Category Archives: Quirky

Confessions of a Picky Eater Turned Foodie

Are Brussels sprouts your worst nightmare?

Did you feed your dog Brussels sprouts under the table as a kid? Stage negotiations with your mother – five more peas in exchange for dessert? Maybe as an adult you’ve skirted menu items to avoid mushrooms or suffered chicken salad at a picnic so as not to offend your host. We all have our particular food aversions; some more than others, but what makes a picky eater? Stephanie Lucianovic knows first hand. Now a self-proclaimed foodie, she considers herself a picky eater in recovery. She’s written a book about her conversion called Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate. Ahead of her appearance on WFAE’s Charlotte Talks, we spoke with her about the science of picky eating, how you can broaden your palate and we got some advice for parents of picky eaters.

Stephanie Lucianovic is the Author of Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate

WFAEats: I hate mayonnaise and I get this look of shock and dismay from people when this fact is uncovered. But we all do this, we’re so skeptical when we hear someone doesn’t love a food we love. What’s with all the judging? Not everyone likes everything.
I get into an almost philosophical discussion about this in the book. Why does it bother us so much what other people don’t like? It doesn’t affect them. Personally, I think if you love somebody and you offer them food because you happen to love that food. ‘This is an amazing ___ and you’ve got to try it!’ They try it and don’t like it and whether you realize it or not, it feels like a rejection because they’re not joining in on your excitement. So you feel a little bit rejected and you start to blame them – like, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ For some reason, food, because it is such a community thing, such a social thing, its more of an area of judgment than music or art, which obviously people have differing opinions on but they certainly don’t break up with people because someone doesn’t like modern art. And yet, I’ve interviewed people who have talked about picky eaters being a major problem in romantic relationships.

Would you break up with someone over broccoli?

WFAEats: Like breaking up with someone over broccoli?
Exactly. It’s usually nothing so obvious like that. If you’ve got an adventurous foodie and a non-adventurous person, it can really affect what they share. I talked to a marriage counselor about it and she said you just have to find other things you enjoy together – don’t make it all about food. If you have an anniversary, don’t have it hinge on some great restaurant, make it something else you both enjoy.

WFAEats: Is picky eating a choice or hard-wired?
It’s definitely not a choice. I believe as a former picky eater and I have it backed up by scientists – it’s hardwired, whether it’s your biology or genetics or what they call your ‘learning history’ because you developed a learned aversion to something. It’s preference.

WFAEats: Do our tastes change over time? Why did I love pickles as a kid but hate them now?
Your preferences change. It’s not that our taste buds change. One of the scientists I spoke with at Monell Center [Chemical Senses Center of Taste and Smell] said its not that our taste buds really die or change because we’re constantly sloughing them off. They have a ferocious cycle, overturning every 14 days. Your taste cells are dying but they’re regenerating. In advanced age, they do start to die and not regenerate.

Does your kid refuse to eat anything green?

WFAEats: What advice do you have for parents of picky eaters?
My first word of advice is one that no parent ever wants to hear – relax. And I don’t like hearing that advice by the way, as a parent. If your pediatrician isn’t worried about your child’s health or development, then you shouldn’t be overly worried about it either. You should not listen to other parents who don’t understand or don’t have picky eaters who say ‘you should do this or that.’ It’s not necessarily what you did right or wrong. Sometimes if you don’t have a picky eater, you just got lucky. You could have a parent who does everything right with the breastfeeding, with what you’re eating in utero, how you’re exposing them to food, and you’re still going to have a picky eater. That can happen. I went 27 years barely eating any vegetables and no grains and I was basically Michael Pollan’s worst nightmare, and I’m fine. I didn’t have any health or development problems.

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Filed under Charlotte Talks, Healthy Eating, Quirky

The Science of Flavor

How the heck do they get watermelon bubble gum to taste the way it does? That particular flavor doesn’t exist in nature, but it does remind me of watermelon. The same for strawberry, cherry, orange… but grape – that tastes nothing like the plump little things you pull off the vine. Recently on Charlotte Talks, host Mike Collins and his guests examined the science of flavor – how flavors are created, the extraordinary variety of flavors and the business behind it.  Listen here.

