Mr. Kuhn bites down on biggest fear with new Instagram account

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Mr. Kuhn bites down on biggest fear with new Instagram account

The @40yearoldfood Instagram account-- boldly entitled

The @40yearoldfood Instagram account-- boldly entitled "40 Year Old Food Virgin."

Jacob Casella

The @40yearoldfood Instagram account-- boldly entitled "40 Year Old Food Virgin."

Jacob Casella

Jacob Casella

The @40yearoldfood Instagram account-- boldly entitled "40 Year Old Food Virgin."

By Jacob Casella, Downers Grove South High School

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@40yearoldfood— an Instagram username that could mean many different things. Does this account belong to someone who hoards old food? Does it display fancy aged wines and cheeses? Or does the account belong to a man who is 40 and committed to facing his biggest fear?

In fact, the last option is correct. This account belongs to DGS English teacher, Zach Kuhn, a self-proclaimed “food virgin.”

Each video on the account is the same. A friend, coworker or student films Zach Kuhn trying a food he has never eaten. Zach Kuhn announces the food, and a reaction to said food is shown. After eating, Zach Kuhn ranks the food.

After receiving 395 followers since his first video on Oct. 23, Zach Kuhn has gained a cult-like following at DGS and was willing to explain his history with picky eating.

Zach Kuhn

Zach Kuhn has always been a picky eater but explains what truly prompted his food trauma.

“When I was a little kid, I ate a lot of different things, but when I was around four or five she [my mom] started to notice that I wouldn’t eat certain things. Then when I was maybe eight or nine my dad tried to force me to eat green beans and I tried to eat a couple of them, and [then] I threw up all over the table,” Zach Kuhn said.

After this, Zach Kuhn’s parents agreed to let their son eat what he wanted, after trying to break his habits for years.

“So after that point my mom and dad just said ‘he eats what he eats and we’re not going to worry about it,’” Zach Kuhn said.

Kuhn’s mother, Susan Kuhn, responded to Zach Kuhn’s story of picky eating.

“As a baby and toddler, he ate whatever I fed him. He was a very chunky baby – 9.4 pounds at birth. He was an extremely good-natured and pleasant child. [It was] around the time he was five years old when I noticed he started not liking anything green– peas, beans,” Susan Kuhn said.

Susan Kuhn further elaborated on this story.

“One instance that I recall clearly was when we had macaroni and cheese and peas. His father made him sit at the table long after dinner was over– he couldn’t get up until he finished his peas. Zach finally decided to try and proceeded to throw up everything on his plate. We decided it wasn’t worth his anguish,” Susan Kuhn said.

When asked about why he decided to start this Instagram account, Zach Kuhn explained that at 40 years old it was time for him to begin to face his fears.

“I’m 40 years old. It’s time to start trying new things that I haven’t tried before,” Zach Kuhn said.

In addition to facing his own fears, Zach Kuhn wanted to bring attention to how common picky eating is.

“I feel like a lot of kids are picky and a lot of people are picky and they don’t admit to it or are embarrassed by it. I’m not embarrassed that I’m picky but it is kind of embarrassing that I’ve never tried some of this stuff,” Zach Kuhn said.

Before starting his food journey, Zach Kuhn was limited in the foods he would eat.

“I like pizza. I’m a meat eater– I like meat and potatoes. I really like bread– things like that,” Zach Kuhn said.

But there were some foods that Zach Kuhn enjoyed that were unexpected– like octopus.

“I’ve eaten octopus a couple of times, I don’t know why, and I enjoyed it. I’ve had it a couple of times now and I love it,” Zach Kuhn said.

In addition to being a picky eater, Zach Kuhn was also a picky drinker. However, since all people have different tastes, picky eating can seem unpredictable.

“I’m not as bad with beverages. I’ll drink things that I won’t eat. I like orange juice or pineapple orange juice even though I’ve never eaten a pineapple or an orange,” Zach Kuhn said.

Since starting his account in the last month and a half, Zach Kuhn has tried 18 new foods as of the week before Thanksgiving.

Of the new foods Kuhn has tried, some he really enjoys.

“Of the foods I’ve tried, I liked mocha, the coffee, that was good. I was a fan of that, [and] I will drink that again. I tried almonds which I really liked. I’ve tried peanut M&M’s which were OK, good enough, and I think that’s basically it. Cashews, I would try cashews again, but I wouldn’t like to seek them out,” Zach Kuhn said.

He even incorporates some new foods into his daily diet.

“I actually have been eating almonds almost every day now, because they are healthy for me,” Zach Kuhn said.

