I’m not eating that, it’s green. It must be off.
— No idea, but oft quoted by the male species in varying formats
Today’s ‘quote’ is not a quote per se, but if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard words like this come out of a male’s mouth, then I could retire from teaching and just focus on writing.
And the ‘quote’ suits my purpose for today’s post — a bit of a rant about vegetables, the cooking of vegetables, inclusion of vegetables in meals and kids (and adults) who ‘can’t’ eat vegetables.
As a child, my favourite meals were the ones that didn’t contain vegetables. At all other times I suffered through endless clumps of mashed potato, boiled potato, beans, peas, carrots and (shudder) cabbage. There was never any thought of refusing to eat what was in front of me; my mum could make me eat it, but she couldn’t make me like it.
A whole new world of vegetables opened up when I was in high school. Four years of Home Science (cooking) showed me boiling is not the only way to cook vegetables.
The subject of how to cook vegetables is the only time my grandmother and I differ:
‘They aren’t cooked properly.’
‘They’re still crunchy.’
I don’t like mushy vegetables; my grandmother doesn’t like them to still have texture and crunch. The generation gap when it comes to cooking styles is enormous in some ways.
It wasn’t until I left home and started being responsible for all of my own cooking that I decided that vegetables weren’t so bad. Sometimes I would only have vegetables — something my 10-year old self would never have believed.
There are still some vegetables I will not touch with a ten-foot pole:
♦ mushrooms of all varieties except shiitake and enoki
Shiitake have an amazing flavour and enoki tend to dissolve a bit and look like noodles. As far as I’m concerned, all other mushrooms are slimy little balls of dirt. I did go through a phase of eating them, but it was only to please my husband and keep up the pretence of liking mushrooms that came to be the first time he cooked for me — beef stroganoff. (Come on … I had to eat it. He’d gone to all that effort for me. It turned out to be a real rod for my back though … it was nearly 10 years before I finally said I didn’t like mushrooms.)
♦ boiled cabbage
I will quite happily eat raw cabbage, or stir-fried cabbage, but any vegetable that smells like a toilet while it is cooking is off my list.
♦ brussels sprouts
See above, the reason I won’t eat boiled cabbage. However, a couple of months ago I tried a recipe using stir-fried brussels sprouts, and quite enjoyed them to my great surprise.
♦ baked (roasted) carrot
I am fine with carrot done any other way, but roasting a carrot does something to it that I don’t like. This is the only vegetable I won’t even eat in front of my kids. I pick it out and leave it to the side, much to their great delight.
However, on the whole, I think vegetables are pretty cool. To paraphrase Jamie Oliver: I don’t eat them because I have to; I eat them because they are delicious.
Both of my children (she says proudly and with a certain amount of self-righteous head-nodding) eat a pretty good variety of vegetables. There are certain types they really don’t like: kale, celeriac, capsicum (my daughter), beans (my son); in general though, they will eat most of what I put in front of them.
Admittedly, there are shades of my own earlier attitudes here:
‘Do I have to eat that?’
‘I’m eating it, but I don’t like it.’
To the former, my response is usually ‘yes’ or, at the very least, a negotiation regarding how much they have to eat.
The latter was my son’s response once when he was eating a vegetable curry and I asked him if he liked it. I suspect he often thinks like this.
Here’s the thing I don’t understand: I ate the vegetables my mother put in front of me as a child; my own children eat vegetables … so, why do so many of my children’s friends say ‘I don’t eat vegetables,’ when they join us for a meal? What are they eating at home? How hard is it to get your child to eat vegetables?
Fair enough, they may not like one of the vegetables on offer … but all of them?
The funniest (and saddest) discussion I ever had was:
‘What are they?’
‘Oh, I don’t like potato.’
‘Do you like chips?’
‘Yes! Are there chips?’
‘No, but you do realise that chips are made from potato?’
I couldn’t help myself.
The non-vegetable-eating friends must hate coming here for a meal. Why? I make them eat the vegetables … some of them anyway. And, surprise-surprise, they don’t die after ingestion.
Maybe I am extremely lucky with my own children, but I really don’t understand the parents who say, ‘Little Johnny just won’t eat vegetables.’ Umm … who is the boss here?
Other parents say, ‘You’re so lucky you can get your kids to eat vegetables.’
Luck has nothing to do with it. Effort, perseverance and sheer bloody-mindedness have everything to do with it.
My daughter, at the age of 5-ish, started down the path of ‘all vegetables are yucky’. This is when the ‘special bowl of vegetables’ came out. This ