To Each His Own

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Mark, Ottawa, October 2014

Mark, Ottawa, October 2014

Except for bananas, apples and berries, I don’t like many fruits. Please, don’t say “how-can-someone-not-like-(insert fruit here)??” Please, don’t worry about my diet—I’ve lived happily without eating oranges, mandarins, kiwi, peaches, pears, etc. for the past 31 years. I’m not a picky eater either and I can’t think of a vegetable I don’t like. To give you an idea, I sometime crave broccoli or carrots. Yes, crave.

I’ve never liked fruits. The texture of fruits in the citrus family and pulp gross me out, and I can’t explain why. I’d drink orange juice or grapefruit juice, though. For other fruits, like pineapple or pear, I find the taste overpowering. I’m pretty sure my parents tried to make me like fruits but since my food aversion never went away, they focused on other healthy foods I actually enjoyed.

I’ve known my in-laws for 12 years now. It’s not a secret that I don’t like fruits. It’s not a big deal, really. I buy fruits if asked to do so. I don’t leave the room when someone eats fruits, except when Feng ate clementines when I was pregnant, I really couldn’t stand the smell then. I don’t scream “murderer!” when someone slice a pineapple. I just… you know, don’t eat fruits.

And yet, every few weeks or so, depending how often I see them, my in-laws offer me fruits. They coax me into eating whatever they brought—unfortunately, it’s rarely bananas, else I would comply with their completely not subtle requests, but more likely an entire carton of mandarin oranges. I explained I didn’t like fruits as often as I tell Mark to stop touching my computer.

“But fruits are healthy!” they profess. “对身体很好.”

“So am I,” I reply.

Rinse and repeat as often as necessary.

Sometime, I wonder what they expect. Years ago, I tried to please them and take a bit of this and a bite of that. Guess what? I still wasn’t eating enough fruits.

The same conversation wouldn’t happen in France, where you can shrug and profess “des goûts et des couleurs, on ne discute pas” (“to each his own”).

French tend to respect personal preferences. They may not agree with you, they may make fun of you, but they won’t try to change your mind. French are somewhat reluctant to change anyway.

Chinese love to “correct” whatever they think is wrong. For instance, not eating fruit goes again (their) common sense, because fruits are healthy. Who cares whether you like them or not! You have to eat fruits, period.

And I noticed North Americans are good at respecting people’s like and dislikes (if I’m being French, I’d say people are a bit snowflaky with all their quirks), but that they generally emphasis on life improvements and solutions, if needed, with a positive outlook. Don’t like eating fruits? Well, have a power juice or take vitamins! Hell, dip that orange in chocolate and deep fry it—you’ll see, it tastes good! You know, like in this commercial where the parents are ecstatic because dear son and dear daughter are finally eating their veggies—as long as they are covered in an inch-thick layer of Caesar sauce. Yuck.

Shortly after Mark’s birth, I started to drink coffee. I had never been a coffee drinker but for the occasional fancy sugary latte. Unfortunately, Mark hated waiting in line at Starbucks, and I started to order whatever I could get right away without a barista working on it—black coffee on brew it was. Come to think of it, it may have been my body’s way to tell me I needed something a bit stronger than green tea… So, at the age of 30, I developed a taste for coffee. And I admit it, coffee is fucking awesome.

When I went to France for a visit, the change was hard to accept. “But you weren’t drinking coffee before?” my grand-mother asked, probably worried whether she was getting senile. “Don’t you like tea anymore?” other asked. Well, I still do… you can be both a coffee and a tea drinker, right? It was funny, this simple new taste confused everyone, as if I had changed in such deep ways that I wasn’t myself anymore.

As for my in-laws, whenever I drink coffee, they never fail to remind me that coffee is not healthy, and that I should drink tea instead, or better, hot water.

You can’t win.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

14 Comments

  1. Oddly enough, my French colleagues had a hard time accepting that I don’t like meat. I’m not vegetarian, and I will eat most standard meat products, but I’m not a fan. Yes, I love to eat cheeseburgers and to put ham on my pizza, but meat is never the overpowering flavor. I don’t like the taste. (And okay, if I see a cuddly cow, I no longer want the burger.) But they made fun of me for this and couldn’t understand how I didn’t like it.

    On the other hand, I hate seafood (and I won’t eat it – I’ll try it every now and again but have the same reaction), and my in-laws are so kind and understanding. At holidays, there are always non seafood options for me.

