I’ve always tried to be an adventurer, culinarily. In the spirit of Jeffrey Steingarten, I will try every food at least three times before finally rejecting it, and I’m usually open to further persuasion. I’m always rather amazed when someone professes to dislike something, or claims to be allergic in the hopes that they won’t be exposed to a particular food. Indeed, more than amazed, I am deeply suspicious and dismayed, as a lack of culinary adventurousness is a lack of character, in my opinion.
I like vegetables. I like fruit. I like a lot of “weird foods,” which I guess worked out well for my father when I was a child because he didn’t have to coax me into eating my vegetables. I would ask for Brussels sprouts as a treat, for Pete’s sake. I loved going to Chinatown and eating weird dumplings, or coming home to strange scents and mysterious substances. And I happen to be steaming some artichokes at the moment, since I adore artichokes and I noticed that they were on sale at Harvest when I was last there.
What is up with not liking vegetables? I mean, I literally cannot understand it. I don’t really fathom just dismissing an entire food like that, unilaterally saying “I don’t like eggplant” and refusing to eat any foods which contain said vegetable. Do people have traumatic experiences with vegetables which cause them to tremble in fear for the rest of their lives? Are people just really bad at cooking vegetables, thereby setting up generations of children who hate them?
It’s not just that vegetables are healthy. There are plenty of foods which are good for me that I don’t like, like kombucha, which causes me to vomit a little just thinking about it. (It’s one of the few exceptions to the “try three times” rule; the one time I tried that, er, fermented beverage, I vomited profusely for a day and even now I tremble when I smell it.)
It’s that vegetables are complex, flavorful, crunchy yet tender. They smell delicious when they cook and you can use them in a myriad of forms. Something an artichoke, which starts out fiercely bitter and spiny, turns out soft, delicate, scrumptious. How can you not be into the whole process of cooking and eating artichokes, of carefully teasing off leaves and then meticulously sucking all of their soft, tender flesh off? Of preparing dipping sauces which bring out all of the awesome flavors in the artichoke. The spines just add a sense of danger, I tell you!
Oh, sure, meat is exciting, and I like it, but nothing and I mean nothing compares to vegetables. They compose all that is perfect about human existence. I love the thought that early humans bred the vegetables we eat from wild plants, that after thousands of years of refinement, we have this amazing plethora of things to eat. I love gardening and watching vegetables grow, and seeing the amazing assortment of foods which can be made with common vegetable ingredients.
If there’s some vegetable you’ve been avoiding, I dare you to try it. Look up some ethnic recipes or something, break outside of the box, but don’t you dare give up on a delicious source of nutrition. Especially in the wintertime, when the numbers of available vegetables shrink dramatically; don’t waste your chances, kids!