This past weekend I was visiting some friends who come from Europe but are living in Canada for awhile. They had lots of interesting comments about our culture but one stuck with me in particular: Canadians are incredibly picky about their food. My friends talked about how in Europe when you invited a group over for dinner you would simply cook dinner and everyone would eat whatever it is you cooked - the very idea that you would turn down something the host was making or require them to adhere to your specific dietary needs was very strange. They found it hard to deal with the fact that any time they invited people over for food everyone would supply them with a list of things not to be served and sometimes they were hard pressed to be able to serve anything at all.
I sure know about that! I have several friends that I would love to invite over regularly but it is an extreme challenge to find a dish in my repertoire that they would be willing to eat. Ziggyny doesn't like vegetables or sauces so I think the only thing I make that he would willingly consume is fries and rice. (Maybe fried fish?) Snuggles is even more extreme in that he has a brutal set of food problems that include wheat, milk products, most beans, and at least a dozen more things. InTheHat only really hates tomatoes but since I put tomatoes in virtually every dish I would have to get creative to serve him anything he would enjoy. Of course I have to accommodate my own dislike of cheese and Wendy's dislike of pork and bird too... This whole mess is the reason I decided to try to suppress my cheese hatred and learn to like the wretched stuff but that has been an utter failure. Normally I am very strong willed when it comes to food and drink but I have been utterly unable to keep to a cheese eating regimen. The crazy thing is this is all entirely aside from having to consider somebody being vegetarian, on a diet or *shudder* eating within the confines of the 100 mile local food regimen.
I suspect this wild proliferation of food constraints is largely the result of wealth. If I was a subsistence farmer and beets were what my family grew I would damn well eat beets no matter how much I hated them. I despise cheese but I would get over it if the alternative was going hungry. Clearly if you go back a number of years everybody was on the 100 mile diet but these days it is something to do if you have a very strong desire to eat potatoes all winter and a lot of money to spend at higher end food stores. We also can actually diagnose food problems these days so instead of people simply being sick all the time or dead they discover their food allergies or sensitivities and avoid foods instead. This is easy to see in daycares as they have strict rules banning bringing in *any* outside food and whole categories of food are banned from being served for one reason or another. As the proportion of our income devoted to food goes down and the amount of different options increases the ability for an average person to refuse to eat various things goes way up.
None of this explains why people in Europe would have so many less food issues though. In theory they have very similar circumstances to ourselves so the only thing I can think that would make the difference is culture. Perhaps the food being served is simply less variable so everyone is expected to eat the things everyone else cooks. It might also be that food pickiness is simply not tolerated and people that hate various things just have to suck it up because nobody will cater to them. It is hard to say. I will say though that I sure would have a lot more dinner parties if I could expect everyone to simply eat whatever I made with gusto... now I just need to learn to love cheese so I can return the favour. Blech.