Daily Science Fiction recently published my first short story. In the style of a history textbook, it’s the story of a woman averting a diplomatic disaster through the power of picky eating and weird sandwiches:
The course of history and the fortunes of our country hinged not upon the whims of a single, ordinary woman but rather upon the extraordinary biology of her husband. Arnie Smith’s eldest child, Jonah, was born a mere six months after his first marriage. He went on to father another fourteen children before his first wife’s untimely death. There can be no doubt, then, that six weeks after her honeymoon, as she sat at that critical dinner, the second Mrs. Smith declined the Embiilid dishes for the sake of her child, which she nevertheless miscarried shortly thereafter.
The style is very different from most of my stories, but the themes are similar: epistemic injustice, gender, class, fatness, trauma.
At the time, I was thinking about how “picky eating” and “good taste” are socially constructed.
Many foods I grew up eating in a lower middle class* Midwestern town just absolutely would not fly on dining tables in the upper middle class West Coast town I live in now, and yet the diners here aren’t “picky.” They have good taste. They’re refined. They know more about food and nutrition than Midwestern diners–how else could the Midwest get so fat?–and so they do better.
Two people may have equally restrictive diets, but the worker/child/autistic/patient/POC/fatty is a picky eater, whereas the boss/adult/neurotypical/doctor/white/thin person has a refined palate.
Contrary to popular belief, your taste in food is morally neutral. Being open to a wider variety of tastes and textures doesn’t actually make you smarter, kinder, or more interesting. It’s mostly just a product of your environment.
*I really struggled with choosing class descriptors because no community is a monolith and everyone in America thinks they came from “nothing” and bootstrapped their way up to “comfortably middle class” (or will any minute now). The point is my community of origin is poorer, less educated, more rural, and fatter than the community I live in now.