colorful veggies

Eat Your Vegetables

Is it just me or have vegetables gotten exotic and sophisticated? I remember lima beans, corn, carrots, peas, spinach, and green beans as the basic vegetable servings. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is great that we have more choices, but at what cost?

I began thinking about how elite it is to have my designer vegetables flown in from Chili or South Africa. When people don’t have enough to eat across the world I am totally down with Mesclun field greens from Provence, a major uptick from the iceberg lettuce of my youth. Unless of course my Romaine is being recalled. Then it is back to iceberg for a week.

I noticed this when I moved to New York City. You don’t really grocery shop in Manhattan. If you have a big order you choose it (now online) and have it delivered to your door. The rest of the week you pick up items on the way home from the green grocer on the corner.

That is where I first saw kohlrabi, white asparagus, and Bok Choy. Why these veggies are considered more hip than collards or cabbage is a mystery when collards and cabbage have more flavor.  I understand ethnic foods for neighborhoods who prefer them. But now it seems mandatory that you serve unknown vegetables for guests or you risk looking like a culinary neophyte.

Then there is kale. I was once talked into eating kale chips with sesame seasoning and Himalayan salt. They were crisp. They were salty. They were like eating dried seaweed, something I would only do in a survival scenario (FYI: my local park ranger told me that all the seaweed in the Pacific Northwest is edible. By which he meant would not kill you if you could get and keep it down). I felt the same trepidation about the kale chips. They were, “meh”. A lot of work for an anticlimactic moment. Oh and by the way, if you ever eat kale chips in public do not smile. Itty-bitty dark green/black flakes of kale lodge in every crack of your mouth. Between your teeth, in the corner of your mouth, on your lips. Trust me, when you go home you will find yourself starring in the mirror at the poster child for a hillbilly dental clinic.

Oh and about that Himalayan salt. Really? An entire 1.5 billion dollar industry in pink salt, which has such small amounts of the beneficial minerals that you’d have to eat a small mountain of the stuff for any benefit. Which of course would kill you in water retention. But I guess you could ingest it with a vat of Marguerites. And while we are on it, specialty oils and vinegars, while tasting pretty darn good, are really an amazing indulgence. (My favorite is grapefruit balsamic.) I use the stuff, but I have guilt about it.

That brings me to the designer vegetables I am seeing at the organic stores and farmer’s markets. Cauliflower in an array of colors, yellow, pink, and this lime green broccoli called Romanesco which has geometric spires in a pattern that looks like op-art.

lime green broccoliBut these designer veggies only work if you are eating them raw. And the truth is I only like them with lots of butter and cheese. Because, yeah, I really like butter and cheese and not veggies. And how about the purple potatoes? They look rotten when they are cooked. So what was the point?

Maybe what we need to concentrate on is food sources for the entire world which have more nutrients and flavor not more curb appeal. Better soil, cleaner water, and cleaner air would be a great start.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to MenopauseShe hosts a local radio humor segment, “Baby Boomer Humor with Sassy Sally”.

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