The vegetable kingdom

A while back I was going through the checkout line in the grocery store (Yes, we Big Time Authors do our own shopping. We also stand in line in the post office, when we can’t bully someone else into doing it, clean the toilet before the cleaning lady comes, and change our own smoke alarm batteries. I once answered the phone and heard a long pause, which normally means a telemarketer but before I could put it down the woman on the other end squeaked, “Is that Laurie King? Oh! I didn’t think you’d answer your own telephone!” Yeah, well, the butler was off clearing the drains.)

So there I was in the checkout line, with my usual mountain of veggies and fruits, and the girl working the register commented, “I don’t eat vegetables.” I think what she was really commenting on was that she’d had to look up the price codes for three of my purchases, indicating that organic fennel, purple cauliflower, and red carrots did not come before her on an hourly basis.

I laughed politely at her remark, figuring she’d meant, “I don’t eat weird vegetables,” which is fair enough, unless she’s sitting down at my table in which case she eats the damned weird vegetables. But the bagger said something about not liking vegetables either, and the conversation escalated, and it turned out that she meant it, she didn’t eat vegetables, period. And not much fruit, either.

I could only stare at her. She might as well have said, “I don’t breathe oxygen.”

Why would you not want to eat vegetables? Meat (or some variation thereof) is fine and the rice/pasta/potato slot on the plate is always the place for some interesting variations (remind me one day to tell you about polenta with gorgonzola and pecans) but the heart of a dinner lies in what is done with the vegetable kingdom. Shall I roast that purple cauliflower? What about that dinosaur kale I found? No, the colors of the other things are dark, we need something bright—how about if I stir fry those yellow patty-pans with red peppers?

I’m lucky, I know. I live in an area with farmer’s markets scattered around pretty much every day of the week. An area where the grocery store stocks baby summer squashes and Persian cucumbers, and organic strawberries almost year around and occasionally ventures into lemon grass and plantains…

Dinner time. I wonder what’s in in the vegetable bin?

Comments

  1. Potatoes are my favourite—I’ve never met a potato recipe that wasn’t delicious. Currently, my favourite dish is mashed potatoes (with the skins still on) mixed with shallots, garlic, steamed spinach, cooked mushroom slices, and chopped pecans. Yummy!

    I enjoy vegetables, but not being a very experienced or inspired cook, I eat the same dozen or so veggies all the time. My dad’s much worse, though—until I was twenty, we either had broccoli or a salad as the veggie portion of every meal at his house. I am not exaggerating. Did I mention that broccoli has always been my least favourite veggie?

    In the past couple of years, asparagus and green beans have occasionally appeared on my father’s table.

  2. I teach a non-majors college biology course and, in the second semester, we focus on human biology. The nutrition unit is my personal favorite; it’s when I force students to admit (via a “nutrition diary”) that they don’t eat fruits or veggies, either. This year, I had them read an article that summed up healthy eating with this simple mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (By “Eat food”, the author was specifying that anything we put in our mouths should be recognizable by our great-grandparents as food; the other test is that it have no more than 5 ingredients, all of which can be pronounced by the average human).

    Laurie, I envy you your produce choices and cooking know-how. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, I’m working on eating more seasonally and locally. Fortunately, I’ve been emphasizing the plant kingdom for quite a while; now I just need to learn more quick and easy ways to prepare new things. Oh — without the red peppers, though; they don’t like me very much.

    Maybe we could add a “favorite recipes” forum to the VBC? Because I’d love to hear about the polenta with gorgonzola and pecans . . .

  3. AV Miracle is dangerous. This year I planted half a package of kale in January, thinking that since I live in north Florida, I’d have about four months of kale before it bolted and I had to turn the rows over. It’s July, I’m really tired of kale, I have frozen kale filling odd corners in my freezer, and it still hasn’t bolted. No matter what I do, it keeps producing. Nothing eats it, including my neighbors. Nothing discourages it. I can’t just destroy it. Sigh. We have truck farmers who set up their tailgate produce displays in vacant lots, so I usually come home with bags of things I never planned on, but even seeing what farmers are charging for kale doesn’t help.

  4. corgimom says:

    Food foul! “remind me one day” sort of delay does not work after you bandy about terms such as “gorgonzola,” “pecans” and “polenta,” just fyi. Our home is also full of veggies and fruits and I’m happy that my 2.5-year-old can request tofu with hummus for dinner knowing that we have plenty of each in the fridge. I do not function well on any level without lots of fresh plants in my diet.
    Will try not to envy your farmer’s markets…

  5. Hey, corgimom! Hope all is well in the Land of Enchantment. I second the motion about the “remind me one day.” Teasing is one thing; torture, quite another.

    Good for you on the tofu and hummus front. I have to admit that I was much worse food-wise when my daughter was that age. I redeemed myself, though, by turning steamed broccoli and brown rice into a major dinner fave when it was just the two of us. I’d make up a huge batch (well seasoned with butter, I’m afraid), grab two spoons, set the bowl up on one of her kiddie chairs, and we’d go at it — sitting on the floor and chatting, and strategically positioning ourselves to be able to nab the last bite.

    Good times!

  6. RnwySunday says:

    *drools uncontrollably*

    Oops, sorry about that!

    *reaches for paper towels*

    Um, could you tell us about the polenta with gorgonzola & pecans now, please??

  7. riobonito says:

    Reading your blog made me remember living in Monterey County, (next door to Santa Cruz County, where Laurie lives). How the fragrance of broccoli and cauliflower would saturate the air. I remember in our wanderings, coming across a field of onions that had been pulled and left to dry/season in the field before being hauled away. I was having PMS, which for me, besides the crabby part, made me crave all things garlic and onions. It was the only time I wanted to stop the car and steal something that wasn’t mind to take (I didn’t). For those not so blessed, you can drive by green onions growing in the fields too and strawberries. It is heavenly.

  8. denisen says:

    Polenta with gorgonzola AND pecans? Maybe can we have some nice sliced pear on the side? That’s just not fair, food references at nearly 5 and here I am stuck in the office with nothing but a machine full of Very Oldy and Moldy candybars to keep company. Sigh . . .

    Anyways – grew up in Morgan Hill down your way. Laurie, do you ever make it to Grzich Farms (or some similar name) down there and pick up one of their unbelievably scrumptious apple pies? If you haven’t, you might consider making your way over there some time soon. Our neighbor’s apple tree has begun to drop its small, red-tinged treats over the fence into our yard, and that tells me apple pie season is coming soon.

    Am loving your mutterings, btw – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

    Denisen

    P.S. – Please send your butler our butler’s fond regards. He’s off scrubbing the loo (that is, before the housecleaner comes) and can’t come to the computer. Hahaha!

  9. mspeed44 says:

    I teach a college level nutrition course. In 20 years I have seen horrific declines in what students eat! As an assignment, we require that students eat at least 8 different foods on one day. When studying vitamins and minerals, many never eat any foods other than meats and breads. And they are surprised that they do not get all they need from their limited diet!! So—I am sure your grocery workers were telling the truth–they do not eat vegetables unless its a potato. True fact–Americans get more vitamin C from potatoes than any other food–and a potato is not a real good source of vitamin C!

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