okay, this one isn’t as serious, but it really helped. I was so focused on getting the damn sticks sturdy enough to carry the food from my plate to my mouth that I was less concerned with the food. Distractions are helpful when it comes to trying new foods.
Tonight, I’ll be celebrating with some Chinese food. It’s important that you all know that Chinese food in America is very different than Chinese food in China. I still dream about my two favorite dishes -- eggplant and mushroom. Prior to my life-changing June 22nd, you couldn’t have paid me to say that sentence. Never forget that change is possible, no matter how impossible it seems.
Thanks for being on my journey with me. Cheers!