As a child, one of my favorite cartoon characters was Popeye the Sailor Man. When he popped the top on that can of spinach and saved the day, I felt that he was invincible. Because of Popeye, I’ve always felt that spinach was the powerhouse of vegetables, and I’ve fantasized about the day that I could down a can and go stop a moving train from hurtling towards my loved ones. So naturally, my first foray into vegetables was with spinach.
However, when I thought about eating canned spinach, in all its mushy, seaweed grossness, that was too much for me to handle, so I bought a fresh bag and began the easy way: by putting a heaping handful of raw spinach into my breakfast smoothies. This went very well. I couldn’t taste it at all (though my burps later tasted what I can only describe as "green"), and as I learned throughout the week, that’s the trick to eating it for me. Textures are such a funny thing for me. I can eat fruit and spinach in a blended up smoothie, but I don’t love eating fruit whole, and eating spinach whole was definitely a challenge.
A little bit about food textures. For me, the two biggest challenges when trying new foods are texture and smell. I have a REALLY strong sense of smell, and since I tie the way something smells in with the way I imagine it to taste, if it smells bad, I don't want to eat it. For textures, it's a little different. I don't have a texture preference like some picky eaters have. I don't like ALL crunchy foods or ALL soft foods. For the foods that I do like, I prefer those foods to have a certain texture to them. For foods like fruit, for example, I prefer to eat these blended in a smoothie versus in their natural state. I really don't enjoy the taste of bananas, but I can tolerate them in a smoothie; to eat them in their natural state is a big no from me because they're too mushy. Strawberries have that weird seedy texture to me. If I eat okra, it has to fried to the point where the seeds aren't oozy. Chicken has to be very tender, not tough. Bacon must be crispy, not floppy. Scrambled eggs cannot be runny. You get the gist. When I look at foods that I haven't eaten, I consider the texture of them. When I look at things like meat (burgers, steak, roast beef), I look at not only how well done it appears to be (Pink? No way.), but also the overall texture of it. When I've tried steak, it feels very chewy and gristly, so I equate a lot of other meats to that feeling. I like onion rings, but only thin and crispy ones. When I've had thicker ones and the onion slides out, I equate it something that looks like a tapeworm. When I look at things like stews and casseroles, I panic because I don't know what's in them and because of the many textures that are in them. Stews look mushy (and sometimes chunky), watery, and honestly just look like barf most of the time.
As I learned the first night I made a spinach salad, which LOOKED amazing, by the way, texture got in the way. I knew enough about fresh produce to know that I was supposed to wash my spinach, and after adding fresh-cut strawberries, cashews, sunflower seeds, feta cheese, and a strawberry vinaigrette, I thought it passed for appetizing.
Sidenote: My sister can go to many different restaurants and order a salad because it sounds "good" to her. She LOVES Cheesecake Factory’s Santa Fe Salad. It’s what she looks forward to every time she comes to visit me in Dallas. I will NEVER be one of those people who thinks a salad sounds good. I will always be the girl who thinks fries, or onion rings, or sautéed dog food sound better than a salad. End of digression.
So I had my salad ready to go. I was so super proud of it. I snapped pictures [see super proud picture below] and sent them to my mom and dad and my sister. My mom and my sister were really proud of me and very encouraging. Realizing how odd it was for me to be having a salad, my dad asked me, “Why are you eating that? Are you hoping your tastebuds have changed?” So I told him about how I was trying to eat healthier and make myself try to eat better foods, and proceeded with eating the salad. Here’s how it went.
First bite: [slight gagging, but keeping it down] Oh my gosh. The stems...I’m dying. Ok, I taste the strawberries. Sweet. The cheese. Salty. I can do this. Just swallow it. [swallowed]
Second bite: [chewing slowly, feeling proud] I’ve got this. The stems are REALLY disturbing. The taste isn’t bad. It’s kind of sweet. Pairing it with cheese and nuts seems to be working.
Third bite: [a little more gagging, but I’ve got this] Why can’t I just eat this salad?! If I can learn to eat a basic salad, my meal options would be so much more broad. Ugh...I want fries.
Fourth bite: I will finish this salad, and I will make it again tomorrow and try it again.
Fifth bite: These leaves are huge. The stems are 20 feet long. I can feel myself choking. Focus on the sweet and salty.
Sixth bite: [gagging] Oh gosh. It’s coming up. Swallow it back down, Rachel! Nope...ok, keep chewing. Nope...ok, it’s coming back up. Annnnnd I’m done with the salad.
So I told myself I was going to make it again the next night and try it again, but I had plans with my cousins and did something else for dinner. Needless to say, I didn’t have the salad for the rest of the week, but I am continuing to put it in my breakfast smoothies. I managed to finish a 16 oz bag off, and I bought baby spinach yesterday in the hopes that maybe smaller leaves would be more manageable.
While there was nothing magical in spinach to keep me from hurling it back up, I don’t want to give myself a hard time for not eating the salad again because I know I will. I said I wanted to make myself eat vegetables, and I am. I’m just eating them in a fruit smoothie for right now.