The Picky Eaters

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Nuts for a Picky Squirrel, Ottawa

Some couple argue about money, religion or work. We argue about food.

Food is deeply cultural and in our Chinese-French-Canadian household, we blend flavours. Some would call it “world cuisine”. I call it “a-compromise-so-that-we-don’t-kill-each-other”.

I’m a noodle/pasta person but Feng likes rice better. Feng likes meat but as a lapsed vegetarian, I can go weeks without eating meat. I bake or steam and he fries. He likes plain oil, lots of it, while I fancy butter or virgin olive oil. I can’t go without bread, he can’t go without fruits. He salts, I pepper. I like grapefruit juice, he likes orange juice. My weak spot is chocolate, he’d rather have ice cream.

We also have different ways of eating. I call Feng “the camel” because he can go the whole day without eating and only have one large meal. On the other side, I get full pretty fast and it’s usually pointless to drag me to a buffet since I won’t be able to sample half of the foods.

Whenever we travel, it’s easy: we both eat whatever is available. None of us has any allergy and we are not picky eaters overall. We had local food around the world from Central American “arroz” to Brazilian “brigadeiro”.

It gets a bit more complicated at home.

No matter how Canadian we both are, we sometimes need the comfort of foods we ate when we were young. So we hit the Chinese supermarket to find Feng’s Chinese candies, and I get to bake French quiches and buy some tiny pieces of overpriced cheese. Canada is great for that, you can find food from all over the world. We even have a huge brand new Chinese supermarket in the suburb, T&T.

We usually take turns cooking. Invariably, I blame Feng for using too much oil and he claims my food isn’t salty enough. God forbid I cook something without meat… and on the other side, I pass when Feng makes one of his meat platters. Our respective tastes show whenever we order pizza: one side has olive, feta, tomatoes, pepper, onion and plenty of cheese and the other has at least two kinds of meat.

Both sets of parents raise their eyebrows at our respective culinary tastes. Whenever Feng’s parents come home and take over the kitchen, I lose two pounds and Feng gains two. Don’t get me wrong, my mother-in-law is a great cook and I like Chinese food. But I simply can’t stomach rice at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 排骨 (páigǔ, spare ribs) are not exactly my favourite food. A couple of years ago, during the Christmas holidays, we ate a whole bag of rice over the course of two weeks. A whole bag of rice. And I’m not talking about these little fancy 500 g rice boxes, I’m talking about the “Asian special” huge 10 kg bags!

When we were at my parents’ in France, our lunches puzzled Feng. “How can you just eat bread and cheese?”, he wondered. Such disregard for French food icons, such as the baguette and the stinky blue cheese! Although in all fairness, I get his point: it’s probably not the healthier lunch. Now you should have seen the look on my parents’ face the day Feng grabbed some bread and put some Nutella on it at dinner! “How can he eats tartines de Nutella with pasta?”, my mum wondered. “He likes sweet and savoury I guess”, I shrugged.

Feng was also shocked that French eat runny egg yolk, especially on crêpes. Retrospectively, I can understand why but I’m so used to it I barely notice it. And I don’t eat anything raw normally!

There are many upsides to our culinary wars. We both discovered a world of  flavours that were foreign to us. By the time we left France last time, Feng was eating all the Comté (cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk). And I eventually got used to eating  酸菜 (suān cài, Chinese pickled Chinese cabbage).

So if you ever come by our place and it smells of 韭菜 (Jiǔcài, Chinese leek) and cheese… it’s normal.


About Author

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


  1. Hehe, this was very interesting. I also prefer rice, meat, and fruit, while my boyfriend likes pasta and creamy stuff. We both like frozen yogurt, though, so that’s a staple after most meals out. 😀

  2. Sounds like my house 😉 My hubby doesn’t like to have stir-fry food all the time and I loathe rye bread and blue cheese. But now I just say: “take it or leave it”. :p

    But I find it easier to make western food so I’m still working on my Danish cuisine.

  3. Hi Zhu,

    Oh, I absolutely loved this post!
    It is interesting to see how couples that have different tastes, thoughts, opinions, personalities etc; have such a good understanding: it is called respect. 😀

    You and Feng are an example.

    By the way: I love baguette and blue cheese Mmmmm…Dio Santo!


  4. Oh I loved this post! Being raised as a diplomat’s kid, my eating habits have picked up on the places that we lived. My eating habits cannot be categorized as properly Filipino. I can eat breakfast with just a bowl of cereal and milk (typical American), or I can make some fried rice and fried sausages and fried eggs (typical Filipino), or I can be content with a mug of fresh coffee, together with some sliced meat and bread, and some exotic cheese I found in the market (something I learned while in Europe). My cooking can be characterized as having identity crises, because they mix elements from various places around the world.

