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Fish-Phobes: Can Love Be Learned?

This month, I have the great pleasure to coach two people at once: Jenny and Rob, a married couple with two young kids from Lancaster, PA.

September's Healthy Habit is eating more fish (at least two times per week), so don't you know it; I picked a couple who hates fish. Jenny grew up on a hog farm, and knows her way around the kitchen, but not with anything that swims. Rob grew up in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and though he grew up fishing. Their two young children have never tasted fish.

Jenny and Rob's doctor says they need to eat more fish, and they sincerely want to like it; so they've come to me to help make it palatable.

Here's what they don't like about fish: the smell, the texture, the taste. Uh boy. I needed something, anything redeeming about their fish experiences that we could build upon. Rob recalled having shrimp at a hibachi place "that wasn't bad", and eating shark once; Jenny remembered not hating tuna salad. These small pearls were a start.

Jenny and Rob were both given homework assignments for the week. Rob was asked to visit a local fish store, but not make any purchases. I wanted him to talk to the fishmonger, ask questions and learn. Rob suggested that in the past he'd made friends with other foods like broccoli through repeated exposure to them. We'd start with our eyes, and with a new advocate: the fishmonger.

Jenny's assignment was to make a list of five fish with which they had positive experiences. She already had tuna, and shrimp -- plus they're Caesar Salad lovers, so anchovies made it to the list. They also love soups and chowders, so it wasn't long before clams were on the list as well.

Jenny wanted to keep the fish choices economical, so I was glad that we came up with two canned options (clams and tuna), and an item that could be purchased frozen (shrimp), and thus more economically.

Once Jenny had her list of five, I asked her to take that list to the internet, and come up with a set of recipes they'd try this month. Here's Jenny's list. Simple, reasonable, and I can't wait to hear how it goes. Please, if you have fish-phobes at your table, follow along with us and let us know how this goes for you!

Eat like you mean it!

Allison

PS: I'm thrilled to report that although Jenny and Rob have not yet peeled a shrimp, they've already been rewarded for their goal-setting. Here's a note I just received from Jenny:

"...when our neighbors found out that we were taking on this challenge, they were really excited and said when we "graduate," we will celebrate by eating Chesapeake Blue Crabs and drinking wine coolers with them on their deck. They've always wanted to invite us but knew we didn't like fish or crabs. We can't wait to celebrate with them. It's our goal to get over our fish hang-ups and enjoy this special meal with them."

Simply by setting their intention to try and do this good healthy thing for themselves and their kids, Jenny and Rob have  been invited to a crab feast with their neighbors. I can't think of a better way to celebrate this accomplishment.

Here's to trying new foods and to celebrating with friends and neighbors!