Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Eat Your Veggies Experiment Part 1: Meet the Eaters

Last week, we posted an extensive article called Learning to Love Foods You Hate: A How-to Guide for Frugal Eaters. It claimed that in order to eat healthy and cheaply, we have to suck it up and try certain edibles we might have hated in the past (fruits, veggies, etc.). Then, it went on to give several examples of how to do this without A) barfing, B) upchucking, or C) expelling food from your stomach through your mouthhole.

Next Tuesday, we’re putting those theories to the test. The lovely Rachel and I have recruited two guinea pigs - my sister Linda and our dear friend Dustin – to take part in an experiment. Using the principles outlined in LtLFYHaHGFE, we’re going to cook vegetables they dislike, and try to make them reconsider.

This won’t be easy, as both Linda and Dustin are very discerning about their meals. But our goal isn’t to shock them with new flavors. Nope - our goal is more modest. We want them to be comfortable and happy, and ultimately expand their produce options a bit. Also, not vomiting would be good.

So far, we know the following:

  • Rach and I are making four or five dishes. We don’t know if they’ll feature five different vegetables or one vegetable in five different ways.
  • Linda and Dustin won’t know the ingredients of any dish before eating it.
  • Neither of them has ever tried kale. Since it’s awesome and relatively flavorless (comparatively speaking), I’d like to cram that in there somewhere.
  • They’ll be eating in different rooms, so their opinions aren’t colored by each other’s reactions.
  • Their verdicts will be recorded by themselves on a sheet of paper. They’ll probably have scales from 1-10 and space for comments.
  • There will be at least two control group participants (ie. dudes that will eat anything) to ensure the food is in fact, palatable.
Beyond that, it’s wide open.

So readers, we need your help on this one. There are more specific questions for you at the end of this post, but first, a little more about our testees:

What is your name?

DUSTIN: Dustin.

LINDA: Linda … your sister.

How old are you?

DUSTIN: 32 going on 16.

LINDA: Old enough that I don’t want to answer that question, but young enough that you can still call me “twentysomething.”

How would you describe your eating style? Why do you eat that way?

DUSTIN: Like the kids from the Apple Jacks commercial, I eat what I like. I tend to not like many things, however. I tend to prefer simple tastes and simple food combinations. I get nauseous very, very easily and I don’t like throwing up. So I just eat the pre-approved Dustin things.

LINDA: Light breakfast and lunch, carbo-loading-type dinner. Why ... laziness? I’m not really sure, I suppose pasta and tomato sauce are my favorite foods and I tend to exploit what I like.

Have you always been that type of eater?

DUSTIN: Yes. If anything I have gotten more adventurous, but to such a small degree that no one would ever notice.


What do you eat during the average day?

Breakfast – Nothing or waffles with syrup and no butter. But that’s recently. It used to be a NUGO bar and a Gatorade. Lemon Lime flavor only. The rest are for hippies. There was a brief period where it was lemon cake and Gatorade. Those where the best times of my life!
Lunch – Salad (iceberg lettuce, Italian dressing, croutons, olives and cucumbers) or chicken cutlet on a roll with nothing on it and chips.
Dinner – A hamburger (well done) with fries or some form of rice. White rice with sauce or Rice-A-Roni. (For the record Rice Pilaf and Chicken are the only good flavors. I used to like Beef but that was when I was young and naive.)

Breakfast - A low-calorie breakfast bar.
Lunch - A vegetable and cheese sandwich (lettuce, green peppers and pickles) and a bag of baked Doritos.
Dinner - Pasta with some sort of protein (sausage or shrimp).
I eat basically the same thing every day. (I am not kidding.)

What are your favorite foods (especially fruits and vegetables)? Why?

DUSTIN: Chicken Francese with a side of Rice Pilaf. Because it’s fricken awesome. If the person cooking it beats the everloving crap out of the chicken cutlet so it is super-thin and there is lemony wine-ness in every bite, you can’t beat it. Normally I eat to live, but I really enjoy eating that. If the rice pilaf is sort of soaked in the Francese sauce, then that just makes the whole thing.

