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When a picky-eater goes to Ireland

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When a picky-eater goes to Ireland

Photo by Ian Chapman

Photo by Ian Chapman

Photo by Ian Chapman

Photo by Ian Chapman

Katie McKenna, Writer

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For my entire K-12 schooling career I ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch – no jelly.  Just a peanut-butter sandwich, every single Monday through Friday, for thirteen years.

Most people found this to be pretty ludicrous behavior.  And then there were others, like my friend Nat, who also happened to bring a brown-bagged, peanut butter-sandwich to lunch every day.  Actually, I don’t know why I said others, because he was literally the only other person who did/would ever think of doing that.  I guess that’s why we were (are) friends; we accepted (accept) each others’ strange but definitively particular lunchtime choices.

As much as I’d always tried to keep my pickiness under the radar, never admitting to the jelly-less sandwich I’d carried until someone would, each year, notice in time, “Are you just…eating…peanut-butter…and bread? Isn’t that…dry? You don’t eat cereal with milk? You don’t put ketchup on your French fries? What do you mean you’ve never had toast? It is literally bread, toasted. You know that, right?”

People said these things as if I’d never thought about them before, but it was quite the opposite – I have spent way more time than any normal human thinking about the possibility of a PB&J just to stop the pleading, the interrogation, to put everyone at ease!

 How did I get this way? How does anyone? It all started when I decided I was going to be the most stubborn baby the universe had ever seen.  If I did not want it, I would not eat it.

My poor parents didn’t know where to turn.  They could have sentenced me to a year’s worth of time-outs and I would have rather done that than eat, God forbid, I don’t know, a carrot or something of that nature.  I wasn’t ready to compromise my decidedly particular and unusual dietary lifestyle.

That’s sometimes the way things go with introverted little ones: We need time to get used to things, and once we finally do get used to the idea of something, it’s hard for us to imagine trying something new, because it is a real process of observing and understanding and trying to see the details of every little thing around us.

Fast-forward fifteen years later as I made my decision to go live in a totally different place for five months without my beloved pop-tarts, turkey sandwiches, and most importantly, the picky eater’s shrine and ruling God: peanut butter.

So, when it came to packing, my one – surprisingly light enough – suitcase contained the following: a few outfits, a rain jacket, assorted shoes, a camera, some converters, and the biggest jar of Skippy that anyone in Ireland would ever witness with their own eyes.

Upon seeing the size of it, my roommate Orla told me “You’re mad for peanut butter!” and at first I was a little defensive, because when anyone tells me anything about myself, my automatic reaction is, “No I’m not!” because my automatic reaction to almost anything is “No” because I’m essentially scared of anything or anyone that isn’t my own mother.

I then realized how irrational I was being: PB and I had been together for every single school lunch of my life –if that isn’t true love and dedication, then I’m not sure what is.  I was, and am, and always will be, mad for peanut butter.

When we went on weekend trips I’d throw a PB sandwich in my backpack just in case.  I lived off of pretzels in Germany, pub food in London, croissants in Paris, pizza and pasta (and gelato, lots of gelato) in Italy, and in Spain managed to find a Dunkin’ Donuts on what seemed like almost every street corner.  McDonald’s was another safe bet.  Don’t feel like trying haggis in Scotland? No worries; your happy meal awaits.

 It wasn’t that I didn’t want the “full experience” because I did want to experience every place in its truest and most genuine form, but I also didn’t want to compromise my own likes and dislikes just to say that I ate a supposedly gourmet bite of snail.

Traveling creates a lot of pressure to try new things, and I guess I just think it’s important to try the things that you’re interested in – and not to feel guilty about neglecting an opportunity just because it’s there.

 A writer named Katie Heaney once said, “The problem with being neither adventurous nor reclusive is that you want friends, but you wouldn’t want them to do anything you wouldn’t do.  But you wouldn’t do anything.” And that’s sort of the way I feel about traveling – I want to go and see everything, but I am uninterested in the new foods, the must-see sites, the guided tours and the entry fees.  I don’t want to really do anything.  I just want to be there.

 I realized there was nothing wrong with walking around and seeing each city on my own terms, as if I were really living there, rather than trying to see everything I was supposed to see, trying everything I was supposed to try.

 And I guess you could say that’s how I ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich for thirteen straight years, but I don’t regret it – not one bite.

Katie McKenna studied abroad at the National University of Ireland, Galway last spring. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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When a picky-eater goes to Ireland