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How to Survive a Romantic Vacation with an Absurdly Picky Eater

Oh look, we found a ramen place serving a vegetarian broth, awesome! Not so fast, it’s got mushrooms in it. Her five layers are not enough to keep her warm. She is hungry. You are hungry. You can’t find a restaurant. This is your fault.
February 13, 2016, 7:00pm

Your girlfriend doesn't eat any seafood. Nor does she eat any meat. Except bacon sometimes, or a bite of a burger, or a few pieces of steak. Mushrooms are not on the menu either. Even seaweed—nori, they call it—is out.

You are a selfish narcissist, so you insist on going on vacation in Japan, over the holidays, with someone like that. For someone with an above-average interest in food, you are vaingloriously stupid and do not realize that you are stepping into a culinary nightmare that borders on actual nightmare.


Japanese cuisine includes a lot of meat. And they are known to have a penchant for seafood. They've even developed more than a couple distinct styles of cuisine based specifically on individual preparations of these lovely pieces of flesh from the land and sea.

It is the land of plenty and you are there to eat. You're more masochist than narcissist. You are also a moron.

Amazing sushi? Forget it. Yakitori? On your own. But don't go on your own because this is OUR vacation. No, you should go. Really you should. I won't hold it against you. Oh look, we found a ramen place serving a vegetarian broth, awesome! Not so fast, it's got mushrooms in it. It's freezing out and your hands are cold. Her five layers are not enough to keep her warm. She is hungry. You are hungry. You can't find a restaurant. This is your fault. This is your fault. This is all your fault.

READ MORE: I Infiltrated the Online Community of Adult Picky Eaters

Stopping in a random restaurant is just not going to work. You tried that the first night. And the second. And the third, and then you learn that Japanese restaurant culture demands you make a reservation in advance and you obviously didn't know that and you are so, so dumb.

You get out your phone and turn to the internet for help. T-Mobile provides a free international data plan so your phone works, but she uses Sprint because she is from the South, or maybe the West Coast. It doesn't really matter, as she can't look anything up on her phone, so she is helpless. Your hands are cold, but you are not complaining. The Tokyo snow falls on the cracked screen of your Samsung. Even superior Korean technology is no match for a hungry, cold, sort-of-vegetarian girlfriend in Japan. You cruise Yelp and one-by-one provide her over 20 options where there is a good chance of a non-meat, non-seafood, non-mushroom-based vegetable meal. You finally find a Thai place that will seat you. The Thais have always been more relaxed about custom, you think, as you dig into some mediocre fried rice you could get in Brooklyn. She eats some vegetable curry, picking out the mushrooms, and resents you, and herself, because she thinks you think you are upset about the meal. Really you are just happy not to be talking and that she will soon be full and will apologize.

Photo via Flickr user Julian

Photo via Flickr user Julian

You later go to Kyoto. You tell your girlfriend that it is the birthplace of Shojin food, a Buddhist vegetarian type of cooking that's the godfather of Kaiseki cuisine. You may be right about some of that. You think you'll have a good shot at finding food she can eat. But it is winter, and the vegetables on offer are mostly root. And mushrooms. And most of the kaiseki restaurants are closed for the holiday. You eat in an Irish pub. She has French fries.

You fly home on Delta. You head to the lounge in Narita. She interrogates the Skyteam representative at the desk about why her dietary preference is not noted, and it's too soon before takeoff to get her a vegetarian meal. She even pulls out her phone, logs onto the club wi-fi, and shows her Skymiles account which clearly lists her meal preference. You slink away to the complimentary food station, thinking that you saw her changing that an hour ago back in the hotel. You stuff your fucking face with little chicken meatballs—tsukune, they call it—and make a heaping plate of the mushroom sushi rolls, and even grab a tuna sandwich. You reminisce about the times you were alone, eating sushi in a stand outside Tsukiji fish market, in a random hole-in-the-wall in Shibuya, at a stand-up counter in Tokyo Station. You board the plane home and binge watch all three of the Hobbit movies, and stuff yourself with the two meals and a snack provided. You do not get up from your window seat the entire time for fear of waking your girlfriend.

It is now 12 months later and you are still together. You recently went to a friend's wedding in Mexico. You're talking about going to a remote island in the Philippines. You're excited—you've heard great things about Filipino food.