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Filed under Charlotte Talks, Food, Quirky

A Story about Blue Crabs

There was a time in my life when I lived on the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville, FL in a small place named Switzerland.

We had a dock and a couple of boats and crab traps. The traps would get stuffed with chicken necks and then dropped in the river.

Most of the time, we could drop them right off the dock and get traps so full of blue crabs we couldn’t possibly eat them all.

St. Johns River in Florida. Photo by Flickr/eutrophication&hypoxia

So, we would build a bonfire on the riverbank, pull some coals to the side and place cast iron Dutch kettles into the fire to boil water and then fill the pots with crabs, herbs, and seasoning, cover and put it back in the fiery coals to cook the crabs.

When they were cooked, the pot would be spilled all over the picnic table and another pot put into the fire.

Friends, family, neighbors would all gather around, eat huge amounts of blue crab, drink beer, I think back then it was Rolling Rock and Heineken. It was great having everyone around talking, sometimes singing and having a great time.

Blue crab. Photo by Flickr/fallenangel29

The families we were with at the time had actually settled the area in the mid to late 1800’s. There were stories of Reggie Moreman sailing down the St Johns to locate and settle the highest point on the river. There were stories of pirate ships sailing down the St Johns to Black Creek to fill water kegs with the tannin water for long voyages; stories of Indians and smoke on the banks across the river near Green Cove Springs.

Two families tried to tame the once wild river banks. One with potato farming and the other established some of the first orange groves in the state of Florida. They had docks that would load with oranges for shipping to anywhere. When the groves got frozen out, they moved to southern Florida to grow pineapples in what is now downtown Miami.

1893 bird’s-eye view of Jacksonville, with steamboats moving throughout the St. Johns River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Moremans stayed in Switzerland, Florida. When I was there, we still ran through the remnants of the groves plucking ripe fruit from the trees before the first frost. Most were sour oranges due to the base stock being sour, but there were still a couple of sweet trees.

The crab always ran like this in the deep fall, or was it spring? I can’t recall exactly what time of year it was, other than it was chilly, the night air dry and crisp.

This is one of my favorite memories of living on the riverbank and eating crabs in Switzerland, Florida.

And well before the river got so polluted the fish sprouted two heads. (Really.)

Calling the ferry, St. John River circa 1915

This post originally appeared on Pamela’s blog Spoon Feast.


Filed under Food, Quirky

An Ode To Olives

By David Radavich

These are the bread of life:
green as oak leaves,
black as lust.

You can taste the desire
almost from smell,

the stuffed ones with pimientos
offer Christmas year-round.

I can see why the dead
might not like them:

too luscious
for the after-life,

on a platter

that keeps
living and living

like schoolgirls
on a starry night.


Filed under Food, Quirky, The Foodie's Garden

Mutant Strawberries! They’re Big, But How Do They Taste?

Note to readers: that is a real human-sized spoon, not a Barbie spoon.

Portions and foods in general are getting bigger and bigger, but this is ridiculous. My fiance brought home some freak, mutant strawberries last week. I had to share the photo because I didn’t know you could actually buy strawberries this big. I thought they were the subjects of “whoa, look at that thing” ribbons at the state fair or perhaps B- horror movies (Attack of the Killer Strawberries?) Is this the result of some kind of nuclear radiation or genetically modified seeds grown with steroid fertilizer? I decided to investigate.

Giant is right.

According to their website and a representative I contacted, they do use some pesticides:

…we use practices and methods to minimize the need for pesticides whenever possible. Our team works closely with scientists at the University of California to determine the best time for applications of pesticides and insecticides and they are used ONLY when necessary to protect the survival of plants.

They add that they also offer organic berries, as well. As for genetic engineering:

California Giant does not use GMO’s. We rely on traditional breeding methods to develop and enhance our berries’ flavor, quality, size and color.