    • I feel exactly the same about meat! I don’t mind it, but I don’t crave meat and I’m not great at cooking it, so I don’t eat meat often.

      I grew up by the ocean, so we ate a lot of seafood. I love fish and mussels but I’m not big on shellfish. Just curious… what don’t you like about seafood? The taste?

  2. I converted David to a coffee-drinker when I brought him to France for the first time. Now he’s addicted…and a coffee snob to boot. He only drinks espresso, with almond milk if it’s available. I’ve created a monster!

    • This is funny! It’s rare that people pick up a coffee addiction later in life. Although I’m sure he needs a buzz considering his job…!

  3. I never got why people would bother with someone’s meal choices. You eat what you like, I eat what I like. Same with religions or pretty much everything else where it comes to personal preferences.
    The part about French people made me smile (“They may not agree with you, they may make fun of you, but they won’t try to change your mind.”) When I visited a customer in France a while ago, we went out for lunch and eventually he asked me “So you don’t drink red wine, you don’t eat cheese and you don’t speak French… what the hell are you doing here?!”) and I told him “I don’t know, I suppose they taught me the wrong lessons in school. I’m good at being the wise guy and barking orders, though”. Then we both laughed and respected each other’s choices.
    It would annoy me though if someone knew I don’t eat meat and they kept offering it. It’s fine when they don’t know or if they are not aware (it’s not immediately obvious that Timbits aren’t vegan), but I suppose your in-laws know exactly that you don’t like fruits. Is it about healthy food or is it more a cultural thing anyway?

    • For my in-laws, I think it’s both. Chinese don’t take “no” for an answer and like to be in charge when it comes to food. They also have very specific ideas of what’s healthy and what’s not and sometime I find it really weird… and frankly it doesn’t make much sense to me. I think a relatively balanced diet is the key.

      Food is never a neutral topic, no matter the culture!

  4. I didn’t know that French expression—it will come in handy!

    My neighbor (in the States) used to put spinach in her brownies to make her young son eat vegetables.

    That’s annoying to be told the same thing over and over again. Good thing you’re a natural at doing your own thing and not giving in to pressure.

    • This is a great phrase… I used it a lot in France!

      I’ve heard of parents “hidding” veggies in dishes. Not sure it works… I mean, don’t they lose all the nutrient anyway during the baking process? Eating a carrot cake isn’t exactly the same as eating carrots, right?!

  5. I had a chuckle about this because I have a bit of a reverse situation. I grew up eating flavorless seedless grapes, apples all year long, overly sweet oranges, and bananas. The standard fare of US grocery stores where the same 10 fruits and vegetables are available 365 days of the year, just the country of origin changes. When I arrived in France I discovered that you can only buy fresh strawberries for a short period, same thing for peaches, plumbs, kiwis and any other kind of fruit. My in-laws are big on fruit and only buy what’s in season, so I discovered how great in season fruit can be (plus fresh litchis, which I never would have bought before). Except that relatively soon into our relationship, my future husband make a joke at the end of the meal when I was offered fruit and told his parents “Oh she doesn’t like fruit. I’ll take her part.” He could eat bushels of raspberries so it must have been a day his mom bought raspberries and he was trying to get more than his fair share. Long story short, 10 years later my in-laws are STILL convinced I don’t like fruit, despite the fact we’ve said my husband was joking and also that I regularly eat fruit in front of them. My MIL will say “Would you like some fruit? Oh wait, I’m sorry, I forgot you don’t like fruit.” And I have to say again “No I do like fruit.” My husband and I chuckle about it now and I’ve kind of gotten used to repeating that I do eat fruit at each meal.

  6. Well, I have always hated cheese and for the first 16 years of my life I could not eat something gratiné or even pizza. I have grown to tolerate some and maybe enjoy it a little (soupe à l’oignon) but I am still unable to eat cheese by itself or things like yogurt. My family back in Canada never annoyed me into eating dairy yet now in France my in-laws or friends always insist that I try some at the table. It’s really annoying!

    • I can understand how annoying it must be. I guess French are so into dairy products that they really want you to enjoy them as well. Yet, annoying!

  7. How can someone not like fruit ???!!! 😉
    Pour la petite histoire je n’ai jamais bu une seule goutte de café de ma vie, mais mon père continue matin, midi et 16 heures à me servir une tasse de café noir à chacun de mes séjours…….. j’échangerai bien les fruits de ta belle-mère contre les cafés de mon père 😉 Keep calm and breaze………………………. !

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