I just finished my lunch, a bowl of plain quinoa with some vegan butter. I am fully aware that this is the modern version of buttered noodles and I am completely at peace with that. I have eaten well more than my–well, who’s to say what a fare share is anyway–of plain or buttered noodles and rice.
It’s one of the more stereotypical autistic traits I have, the perfectly logical picky eater. My pickiness has rules, some very rigid, and it has always been that way. Here are a few of my rules:
No sauces at all, really, except for marinara in pasta or to dip garlic bread in (but it better be thick so it doesn’t seep into the bread and make it soggy). I’ve had a lifetime of special orders at restaurants and also a lifetime of disappointment when those orders are not followed and then I have to give or throw that food away, because I cannot put it in my mouth. Nobody wants to be around me in these situations, and I get it. I have to live with me all the time, but you tell me, how do you scrape mayonnaise off a bun or tomato slice? Howwwwww? *Side note re: tomatoes: They can be included on a sandwich, but I will pull them out and eat them separately. They just slide around and mush about in the sandwich.
No wet foods in general
Soup infuriates me, like its very existence as a food. It’s a perfectly good meal drowned in wet, be it water or a creamy whatever. I can handle a clear vegetable broth with some not-cooked-to-death vegetables, but they’ve got to be big pieces like in phở, that I can eat on their own and then drink the broth. And cereal? Does Guinness have a world record for fastest eating of cereal? I can use coconut or hempmilk (I used to drink 1% or skim when I drank dairy milk, because even 2% was thick and gross like glue), but then I have to eat the cereal before it gets soggy. Crunchy is key. Let me repeat: Crunchy is key. Obviously, there’s no dunking cookies or doughnuts for this guy.
No meats and cheeses together
(I’m vegan, so all these references will be to vegan versions.)
I can eat a burger and I can eat a grilled cheese sandwich, but I cannot eat a cheeseburger. No patty melts or any other sandwich that combines a meat and a cheese. I will pull the sausage or pepperoni off my pizza, but I can eat those things separately. The difference in consistency is simply too much for my mouth to handle.
Speaking of the vegan thing, I never did like meat. I ate the smallest, driest piece I could, and the more divorced it was from the animal the better–and could you bread and fry it, ’cause that would make it crunchy. No fat, no bones, no skin. It would seem to me that these bits would be objectively disgusting, but that’s not the way the world works. I started phasing out meat when I was 10, after I saw a video of how hot dogs were made, then by 12, all red meat was out, then I just whittled away at the things I would eat, as I could get away with it. I’ve been vegan since around 2006–vegetarianism and compassion for animals seems to be a common thread among people on the spectrum, so I’ll probably dig into that more.
Oh, and yes, if the different foods could possibly be all separate, that would be swell.
So yeah, I’m 47 and have not outgrown these issues, I think because they are so logical. Even my friend/coworker Natalie said, when she was telling me about some guy with really weird food issues, that mine at least make sense. It’s mostly about consistency. I also hate vinegar and fermented things like sauerkraut, but that’s maybe not relevant. Since I live with someone (he’s also vegan), we do lots of modular cooking, so we make components and then our final dishes look pretty different from each other. We make separate mini pizzas or taco bowls or a bunch of pasta components (pasta, vegetables in oil, a protein, and then he’ll add some other spices and cheese)–you get the idea. It’s very rare that we cook a thing that’s just the thing. It’s also rare that we cook for others or have others cook for us. Too much can go wrong, and I know the way we do things is different.
And it’s okay. I’m not very comfortable with the act of eating in front of others anyway. It’s an awkward thing, scooping up food and putting it in your mouth and chewing while sitting in close proximity to others. I can’t explain it, but it’s a very base, human thing to do. If I could pop some nutrient pills and chew chocolate gum I think I’d be fine, maybe enjoy a really crispy cookie or some popcorn now and then. Yeah, that sounds great.