Don’t look now, it’s celery!

We often talk about the foods we love in this space, but we rarely discuss those we dislike. In fact, in the examples I’m talking about here, “dislike” is not strong enough a word. I’m talking about food that folks loathe so much they avoid it at all costs. These kind of phobias can create tension, or at least extra work, for friends and loved ones.

Take, for example, my wife, Carrie. She really hates raw celery. If the stalks are simmered as part of the mirepoix in a stock, it’s not a problem, but should they be sliced and diced and tucked into a potato salad, forget it. Carrie will avoid the stuff. “If it still tastes like celery,” she says, “it’s a problem.” Her distaste for the vegetable includes celery seed and even Old Bay seasoning, which has a pronounced celery flavor to her.

Our close friends know all about Carrie’s hatred for celery. They even cater to it. During a recent barbecue dinner that we hosted on the Fourth of July, our friends Judy and Lou prepared two different potato salads — one with celery and one without. Of course, Lou, of all people, can sympathize with Carrie’s predicament. He despises cilantro. Lou, like many others, thinks it smacks of soap.

“I really can’t fathom why a seemingly normal, sane individual, would want to put shaved Zest all over their food,” Lou writes me. “If you want to taste cilantro the way I do, do that. And then you’ll see how even just a little — even as a garnish that can be removed — ruins everything.”

Because of Lou’s contempt for cilantro, our circle of friends has been known to make salsas without the herb. Given the fact several of us lived in Texas, this is no small sacrifice.

At this stage in my life, I don’t have any obvious food phobias myself, certainly nothing that forces people to cater to my tastes. But I wasn’t always this way. My family still teases me about my eating habits as a boy.

I was beyond picky. I was contemptuous of many foods in my Midwestern household. For many nights as a child, I’d engage in a battle of wills with my parents, who often forced me to sit at the dinner table until I ate everything. They never won. I remember sitting there late into the evening, refusing to touch my meal. I was a willful little thing. I’d rather lose hours of play than eat (what I considered) the crap in front of me.

I was a food critic just waiting to happen.

Food phobias come in all shapes and sizes, from a distaste for the dirt-like flavor of beets to a fear of eating anything with bones. So what’s yours? E-mail and let me know. I’ll publish the best of them on the Y&H blog.

Photo by TheDeliciousLife via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution License