It's fairly common knowledge amongst my close friends and family that I'm a 'fussy eater', but I rarely even attempt to explain why. I don't choose to 'turn my nose up' at things, or refuse to try a new food because I'm being obstinate on purpose, believe me. In the past few years I've extended my palate and the range of food that I eat massively, but to this day I still struggle to even consider trying new things, or changing the way I eat.
My mental health and general anxiety are closely connected to the way I eat. I'm 100% an emotional eater, but it goes beyond just eating when I'm sad or happy or worried. There are certain foods I associate with happiness (watermelon and nachos, for example), and if I've had a bad day, then a 'normal' meal just won't suffice, and it might even end in tears because I haven't had one of my special meals that I associate with happiness.
This may all sound very strange, but it has a massive impact on the way I eat and what I choose to eat. Gradually over the past three years of our relationship my boyfriend and I have worked together to expand my idea of 'safe' and 'happy' foods, that I can eat to maintain a good mood, and I've started eating things I could never have imagined eating before. If you had asked me back in 2013 whether I would ever eat paella or sushi, I would have grimaced and replied with a firm 'nope', but now these, and other more adventurous foods, have a place in my diet.
It's not even just the content of the food that my anxiety impacts, but the way the food is presented and eaten as well. Meals with lots of different components (e.g. a roast with meat, potatoes, stuffing and several types of vegetable) take me forever to eat because I have to have a mouthful that contains the right proportion of each type of food. This involves me chopping everything up into the 'right' size before eating it, and I just can't imagine not doing that. This is possibly the most irritating aspect of my food anxiety - if you're eating with me I WILL take forever.
As well as this, if I'm cooking for myself the different foods on my plate cannot be touching or piled on top of each other, unless it's a dish that is designed to be like that, for example, paella. So, it actually takes a little longer to plate up, and god forbid if anyone smothers my food in a sauce I don't like.
New foods also pose quite a threat. It took two years of incessant persuasion for my boyfriend to even get me to try sushi, and then I discovered that I loved it ... whoops. This means that I'm *that* person that goes to a pizza restaurant and orders margarita, because I know I like it.
So, when Tilda Rice offered to send me some samples of their new rice and pulses pouches, I was more than a little nervous. They sent me: the chickpea, harissa and lemon pouch*; the pinto bean, green chili and lime pouch*; the edamame, spring onion and wasabi pouch*; the split pea, green chili and coriander pouch*; and the black bean, jerk and coconut pouch*. In essence, the pouches contain basmati rice with a sauce and a form of pulses.
Not only do some of the pouches contain new foods for me, but also everything was mixed. However, I had agreed to write this post, so I wanted (and needed) to push myself into trying to whip something enjoyable up out of these pouches of goodness.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't enjoy all of them too much - everyone has their favourite and least favourite flavours right? Well I don't like barbecue sauce (I know, I know, it's a crime), so jerk sauce never goes down very well with me. However, the chickpea, harissa and lemon pouch was utterly divine, and I would actually repurchase it for a nice easy lunch when I'm feeling a little lazy.
How did you overcome your food fears with them, I hear you ask? Well, for starters I didn't rush my sampling of them. I probably tried one every other day and decided not to put too much pressure on myself. If I didn't like it and couldn't finish it, that was fine, because I had put myself out on a limb to try it. I also ensured that I had something I knew I liked to accompany it. With some I made a little curry sauce and chicken, and with others I had homemade chunky pasta sauce. Combining familiar flavours with these new ones definitely made them a lot easier to handle.