For the last year or so, Vincent has been very finnicky about pasta - specifically pasta sauce. I thought he was simply getting into the "fussy eater" stage, but truthfully, he's not a fussy eater. He still eats fish, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, beans, corn, etc, etc, etc. He loves ham and chicken, goes to town on pork chops or turkey, and can eat starch like it was his job.
Pasta, however, he will only eat white or with cheese (mac-n-cheese).
The last year, I just thought he was being picky, but it finally dawned on me that it's a very specific sensory response.
Tomatoes are naturally acidic. In fact, when Vince used to break out in facial rashes as a toddler, his pediatrician warned us to steer clear of tomato sauce, ketchup, etc because he suspected they were the culprits behind his pimpled cheeks. When we cut them out of the menu, Vince's skin cleared up pretty well. Never thought a thing of it again.
His visceral reaction (almost like fear) to the pasta sauce last night suddenly made sense. He kept insisting that the pasta "smelled bad." What he actually meant was it TASTED bad, and not so much that it tasted bad, but that it hurt.
For you and I, our sense of taste and smell are inextricably linked. The same is true for Vincent, only it's a heightened experience. Sometimes he confuses taste and smell as a result of this. Also, his grasp of language still isn't super developed, so he kept using the word bad to express his negative association.
The nerves in and around his mouth and face have been inflamed enough by pasta sauce to instinctively tell his brain the red stuff on the yummy stuff is a bad idea.
He loves pasta, he just doesn't like the sauce, and it's because the sauce causes an overload of sensation.
But he likes pizza! Pizza has sauce!
Yes, but it's also got a lot of cheese, and being a dairy product, it is a base which neutralizes the acidic content of the tomato sauce. Much like a hot wing contestant chugs milk to stave off ulcers, cheesy pizza helps buffer Vincent's mouth against an overwhelming sensation from the acidic tomatoes. He still gets a few bumps on his cheeks after pizza, especially if I don't clean his face right away, but he doesn't complain that his mouth or tongue hurt.
In short, I'm not going to try to force him to eat red sauce anymore because I finally realize why he shirks it so much. It never occurred to me that this was a problem before. Now his disdain for pasta, Hot Pockets, ketchup, and even barbacue sauce makes sense.
I wish I had realized this sooner. Would've prevented a lot of frustration for all of us, especially at family gatherings (given that we're Italian and we love our pasta sauce). So if your child is getting picky about certain foods, give some thought to the sensation that particular food type might pose. It might not be pickiness so much as a sensational challenge.