  5. What a fun post! I love hearing about how you and Feng make your different food likes work. Unfortunately I’m an extremely picky eater! I really wish I weren’t, but no matter how hard I try I just can’t make myself like lots of foods. At least I’m good with different national cuisines! Put a bunch of spices on it and it doesn’t matter how much I don’t actually like that vegetable!

  6. It’s always interesting to see culinary differences when a couple has been exposed to different foods. I’m from New England and Mister is from California, and our tastes are very different. I grew up on the basic 1950’s Betty Crocker stuff, while Mister is used to a more varied cuisine based on the fresh produce available in California and his Greek heritage.

    It’s nice when you can get used to each other’s foods and end up with your own hybrid cuisine.

  7. Ah ah, sometimes you don’t even need to be from very different cultures for that to happen…
    I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned butter (au sel de Noirmoutier even!).
    The one thing that I missed the most when I came to Ireland was salt that salts. I now bring back a 5kg bag each time I go home!

  8. I love the way you write! It makes me laugh! I think you two are different in eating, but a great combination. Combine you two, that can make a great international cuisine! Wow, Feng still keeps a very traditional Chinese eating style even in Canada!

  9. 呵呵!和你一样,我比较喜欢面条。



  10. Hahhaha seriously your post made my day! I could picture myself and my bf while reading your post. We’re both Mauritian and yet our eating habits are so different! Ok maybe I’m of Chinese origin and he’s Muslim but it’s not even about that. He loves Chinese cuisine and I enjoy a nice biryani frm time to time but my bf is the type who can have rice everyday for lunch and dinner while I will mostly eat a soup, salad or a sandwich. He can go without fruits and veggies for ages and eat only meat. Me? It’s the contrary! I love desserts but he doesn’t. And I can go on like that! Lol, but we managed to survive till now and we have learned to compromise. I think it’s the key to a healthy relationship 😉

    Would you mind if some day I take your post idea and write a post of my own?

  11. Wow, it sounds like you guys are pretty tolerant of each other’s habits. I can and have eaten almost anything and like trying different flavors. My wife is more conventional. She does almost all the cooking and does a great job of it.

  12. My husband and I have different food habits too, but they used to be a lot different, because I used to eat meat and he didn’t so we made separate meals. Eventually I got tired of it though and cut meat from my diet (I still eat fish though, since that is something from my childhood-Scottish fish and chips)

    It’s funny you mention T&T because I’ve been wanting to go there for awhile now. We buy a lot of Asian condiments and products, because they add flavor to vegetarian cuisine. I think that due to immigration and globalization, more Canadians in general are buying Chinese and other Asian foods and products as well. 🙂

  13. I’ve never thought about it since my French half and I are used to eat about the same thing. We disagree on cheese (I dislike them), Fresh Milk (I won’t have UHT milk), vegetables and fruits (my BF only eats potatoes it seems). But that’s about it! When we eat out we mostly eat at Asian restaurants (Indian, Nepalese, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese …) because we both love that kind of cuisine 🙂

  14. @Lizz – It’s simply too cold in Canada to have frozen yogurt I think! 😆 But we both like Italian food.

    @Poem – I’d give my right hand for rye bread and blue cheese right now!

    @Max Coutinho – Yes, we learned to respect our ways of eating. It was just much easier than arguing about it all the time!

    @khengsiong – I bet they have great fruits and veggies!

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Yes, I noticed from your food posts that you seemed to like all kinds of food, which is great. I understand why, considering you grew up in so many different places. Makes sense.

    @Soleil – Really? I hadn’t pictured you as a picky eater! What stuff don’t you like for instance?

    @Kirsten – I totally agree! I came to learn to like so many new stuff.

    @Em – The funny thing is, in France, I loved butter (especially salty butter). But I never ever buy any in Canada! I have cream cheese instead.

    @micki – He is not very traditional Chinese, only when his parents are around I think. He also likes junk food (or what I consider is junk food!), a typical guy I guess.

    @London Caller – Yes, noddles are just better IMO. Chinese rice, especially, is quite sticky, I can’t eat much of it.

    @Angele – Please, do use the idea, it’s not copyrighted! 😆 I’d be curious to read about it actually. Mauritius seems to have a very multicultural population, and tons of different kinds of food, so I guess it’s not that rare to eat different things!

    @Yogi – Oh yes, we respect each other… it’s just easier this way!

    @Pauline – We go to T&T about once a week and I was surprised to see so many non-Chinese shopping here! Kowloon Market in Somerset is still very Chinese, or Asian at least. If you do go to T&T, send me an email, I’ll tell you the best stuff to buy!

    @Cynthia – I don’t any a lot of fruits either, maybe it’s because they were so expensive in France when I grew up. But give me cheese anytime!

  15. I’m the cook at home, but hubby always complains about my lack of salt although I’m getting better at it… Wonder if it’s a male thing?

  16. haha, I like your couple stories! and this sounds like an adventure everyday! 🙂 I am pretty conservative when it comes to meat, so whenever there is goat, or moose or something fancy like that, I cook separately. 🙂

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