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Miss Manners: Picky eater tired of being picked on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a picky eater. I like some foods; I hate some foods; some foods make me sick even to consider eating. I am an adult and eat what I like.

I have been trying new things and learning about cooking to try to change my tastes, but change is slow.

My problem comes with my family. They are constantly harassing me about what I do and don’t eat. When we plan meals together, it is always, “what are you going to eat?”

I am never rude (in my opinion) when people make things I do not like, but it seems as though they still expect me to eat it, or give them a valid excuse (and not liking a food doesn’t count).

My mother-in-law once made a breakfast meal, put everything on the table and said, “Well, there must be something here you can eat.” She has gone so far into being insulted that one Thanksgiving she told me she wanted me to put a little bit of all the food on my plate and move it around, pretending that I ate some (which I feel is just wasteful and disingenuous).

I just want to be left alone. Why can’t I be allowed to decline food, for whatever reason, and not be made to feel bad or have it pointed out that it is yet another thing I don’t like?

GENTLE READER: You are. In polite society, no one is supposed to notice what is or is not eaten. It should not be the subject of conversation at all.

But we are not talking about polite society; we are talking about family.

Miss Manners hopes that yours does not badger its guests, but is acting out of desperation to please you after repeated failed attempts. Still, you must make them stop.

First, you should be complimenting the dishes you do like. Then you could show off your new cooking skills by inviting them, or by bringing a dish to share – as long as it is clear that you’re not bringing it only for yourself, or as an alternative to what is offered.

The point is not to engage in defending your eating habits, but to appreciate their efforts and make some effort of your own.