I'm a picky eater. I was even worse when I was a kid, and Simon is too. Now I understand this to be an autism thing, and a range of smells, tastes, textures and appearances can turn a person off, not for any logical reason. Being made to feel like a terrible kid for this isn't constructive, nor is trying to make them gag down things they don't want to eat. This is another one of those things that I felt bad about for a lot of years, but I'm over it because I now understand I wasn't wired to deviate from what I liked. I try to be patient with Simon, and for the most part, he eats what he eats, even though it makes it hard to go out.
Thanksgiving growing up was almost always held at my grandparents' house. They had a small house on the west side of Cleveland, with I-71 literally in their back yard. The freeway was built after they moved in. I remember the distinct sound of it when I would stay there overnight. But as small as the house was, they managed to get my mom and her three sisters, the husbands and all the cousins in the basement, sitting around the ping pong table. They had a classic 60's rumpus room with a little bar, and my grandfather's drawing table, as he spent most of his post-war career working in a machine shop, drafting. I remember it was always cold, even though they had a little electric heater. It was always a relief to go back upstairs after, where us kids would be relegated to the shag carper floor while there was a football game on the gigantic console TV.
Being a picky eater, my grandmother always made me a hot dog, which I very much appreciated. My entire range consisted of cereal at breakfast (Fruit Loops were my favorite), PB&J and chips at lunch (I always hated the Fritos in the variety packs), and dinner ideally was Kraft dinner, hot dogs or hamburgers. I could go out anywhere that I could get a burger and fries. My mom did make a great many other things, and I hated them all. So to arrive at Thanksgiving dinner, with a table full of sides that I did not eat, other than mashed potatoes, I was grateful for the hot dog. I remember the canned cranberry sauce, too, in all of its can-shaped glory, even though I didn't eat it.
There was one problem though. By my memory, at least, I don't know that I ever objected to turkey. For all the things that I was forced to try, I don't think that was among them. So one year, in a rare instance of culinary courage, I ate it and I liked it. I never had a hot dog for Thanksgiving again. The even weirder thing is that I would eat pumpkin pie, but at some point in my teenage years, I couldn't even deal with the smell of it, and I avoid it to this day.
About 18 years ago I stopped eating red meat, largely because my cholesterol was out of control, so poultry has played an even bigger part in my still limited diet ever since. I love a good turkey burger, and Diana is a master at seasoning them from ground meat. I enjoy it in the form of deli meat, best with a slice of Swiss cheese and wrapped in foil and put in the oven on sourdough. Carved turkey really only comes two or three times at best, on the average year, and that's unfortunate but understandable, given that it's labor intensive.
I'm still a picky eater, though I eat more things. I very much get into food routines, also an autism thing as I understand it, but with a broader range of things. Just recently I started making chicken tikka masala and naan, and I think I might have the right idea to do it again and get it right. I get the same burrito bowl at the local Tex-Mex place, without all of the "good" things most people get, at least once a week. I get the same two dishes at the Epcot festivals all of the time. I'll get the same soup on cruises three nights in a row if they'll let me. It's just how I'm built.
But no hot dogs at Thanksgiving for me. Unfortunately, that isn't true for Simon, but every year we invite him to try the turkey. Just in case.