Sophomore Zoe Bowlus opens her lunch—dried apricots, Parmesan cheese, crackers, peach yogurt, pomegranate seeds and almonds. For dinner she eats pasta with cheese or rice with cheese followed by a bowl of lentils, fruit and a glass of milk.
And that’s what Bowlus has for lunch and dinner every day.
“I really like the foods that I eat. Therefore, I don’t feel the need to try any other foods,” she said.
Bowlus’s eating habits would fit the definition of “food neophobia,” according to Dr. Myles Faith, associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina.
But most people, including Bowlus, just call it picky eating.
Bowlus said she sees no reason to try foods outside her comfort zone. She does not eat meat. She did try it once when she was little and didn’t like it.
Although vegetarians are not rare, Bowlus’s avoidance of pasta sauces, condiments and spices makes her stand out.
With her pasta, Bowlus eats only Monterey Jack cheese. With her rice it’s only Parmesan.
She also dislikes cake, ice cream, doughnuts and chocolate.
At Asian restaurants, she orders a bowl of plain white rice; at Mexican restaurants, she orders a cheese quesadilla. She never tries anything else on the menu.
Bowlus said she has eaten this way for as long as she can remember. She prefers to stick with plain food, feeling no need to add flavor to her meals. Her parents never forced her to eat their food because they ate a lot of foods which they could not ask a 2-year-old to eat, her mother said.
Kellie Whited, College Health and Nutrition teacher, taught a lesson for the Pre-K class on healthy eating habits at Country Day last year.
Whited said she recommends the “no, thank you bite,” which says it is all right for children not to eat all of their food as long as they try everything.
[pullquote align=”center” speaker=”Zoe Bowlus”]On the sophomore class trip I decided to go out of my comfort zone, so I ate a grilled cheese sandwich for the first time. I didn’t like it.[/pullquote]
“A lot of the parents have said that it has increased the amount of foods their children are willing to eat,” Whited said.
Zoe’s mother said that for her, meals need to be a time of family peace and happiness.
“I never really wanted to have conflict over food,” she said.
However, as Bowlus grew older, circumstances have made her more open to trying new foods.
“On the sophomore class trip I decided to go out of my comfort zone, so I ate a grilled cheese sandwich for the first time,” Bowlus said. “I didn’t like it.”
Bowlus used to refuse to eat pizza and macaroni and cheese. But gradually she has come to like both.
While grilled cheese and noodles are “exotic” for Bowlus, other students eagerly explore new foods, especially when they’re traveling.
Sophomore Elie Kuppermann has eaten oysters pulled right out of the water at a floating raft restaurant on a river in Brazil.
“The raw ones without the sauces were really disgusting. The baked ones were really good,” Kuppermann said.
In the Amazon, Kuppermann tried exotic fruits, piranha and an assortment of wild Amazonian berries.
Senior Savannah Symister has eaten escargot in France. “In the future I really want to try crocodile,” she said.
While in China, senior Connor Martin tried a thousand-year-old egg (a Chinese dish made by preserving a duck, chicken or quail egg in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls for several weeks), cow stomach, jellyfish, frog, veal brain and sweetbread (the thymus gland of a pig).
“Jellyfish is like a really firm gelatin, almost like cartilage. It didn’t have much taste of its own, but with the sauce it was pretty good. The thousand-year-old-egg tasted of sulfur, and I can’t stand the taste of sulfur,” Martin said.
If Martin sees an item on a menu that he hasn’t tried, he will order it to check it off his culinary “bucket list.”
“I watch a lot of cooking competitions where chef contestants are given bizarre foods to cook with, such as jellyfish and veal brain,” Martin said. “I just have to try them.
“What’s the worse that could happen? I may not like the taste, and that’s fine. At least I put an end to my curiosity.”
Junior Clare Fina ate alligator when she was in Florida.
“I tried bone marrow when I visited the restaurant in D.C. of one of the finalists on ‘Top Chef.’ It was very fattening and very rich,” Fina said.
But exotic foods can be found at home, too.
Symister sampled frog legs in Sacramento. And junior Melissa Vazquez tried a chocolate-covered cricket, which she said didn’t have a distinguishable taste, while she was at a chocolate store in downtown Sacramento with her friends.
“Trying new foods isn’t like cliff jumping,” Vazquez said.