I just re-read Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking over the 4th of July holiday. I've long loved Colwin's effortless prose and easy way of writing about simple cooking, but this time around I perked up at her discussion of feeding fussy eaters. Maybe this is because I was around extended family all week, maybe it's because more and more of our friends seem to be discovering food allergies or aversions. Regardless, it got me thinking about how difficult it is to cook a meal that pleases everyone.
At first thought, it seems an odd question seeing that "picky" isn't so much an all-encompassing broad category. People are usually picky about specific things. Maybe they don't like their food touching or won't eat saturated fat. But in general, fussy eaters wouldn't be drawn to overly spicy foods or foods with many layers of flavor or textures. Laurie Colwin says, "the restrictions, fads, diets, notions, and phobias people have about food are truly endless." So what is one to do when hosting them?
I feel strongly that you should try to accomodate your guests but you also shouldn't drive yourself crazy. Remember, a dinner party should be fun. That being said, I do ask about allergies or food issues before we have people over.
But when all is said and done, there will always be picky eaters, whether they're fussy teenagers or distant cousins who seem to survive on Jell-O and Doritos. Colwin says her go-to dishes for potentially fussy eaters are fruit salad and a simple Bibb lettuce salad. Not many people, she claims, are allergic to fruit or Bibb lettuce and you can dress both up to appear a bit more special than they really are. She also recommends a simple boiled chicken dish with a chicken gravy. Obviously this wouldn't work for vegetarians, but it's relatively benign and universally appealing.
What do you serve fussy or picky eaters who are coming over for dinner?
Here are 10 recipes inspired by Colwin's picks for simple, feed-everyone recipes. These aren't calibrated so much for food allergies, but instead for the truly picky eaters (toddlers, pizza-loving teenagers) — no huge flavors, no spicy sauces, just plain good homemade food. Sweet and simple!
10 Recipes for Picky Eaters
- How to Cook Moist & Tender Chicken Breasts Every Time
Plain chicken, simply cooked, works for even the pickiest of eaters. I am especially thinking of young children with tender palates. A plate of chicken and plain rice is a great nourishing meal for the fussiest toddler.
- Hainanese Chicken With Rice
A slightly dressed up version of plain chicken — this delicious chicken and rice is comforting and nourishing, with spicy sauce or without.
- Lemon and Honey Fruit Salad
Plain, basic, yet always delicious fruit salad.
- How To Make a Better Side Salad
As Colwin says, a simple side salad suits nearly everyone. Here's how to make your salads stand out.
- One-Bowl Microwave Macaroni and Cheese
A cheesy bowl of mac and cheese pleases many of the pickiest eaters. But at least it doesn't come out of a box!
- Homemade Thin Crust Pizza
Who doesn't like pizza? This crust doesn't need any time to rise — whip it up and you'll have pizza!
- How To Make Fried Rice
Fried rice might be a bit of a stretch for some picky eaters, but others love it.
- Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Soup
Even picky eaters who turn their noses up at "green stuff" fall for this cheesy classic soup.
- How to Make Calzones (And Freeze Them for Later!)
Calzones are such a hit with teenagers! My brothers went wild for these during their high school years.
- 4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars
A dessert or snack that nearly everyone can eat (and love) - gluten-free, banana-laden chewy oat bars.
(Image: Faith Durand)