One picky eater’s experience leads to book “Suffering Succotash”
Let’s be clear. Menlo Park resident Stephanie Lucianovic looks nothing like Sylvester the Cat, who’s known for exclaiming “suffering succotash.” But suffer succotash she did, along with just about every other vegetable on the planet, which she refused to eat until late in her 20s.
“I was so picky, I used to fear eating at people’s houses,” she says.
But today Stephanie eats and, in fact, loves — drum roll, please — okra, a vegetable on many people’s avoid-at-all-costs list. “I slice it and do a quick sauté,” she explains. “The slime disappears.”
She became a food writer and attended culinary school — a form of aversion therapy, she jokes — worked at Cowgirl Creamery at the Ferry Building, and did a stint on a Jacques Pépin’s cooking show. And then there is her book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate.
“I really wanted to talk about why some people continue being picky eaters into adulthood,” she says. “Why haven’t they grown out of it?”
While she used her own experiences as background, she did a tremendous amount of research for the book, talking to scientists and psychologists and others who could offer up studies — and opinions — on why people are picky about food. For some it’s texture, for others smell, taste, and even temperature. “One surprise,” she says, citing a Duke Medical School study, “there are a lot more picky adults than what the research team expected.”
Stephanie is quick to point out that there is a difference between having food preferences and being a picky eater. “Being picky impacts your life,” she says. “You avoid social gatherings, and your health can be impacted.
“I got over being picky by cooking food differently. I still don’t like steamed vegetables but will eat roast vegetables.
“My motto: ‘Eat food you like with the people you like.'”
Photo by Irene Searles