Stand Picky, Stand Proud: Lucianovic Demystifies Picky Eating In New Book

BlogHer Original Post

In her first book, Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, Stephanie Lucianovic combines plenty of research, a healthy dose of science, and her own memories of growing up as a picky eater to present a thoroughly entertaining, thoughtful look at why people do and do not like to eat certain foods. The book was a revelation to me, since I'll admit I eat almost everything (or, at least, I'll try just about anything once...), and I have never understood how someone could exist in an alternate taste reality.

I recall my friend's brother, who would eat nothing but hamburgers and French fries, no matter what restaurant his parents took him to as a kid. I think of my one vegetarian friend who cannot stomach mushrooms, and the other who can't tolerate eggplant, and my sadness for their inevitable difficulties at banquet meals. I consider my Southern friend who refuses to eat any vegetable that has more than seven letters in its name (he's fine with peas and corn, of course). Now that I've read Stephanie's book, I understand all of them just a little bit better.

She is currently on a reading tour in support of the book, and fans (myself included—I should fully disclose here that Stephanie and I are friends, and her husband and I attended high school together) packed San Francisco's Omnivore Books On Food for her first area appearance in support of the book.

Stephanie Lucianovic reads at Omnivore Books in San Francisco

I had the opportunity recently to ask Stephanie some questions about picky eating, Suffering Succotash, and how blogging prepared her to write her book. Please read on to learn more!

Suffering Succotash Cover

Genie Gratto: How do you define the difference between picky eating and, you know, just not liking things?

Stephanie Lucianovic: Personally, I don't think there's a huge difference between picky eating and just not liking things, because it's all about just not liking things. However, I think the popular/anecdotal idea of being a picky eater hinges on just how many things you don't like and can't eat as a result. As to what the magic number that turns you from someone who has dislikes to someone who is dubbed "picky" actually is, I'm still trying to figure out. (As are the scientists and psychologists who define picky eating as a state where the number of things you don't eat is so great that it has a negative impact on your health and social life.)

Additionally, it may not be about the quantity of things you dislike and more about disliking the "wrong" things, the things that most people seem to like or at least don't seem to actively dislike. That's when the eaters shove the picky in the, "I can't believe you don't like [insert commonly eaten food here]! What's WRONG with you?!" group.

GG: You give a great deal of advice in the book—much of it funny, but all of it also extremely helpful. How much of the advice did you develop via experimenting on yourself, and how much of it came from your conversations with other picky eaters?

SL: I'd say that the majority of my advice in the book comes from taking a good long look my past and analyzing what exactly got me eating the foods I used to avoid. However, it's also true that by interviewing other recovering picky eaters—as I call them—and learning what they have done to overcome their food aversions, I realized that I had done some of the same things. It's safe to say that except for the clinical advice I got from scientists and experienced psychologists like Dr. Nancy Zucker, the director of Duke's Center for Eating Disorders, all the advice I give in the book was tried out by yours truly.

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