After trying so many new foods, it may seem like Zach Kuhn has gotten over his fear completely. However, there are some foods that Kuhn will take a lot for Zach Kuhn to try.

“There are some foods that are gonna take a lot of subscribers– lots of subs– like ranch dressing, mayonnaise and macaroni and cheese. That’s gonna take high subs,” Zach Kuhn said.

In addition to just trying new foods, Zach Kuhn has a goal of getting ten-thousand “subscribers,” or followers on his account.

“We need subs. If we get to ten-thousand subs, I know it’s not actually called ‘subs.’ I know it’s not actually called ‘subs’ on Instagram, but if we can get to ten-thousand followers– we’ll just start trying wild stuff,” Zach Kuhn said.

Zach Kuhn plans to celebrate when he reaches this goal.

“I think if I get to ten-thousand subscribers… I will maybe put out a table of foods that I would never want to try– take macaroni and cheese, dip it in ranch dressing, then in mayonnaise, then just choke it down to get it over with,” Zach Kuhn said.

Alyssa D
Behind the scenes of Mr. Kuhn filming one of his Instagram videos with The Blueprint staff.

@40yearoldfood has been met with generally positive reactions.

Senior Daisja Honorable, who has Zach Kuhn as her AP Literature teacher, enjoys the account.

“I love his videos. They’re so funny, and I always look forward to seeing which food he’s trying for the first time,” Honorable said.

Honorable also explained that she herself is a picky eater and that his account has indeed brought light to the issue.

“I love the account. I’m super picky myself, but seeing all the foods he hasn’t tried makes me feel better about myself,” Honorable said.

Zach Kuhn student and senior Marley Jakubczak explained that she also enjoys his account.

“I think the videos are very funny. I’m definitely caught off guard by how many foods he has not tried,” Jakubczak said.

Jakubczak, among others, question if Zach Kuhn really has eaten these foods for the first time.

“In all honesty, sometimes I wonder how he hasn’t had some of the foods he says. For example, when he tried a cookie for the first time I genuinely questioned [his reliability],” Jakubczak said.

Zach Kuhn himself explained some of the questions he has gotten in response to his account.

“There are @40yearoldfood truthers who have said things like ‘we don’t believe you.’ There is a former student who is trying to prove that I have tried these things before,” Zach Kuhn said.

In fact, @40yearoldfood even posted a video sent in from one of the ‘truthers.’

But Zach Kuhn knows how to respond to the people who do not believe him.

“[The truthers have] failed so far because I have always said, if you want proof of my pickiness, all you need to do is come watch me eat,” Zach Kuhn said.

Zach Kuhn’s mother also commented on the validity of his account.

“As his mother, I know this issue is not fake news,” Susan Kuhn said.

Zach Kuhn’s mom also explained how she is proud of her son trying new foods.

“I am very proud of him, although it’s taken a little bit longer than I think it should, especially being the father of four children,” Susan Kuhn said.

In addition to positive reactions and laughs, other students like Honorable have mentioned to Zach Kuhn how his videos inspire them.

“I just had a kid come up to me just before I started talking to you who said, ‘I really like your account.’ He likes it because he wants to try new things. I have had a few students come up to me saying, ‘I’m going to try this,’” Zach Kuhn said.

Zach Kuhn wants to break the stigma tied to picky eating.

“People who are picky, like I am, always get picked on and made fun of. I want picky people to know that it’s not going to kill you if you try it, but also that there are lots of picky people,” Zach Kuhn said.

Picky eating is simply just a fear and everyone has different fears, according to Zach Kuhn.

“I’m not afraid of a lot of things that other people are– I’m not afraid of heights, I’ve been up high on ladders and scaffolding much of my life with my dad who was a construction worker. I’m not afraid of snakes or spiders,” Zach Kuhn said.

Zach Kuhn’s fears are different, but he wants his followers to know that they are still legitimate.

“I’m not afraid of a lot of stuff people are afraid of– but when you are afraid of something, the only way you can actually overcome it is by trying it. So for me, it was a banana. A banana was something that I never going to try was legitimately afraid to try it. I went for it and I’m never going to try it again, but I did it,” Zach Kuhn said.

Zach Kuhn believes all should face their fears– regardless of age and regardless of what that fear may be.

In the meantime, before Zach Kuhn gets his ten-thousand subscribers, he is open to suggestions for his account.

“I am obviously an Instagram newbie and I’m not a YouTuber. I don’t exactly know how this thing works, but I’m figuring it out and if you guys have ideas for how to improve it, you can comment in the comments [of my videos],” Zach Kuhn said.

This story was originally published on Blueprint on December 4, 2019.