Picky, Picky, Picky This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I'm the pickiest eater in the world. When I was a baby, my parents chose what I ate, but when I turned two I took a stand. No scrambled eggs! No more fish for me! And I absolutely would not touch lunch meat. I found it strange that some people loved these foods when the mere smell of canned tuna made me gag. I ignored the food pyramid, preferring my own five food groups: ice cream, chicken nuggets, chocolate, peanut butter and jelly, and pizza.

Miraculously, I do not weigh 500 pounds. Perhaps I should thank my love for salads without dressing? Or maybe I owe it to my ability to grow and learn. I've discovered that the food I opt to consume does not have to be unhealthy to be delicious. Life is very similar; I can have a vibrant existence by making the right decisions.

I recall my relationship with root beer distinctly. The lonely bottle was sitting on a bed of ice at a sixth grade ice cream social. I hesitantly took it, noticing the slow drip of water down its chilled neck. I introduced it to my old friend, vanilla ice cream, and the three of us hit it off. A classmate gave me an I-told-you-so lecture (she had previously told me of the wonders of root beer). This experience was the beginning of two fabulous friendships – root beer and my best friend, Alex.

On my first trip out of the country without my parents, I tried more exotic foods in those ten days than I had in my entire life. It was an expedition to Costa Rica with a teacher and students from my school. My parents weren't around to make excuses for my bizarre habits, so to be polite, I ate everything. The height of my food explorations came when the group was forced to eat termites. My teacher was adamant that we had to try at least one. I took a deep breath, tried hard not to look at the squirming legs and very alive body, and dropped it in my mouth. I realized, “Wow, I'm eating a bug.” Strangely, live termites taste like mint, but they leave a nasty scratchy sensation in your throat.

After the termite, I found it much easier to challenge myself on the trip. I braved my phobia of heights and explored the rainforest on a zip line. I conquered my unease around spiders and held a tame tarantula. I wasn't actually afraid of the individual activities; I was terrified of trying new things. I'm glad my teacher forced me to eat a termite. Otherwise I would not have taken any other risks on that trip and later in life.

My Costa Rican experience compelled me to go on a wilderness expedition during sophomore year. Here food took on a different meaning. Even though I ate my usual fare – pasta, cheese, peanut butter, and oatmeal – I wasn't used to eating in order to sustain my energy. We backpacked five miles a day through mountainous terrain in chilly weather, so everyone had to eat three times more than usual. My group stopped to eat as an excuse to take a breather from the back-breaking hikes. Our best times were spent at lunch and dinner, partially because they were the only times we weren't walking or sleeping. We pulled together to make meals, dividing up the tasks. One day, we soaked up the sun and made jokes about how after three days, the crackers had been reduced to crumbs, the trail mix was mostly raisins, and six of us had blisters.

It surprised me that, in these situations, very different people could enjoy each other's company. None of us would have survived if we hadn't bonded; our physical and mental struggles necessitated human companionship. I don't talk to any of them now, and I regret drifting away from them. The times we spent warming up over hot chocolate, making burnt macaroni and cheese, and trying Spam for the first time are some of the most meaningful experiences of my life because the people and the food were the only things that sustained me for those 10 days. I learned the weight food carries in people's lives – literally and figuratively. It means survival, but it also means an extra 20 pounds in your pack.

I realize now why I was picky as a kid – I didn't want to admit I was wrong. My stubbornness kept me from trying foods that I might have savored. I closed myself off from opportunities, not only of the edible kind, but also of a social nature. When I try new foods, I make new friends, take risks, and bond with people I wouldn't expect. How could I have missed out on so much? Rest assured, I never will again. I could settle and let my life be candy and popcorn, pizza and pasta, but I'm more of a lychee and star fruit girl now.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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