At UMass Amherst, there is no shortage of special dining occasions. I am in awe every time we have an "end of semester" dinner with bacon-wrapped scallops and steak, or a Halloween bash that includes a lobster tail for each student along with a bib. Alas, we may have the best food, but we also have some of the pickiest eaters. As I walk around the dinning hall with my Green Curry Tofu or Coconut Thai Mango Rice Pudding, I watch as kids pile plain pasta, corn and grilled chicken on to their plates. Day after day I wonder—how could you be surrounded by so many diverse options but stick to the same plain foods you could get anywhere?

One day, a thought popped into my head as I sat down with an old friend from high school. As we began to eat our meal, she had a look of happiness on her face and a light in her eyes. She handed me her phone and said, "This is a list of foods that I had never tried before, and finally ate this summer...I think you would like to see it." 

beer, coffee
Jenna Carellini

She told me that being at UMass exposed her to so many different types of cuisines, flavors and textures. She explained that once she started trying new foods, she just couldn't stop. She was amazed at everything she had been missing. 

As I read her list I saw a lot of "weary" foods like tofu, hard boiled eggs, and hummus, but I also saw foods like bacon, scrambled eggs, and avocado. I wondered how she could go all her life without foods that are staples in a non-picky eater's diet.

My picky eater of a friend was not only trying a variety of new foods, but also forming opinions and creating her own palette. "I did not like curry at all," she explained when I asked which foods she probably wouldn't eat again. On the other hand, some of the new foods she had recently tried for the first time are becoming staples in her diet. She now drinks almond milk daily instead of regular milk, and scrambled eggs went from a food she ate, to her new favorite breakfast.

I felt inspired. How amazing is it that a college student was able to leave nineteen years of pickiness behind, and redefine the way she eats? She had a newfound passion for food that was truly remarkable. 

To all the students who pile plain pasta and corn onto their plates day after day, I encourage you to try something new. It doesn't have to be all at once, but you could try one new food at a time. Take my friend as an example: If you don't get out of your comfort zone, you never know what foods you might end up loving.