I was grocery shopping this weekend – I lead a wild life – and the sales clerk, who was a woman in her early 30s, held up a leafy vegetable, needing me to identify it so she could punch in the code. It was kale, which she’d never heard of before.
"What do you DO with it?" she asked me, looking at it dubiously, this big clump of dark-green, heavily-veined plant stuff in her hands.
I told her that I was going to add it to a white bean soup and serve some of the rest as greens, which got me sort of a weird look.
A lot of people, I find, don’t eat greens – which is a weird looking sentence, when I look at it dispassionately. "Greens"? But I grew up having a wide variety of lightly boiled green leafy vegetables, generally tossed with some apple cider vinegar, since my mom loves vegetables tossed with apple cider vinegar and to me that’s just standard vegetables. Beet greens? Bring ’em on, I’ll eat them. Swiss chard? Dandelion greens? Gosh, I should be just bristling with obnoxious good health, all evidence to the contrary.
"I tried asparagus for the first time last weekend," said the friendly cashier, "and I really hated it. It was all mushy."
That sort of sentence fills me with despair because a lot of people are game enough to try new vegetables – although who has never eaten asparagus? Good grief. What do these people EAT? – but when they don’t have the basic cooking skills needed to prepare them in the proper way, the vegetables don’t even get a chance. I told the cashier that she should try roasting them and give them another chance, which earned me another dubious look. I was obviously a Weird Vegetable Lady, and I guess I’ll just have to hang out with my mom.
"Try this!" I’ll say, cheerily. "I found it growing in the barnyard! That smell? Oh, it’s APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, of course!"
I always worry that I’m going to become one of those deeply judgemental, gauntly pebble-skinned health food store types. We used to know tons of them when we lived in Small City, and I have the following story to illustrate exactly what I fear becoming:
The Girl was little and had fallen and the only thing, I say somewhat defensively, that would cheer her up was a bag of nacho chips. All righty. So we were sitting on a park bench and she was happily eating her chips when one of our scrawny, grey-faced acquaintances came over to chat.
"I just find it so cute that you guys don’t worry about what you eat!" she said.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH, shut up.
And at the same time, a LOT of people eat next to no vegetables, unless you really make a big argument for potatoes and canned corn and coleslaw. Vegetables aren’t even all that off-putting – it’s not like trying to develop a taste for offal or something – but people get into their supper ruts and the next thing you know, you’re 31 and you’ve never had asparagus, which is just SAD. There’s no reason for it – most vegetables cook quickly and there are many, many kid-friendly types out there and they ARE good for you, and developing a taste for vegetables will make you feel pleasantly self-righteous and virtuous. Yes, I am now a Vegetable Advocate, and I’m going to work my way through the alphabet of vegetables, starting with asparagus, since it was the vegetable that inspired my new mania – so today, my recipe site has how to steam, roast and slightly fancy-up asparagus and tomorrow will be B and so on, although I imagine I’ll run into some troubles with U. And X.
How about you? Does your family like trying new vegetables, or are your kids like my husband as a child, who would hide under the table if he realized that there were onions in his food? (he’s stopped doing that. Just fyi.) Do you have an unusual vegetable that you enjoy, or will I be sitting alone with my beet greens?