Ode to vegetables

How do I love vegetables? Let me count the ways…
OK, no counting, but I do love veggies. And I’m sure the foundation for this veggie-love came from the fact that my mother started feeding them to me before the time that I can remember. And she did it in a way that didn’t scar me for life:
  • She let me eat my salad with my fingers when I was very young, since I had trouble maneuvering lettuce onto a fork (I also ate it dressingless until I figured out the fork thing). 
  • I loved broccoli, but hated the texture of the cooked florets, so she always traded me her stems for my florets. 
  • I didn’t warm to tomatoes for years, but she still had me try one occasionally, just to see. 
  • I loathed green bell peppers (I still am not crazy about them), so when she made stuffed peppers for dinner, she let me pass on the peppers and instead baked me a little ramekin of the stuffing.
  • She made radish roses. What’s funner to eat than that?
  • She made sweet potatoes, baked and served in the skin with a bit of butter (no marshmallows…those were for s’mores only). I loved them then, and they are still a dietary staple today.
  • Mushrooms! She loved them, and so did I, from the get-go (my father told me once that he refused to eat mushrooms until after he met my mom).
  • She had at least a small backyard veggie garden everywhere we lived (and her mother had one of the best veggie gardens EVER). I think even a picky eater could benefit from seeing that veggies don’t just come from the supermarket.
So envision, if you will, how badly I gnashed my teeth when I read about a pair of Seattle-area siblings (ages 11 and 12) who were being encouraged to “try” salad and “taste” broccoli. (The article, “Parents stand between kids and junk food,” is part of the package of articles that I mentioned yesterday.) Now, I’m not passing judgement, because we’re all at where we are at, and I applaud any effort a parent makes to improve their family’s diet. Besides, better late than never. But it’s probably no surprise that if kids start out eating processed junk, vegetables (and fruit to a lesser degree) are going to be a harder and harder sell as the months and years tick by.
Are you watching Food Revolution? Two episodes ago, Jamie set out to help a single dad and his two sons learn to cook simple, healthy food for themselves. They had been eating fast food meals eight or nine times a week. To help them appreciate the magnitude of crap they were “fueling” their bodies with, Jamie’s team filled their house with a year’s worth of this food. Below, the “before” picture.
This scene is NOT pretty. However, in last week’s episode, dad + sons surprised Jamie by filling the house FULL of gorgeous, colorful veggies (not to mention the veggie and herb plants they started growing out front in containers). So pretty, and it made me drool. And they were so proud of the beautiful, healthy meals they were making, I actually shed tears. I wish I could find a photo of it, but alas, no. Needless to say, the above photo makes me feel a touch queasy.
With summer actually on the horizon here in Seattle, with all the promise of backyard veggies and farmers’ markets full-to-bursting, I’m perusing my cookbook shelves and pulling out volumes that particularly celebrate the vegetable. When it comes to garden-fresh produce and healthy food for all, one of the first people who comes to mind is Alice Waters, naturally. I think the title of this book says it all:
When you buy the best quality whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods that you can afford, then prepare them simply, you can eat well (and by well I mean deliciously and nutritiously) without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Allegedly, Alice Waters once served a perfect peach for dessert to Julia child and Julia said to her, “Alice, that’s not cooking, it’s shopping.”
Finally, I’ll leave you with one method of getting your veggies that I absolutely do NOT endorse: