Picky eating creates embarrassment
DEAR AMY » I married into a Korean family. (I’m not Korean.)
My mother lives nearby. She is very closedminded about food. She won’t try new things, and rarely goes to restaurants, because she tends to nitpick every part of the meal, or say that some ingredient “disagrees” with her.
Recently, my in-laws threw a big party at their house, to celebrate my motherin-law’s 70th birthday.
The party was catered, featuring mostly Korean food.
They invited my mother to the party. Knowing that she was likely going to have issues with the food, I gave her a heads-up so she could plan accordingly. She said, “Don’t worry about me,” and so I didn’t.
At the party, she immediately stated that she “couldn’t eat a thing.”
My very sweet fatherin-law paid special attention to her, to encourage her to try something.
A few minutes later, I looked out and saw my mother-in-law firing up the grill in order to cook a single hamburger for my mom, while everyone else sat down at the table and enjoyed the catered food.
While everyone was polite, I was incredibly embarrassed at my mother’s closed-mindedness and stubborn behavior.
I want her to try new things, and to get out of her comfort zone. I also don’t want to exclude her, just on the basis of her picky eating habits. What would you recommend? — Perturbed by
DEAR PERTURBED » Your desire for your mother to leave her comfort zone is natural and understandable, but her extremely picky eating does not excuse her rudeness.
Your mother might have ARFID (Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), an eating disorder characterized by an extreme aversion to lots of different foods. You could suggest that she research this possibility.
However, having dietary limitations, restrictions, phobias or preferences does not give a person license to announce it at a party.
Furthermore, the idea that your mother let your mother-in-law cook a special dish for her — at your MIL’s own landmark birthday party — is quite beyond the plate.
The way you present this, your mother behaved in a way that was both rude and entitled.
Whether her disordered eating is caused by health problems or specific food-based fears, is something that she should sort out. If she wants to expand her cuisine, and be less limited and fearful, she should seek medical and/or therapeutic help.
In the future, you should encourage her to bring her own food in a container. She could very easily say, “I have a very limited diet, so I need to bring my own food whenever I eat away from home.” She should not make any pointed, critical or specific remarks about the food offered.