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I was a picky eater as a childĀ  — high maintenance for my mother — but not in the way a mother would be mad about. I loved fruits and vegetables (especially raw ones), which were healthy for me, but I didn’t like sauces and condiments. For example, I liked tomatoes, but not ketchup or spaghetti sauce. My mother would make me “milk spaghetti” (spaghetti with butter and milk) when the rest of the family was having spaghetti with tomato sauce. Not too much extra effort…she just put mine aside before she put the sauce on.

The kids at school would call me “rabbit” because I would eat celery sticks, carrot sticks, even green pepper strips for lunch — no salad dressing of course. I became a favorite target of teasing because I would have a gag reflex whenever I was in the vicinity of bowls of ketchup, mustard, and relish. Of course they were always putting them near me and laughing. Lunchtime wasn’t enjoyable for me.

After my “healthy” phase, I went the other way in junior high — I ate an ice cream sandwich and a milk every day, until I couldn’t bear to eat another one. ( I still don’t eat them!) That led me to my borderline anorexic phase, which lasted through high school: I pretty much ate nothing but toast and tea, soup, and…milk spaghetti.

It took a lot of comments from strangers — “Your friend looks like a boat person,” “Is your friend an orphan?” — before I realized how I looked to other people. But it was a bout with the flu, during which I lost 10 lbs I couldn’t afford to lose, that changed my eating habits. At one point I couldn’t even drink water…I didn’t know that I was allergic to the codeine cough syrup the doctor had prescribed. I was lucky that my mother was taking care of me; she called the doctor and he told me to stop taking it. Nothing like the fear of not being able to eat again to scare someone into wanting a steak!

Little did I know, a wonderful food future lay in front of me…



et cetera
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