If GMOs are not involved, the size must be attributed to some selective breeding. I’m no farmer or geneticist of course, but it seems like it would be difficult to breed for BOTH size and flavor. Based on the strawberries I had, it seems like size won, they weren’t particularly flavorful or juicy…

The giant berries growing in their giant habitat. Photo from California Giant Berry Farms Facebook page.

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Filed under At the Market, Food, Photo Blog, Quirky, Sustainable Food, The Foodie's Garden

A Hot Dog By Any Other Name…

A hotdog from Nathan's. Photo by Flickr/Chrisjbarker

By Roshunda Anthony

A foray into the age-old question of who makes a better hot dog, New York or Chicago?

My boyfriend Ryan and I have a little on going debate about which hot dog is the best.  A New York Nathan’s Famous Frank or the Chicago Style hot dog?  By me being a savvy New Yorker, quite naturally I said the New York Nathan’s, but he is a boisterous young man from the “Windy City” so he says the Chicago Dog.  So, we decided to settle the score by comparing and contrasting what makes each of our beloved regional delectation the best.

I grew up on Nathan’s Famous Franks.   I have fond memories of my mom taking my brothers and me to the Nathan’s Famous Franks Restaurant in Garden City, New York.   Oh, how I remember us enjoying the robust flavorful taste of what is known as the Nathan Famous Frank.  So, when I moved to Charlotte and discovered that there is a Nathan’s located on the outskirts of Charlotte (in the Concord Mills Mall), I was elated!  A Nathan’s Frank is an all beef hot dog based on the recipe of Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker’s wife.  It is served on a basic bun and yummy toppings such as onions, ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut (my favorite) can be used to enhance the experience of eating this tasty treat, but it is the savoriness of the hotdog itself you really want to experience.

A loaded-down Chicago style hotdog. Photo by Flickr/Shanubi

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Filed under Food, Quirky, Restaurants

A Quest for Chicken & Waffles in Charlotte

Chicken and waffles from Roscoe's. Photo by Flickr/pointnshoot.

Roscoe's is well-known for chicken and waffles, but it wasn't the first.

Chicken and waffles. Together. Crispy, savory chicken fried to golden perfection atop a fluffy waffle and a taste of sweet maple syrup (and hot sauce for some). Comfort food – or hangover food – extraordinaire. It’s nothing new of course. Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n Waffles rocketed this combo into popularity out in Los Angles in 1975. They now have five locations across California. It’s a must-visit destination for tourists and celebrities alike, even President Obama is on-record as a fan.

But chicken and waffles didn’t start at Roscoe’s in L.A. It goes all the way back to 1938 in Harlem at a place called Wells Supper Club, later called Wells Famous Home of Chicken and Waffles. It closed in 1999 but in its heyday, Wells hosted jazz greats and club-goers, serving them a little slice of the South after the bars closed.

"Wells: Home of Chicken and Waffles, Since 1938"

Some think the idea came from late-night diners who were too late for dinner and too early for breakfast so the restaurant bridged the gap with both on one plate. One of my WFAE colleagues, Tena Simmons, used to visit Wells back in the 80s. “It was a hole-in-the-wall, but it was the hole-in-the-wall to get good food at 5:00 in the morning,” she says.  She remembers its reputation during the Harlem Renaissance, playing host to writers, thinkers, musicians and artists.

Chicken and waffles. For a limited time at... IHOP.

So there you have it, Southern soul food via Harlem and Los Angeles. Now, Gladys Knight has a chicken and waffle restaurant in Atlanta. And IHOP has jumped on the bandwagon, much to the chagrin of many who claim it has taken the ‘soul’ out of soul food.

After chicken and waffles featured prominently in Charlotte Talks’ recent discussion on soul food, we decided that we simply must know where to find it in Charlotte. Maybe you’ve wondered this yourself? Well here’s the answer.

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Filed under Food, Quirky, Restaurants