Lasagna – Mom makes it with all the fat and goodness.
Pad Thai – Flavored noodles! Carbohydrates are my best friends.
Spaghetti – Seriously.
Italian bread – MY BEST FRIENDS!
Peaches – They taste like a dessert and smell good too.
Grapes – An easy snack that you can eat a great many of and not feel guilty about.
Sugar snap peas – Are not offensive and can stand on their own on a dinner plate without cheese or butter.

What are your favorite ethnic cuisines? Why?

DUSTIN: Italian. Italian food is the best food there is (except for all the fish). Everyone knows it! What we lack in a stable government and smart choices for political allies in World Wars, we make up for in food.

Chinese – I think because I don’t eat it often and most of what I do eat is fried. And we all know fried = good.
Italian – Do I really have to give a reason?

What do you like best about your favorite foods? Is it the flavor? The texture? The smell? How they make you feel?

DUSTIN: I like food with simple tastes, a comfortable texture. That’s why I hate fish. It’s all wishy-washy. I like foods that are solid. I know what I am biting into. There is nothing worse than eating something and biting down on something hard when there wasn’t suppose to be anything hard. Or feeling something pop in your food.

LINDA: I never thought about this. I am not a huge fan of bold flavors. My motto is usually, “don’t put s*** in it.” I suppose that I eat what I do to keep the calorie count down and feel full.

What are your least favorite foods (especially fruits and vegetables)? Why?

DUSTIN: Broccoli. That is Satan’s food. There is nothing but pure evil in those stalks. And the smell tries to take over everything and makes me want to throw up. Broccoli ruins all other food and ruins my day.

Anything spicy! - I’m sorry if I can’t whittle that down for you, but spicy food is no fun for me.
Onions – Ever since I was little, the only thing I can stomach these slimy guys on/in is a hamburger from McDonald’s.
Grapefruit – Way too bitter.
Eggplant – I eat it sometimes, but never really care for it.
Mayonnaise – I only like it mixed with tuna fish, on a Burger King Whopper, or with a roast beef sandwich on rye.

What three foods will you absolutely never touch, even if forced to by gunpoint?

DUSTIN: Broccoli, Squid and caviar or other fish egg like stuff. And no eyes. Eyes are sacred.

I have been racking my brain about this, but I can’t think of foods that I REALLY hate. I think that it may be certain smells that bother me. For example: vinegar makes me nauseated, curry is a deal-breaker and fried onions turn me from Bruce Banner into the Hulk. (You won’t like me when you put this into my dinner.)

OOOhh, also, I remember my father making Texas Chainsaw Chili when I was a child. If I recall, I sat at the table for hours because the taste was so repulsive that I gagged a little with every bite.
(Ed. note – I wrote about that here. It traumatized both of us.)

Hold the phone! I just remembered that I cannot stand olives. Won’t go near them or even consider eating one.

What are your least favorite ethnic cuisines? Why?

DUSTIN: Indian food. Talk about complex crazy tastes.

Indian – That spicy food stuff makes me cry (not for joy).
Mexican – The spicy factor rears its ugly head again.

What do you hate most about your least favorite foods? Is it the flavor? The texture? The smell? The appearance? How they make you feel?

DUSTIN: All of the above. Appearance comes first. Then smell begins the repulsion. Taste usually caps it off and texture just twists the knife harder.

LINDA: See question by gunpoint.

Do you trust us? Are you seriously up for this?

DUSTIN: Honestly, I’m not sure.

LINDA: If I say that I don’t trust you, Christmas this year could be seriously awkward.

Sooooo … readers, how would you approach this? What would you make? What would you stay away from? How would you run the experiment to get the most objective results? We’d love to hear from you, and will post the results next Wednesday.

**Due warning: we’re looking for constructive suggestions, not snarky commentary about the participants’ diets. Less-than-charitable criticism will be deleted immediately.**

(Photo courtesy of Associated Content.)

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