An Essay after the Style of Montaigne:

Though I’m always game to try new foods—strange sea creatures boiled in wine, caviar on crackers, beef carpaccio—there’s a solid list of foods I cannot stand, and this makes me feel like a picky eater. Cooked tomatoes are one. A fresh garden tomato is one thing, mixed with avocado and sprinkled with lime juice or tossed in a green salad, but as soon as it’s heated some chemical change occurs, a break in flavor and texture that I literally cannot swallow—it makes me gag. This is especially true in soups. Tomato-based broths are horrible, but all the more horrible are those slimy bits of loose tomato flesh drifting in the minestrone or the tortilla soup. There are some circumstances where I can stand the flavor—pureed and drowned in basil or hot peppers—but the texture of a solid piece of cooked tomato is enough to make me spit it out.

What other foods do I hate? American cheese. Ketchup. Mayo or Miracle Whip. Sloppy joes. Pulled pork—or pulled chicken imitating pulled pork. Most steak. Meat in general when it’s the main dish, like a hunk of chicken breast or a slab of pork roast.

This makes me sound like I don’t even like eating. But I love eating. I love food. I love noodles: Japanese ramen or Italian pasta or chewy gnocchi. Artisan bread with the springy center and crackling crust. All varieties of Asian soup. I especially adore raw fish. I could eat sushi and salmon poke bowls for days and live happy. But give me a cheeseburger and I’ll spend most of the meal carefully scraping the cheese itself off with a pile of cheap napkins.

Despite being a picky eater, I’m a terrible cook. Actually, terrible’s the wrong word. I just don’t do it. My husband cooks in this family—enchiladas or white bean chicken chili or potstickers with homemade fried rice. He’s talented. Sometimes I dump frozen meatballs in a pot of store spaghetti sauce (semi-pureed and drowned in basil) and pour that all over some pasta. My husband likes that. He says I make good spaghetti. I say Classico© does. I mean, at least they put enough basil in their marinara sauce.

But I still pick out the chunks.