Is Janey a picky eater, or an eater with strange tastes? Yes and no. In a lot of ways, she's the least picky of my three kids, and one of the least picky kids I know. She will try almost anything. Her tastes run far and wide. Some of her favorite foods---pesto with basil sauce, crushed tomatoes right out of the jar, salsa on its own, assorted vegetables in a tangy slaw in jars, General Gao's Chicken, fried rice, onions in any shape or form whatsoever, almonds, peanuts right out of the shell, oatmeal, sharp cheeses, the frosting off cupcakes, black raspberry ice cream, oyster crackers, Funonions, almost any kind of chips, strawberry milk, raisins, mayonaise from the jar, soy sauce right from the little packages, duck sauce, French bread---this list could go on for ages. What she doesn't eat is typical school lunch stuff, either packed or from the school---sandwiches, bagels, etc. Or anything not served at the exact temperature she likes---either cold from the fridge or freshly made hot. I think that's the biggest problem with lunches. Packed or from school, they are not cold or hot enough for her.
And that's why it's probably a combination. She's a food snob. We all are in our family, a little, within the limits of our budget. I'll never, ever forget William at age 3, trying some cheese he didn't like and saying "Is this cheese even ITALIAN?" We can get into a debate hours long, and often do, over which pizza place to get pizza from. One of our traditions at Christmas now is a cheese and cracker time, with the very best cheeses and crackers, the kind that the rest of the year you look at in the Whole Foods and say "Who in the world would pay $8 for a small box of crackers or $15 for a little piece of cheese?" The boys prefer that over many presents. Last year's tasting was probably one of the best family times we ever had. And we've spoiled our kids. By that, read TONY has spoiled our kids, and me. He'll often make 5 different dinners, so everyone has their absolute favorite. Janey has learned to gather up the ingredients for some of her favorite dinners and bring them to Tony, to give him the hint. But it's also her autism, in her complete refusal to eat anything that isn't up to her standards, and in her love of foods that are not foods meant to be eaten on their own. We don't let her eat mayonaise out of the jar or drink soy sauce like water, but she sure would. We do let her eat salsa on its own, because what is salsa really but a nice mix of vegetables? But she doesn't eat mainstream foods.
But Janey's teachers and aide and all the wonderful people at her school that worry about her and care for her were upset at how little she was eating during the day. I didn't want to put extra work on them, but they asked me if I could send in some foods Janey likes, for what she won't eat lunch, and I bought a big bag of things from the Shaws. None of them are lunch type foods, really, but now when she won't eat the lunch, she can have some almonds or whole wheat Ritz crackers or raisins. She would like it better if Tony showed up at lunchtime with some freshly made rice with chicken and onions, but that is not practical.
So maybe Janey's food issues are an autism thing, but one of those that is easier for us than it might be because we react to it. It's something I've often thought about. The hardest parts of autism for any family are the parts they don't understand---the parts that don't fit with their particular family dynamics or interests. Janey's food issues fit well with us. She has other traits that might seem like no big deal to another family, but do to us. It's all part of fitting the unusual person that autism creates into a life---fascinating, frustrating, interesting people who have autism.