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Illustration by Gregg Bender | The Journal Gazette

Persnickety palates

– Hello. My name is Steve.

Group: Hi, Steve.

And I am a picky eater.

I don’t like, in no particular order, onions, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, olives, beets, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cottage cheese, green and red peppers or lima beans. When it comes to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dressing, I skip the dressing. With a surgeon’s exactitude, I trim all fat off steaks and chops. Bacon must be crisp. Milk must be ice cold. If I order a fried egg, please have the yolk as hard as second-year calculus.

In short, I can be a restaurant’s worst nightmare.

Group: That’s OK, Steve.

I am not the only one, however.

Take 38-year-old Jamie Staton. His wife, Shannon, did 14 years ago.

“Gourmet food for him is like SpaghettiOs with garlic salt,” Shannon says. “He’d be in heaven.”

Then she adds, “Laugh all you want, but it’s my life.”

In describing what he does not like to eat, Jamie Staton admits, “Just about everything.”

He’s close to being factual.

“I like just about all kinds of meats, other than fish,” he says. “As far as vegetables go, the only ones I eat are corn and potatoes. The only fruits I like are bananas and apples.”

While it is commonplace for most children to push unwanted food around their plates until their peas become cold and unedible pellets, and meal time can turn into a test of wills, there is a growing awareness of adults who are extreme finicky eaters.

In 2010, psychologist Nancy Zucker at the Duke (University) Center for Eating Disorders conducted an online survey of adult selective eaters and received 18,000 responses.

Preliminary data research indicated that extremely picky eaters may suffer from a selective eating disorder.

“People who are picky aren’t doing this just to be stubborn,” Zucker says in an article on the LiveScience website.

The article cites a 63-year-old man whose primary diet consists of peanut butter, crackers, grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk.

“If I could snap my fingers and change, I would,” the man said.

Ryan Keirns, physical education teacher at Indian Village Elementary, admits to being a picky eater. He, too, stays away from tomatoes and onions and cauliflower.

“Shrimp is about it in terms of seafood,” he says. “I’ve tried salmon. I don’t know if it’s a texture thing or a taste thing. I can eat a couple bites of it, but I couldn’t order something like that for my meal.”

He’ll pick through a salad. Some restaurants include a hard-boiled egg in the salad. Keirns’ preference is to keep it off.

“I’m pretty vanilla,” Keirns says. “Most meals contain mashed potatoes or rice.”

Jamie Staton will have mashed potatoes, too, so long as they are instant potatoes.

“My aunt makes really good (mashed potatoes), with cream cheese and chives and bacon, but makes him a bowl of instant for holidays, like Easter and Thanksgiving,” Shannon Staton says.

“He has his own bowl.”

The only kinds of pasta Jamie will eat are spaghetti and macaroni. He refuses chicken and noodles or beef and noodles.

Last time he had a salad?

“Never,” he says. “I don’t ever remember eating a salad.”

Shannon says her husband prefers boneless chicken breasts, but if the chicken is on the bone, she has to pick it off for him.

“I think one of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten a little older is if it’s something I don’t like, it’s the texture of the food that makes me not like it,” Jamie says.

Shannon Staton says she has learned to cope and go with the flow.

“We had hamburgers and french fries for Christmas Eve with his family’s side because that’s what he requested,” she says.

“Our Christmas dinner was hamburgers and french fries. I’m not kidding.”

Group: That’s OK, Shannon.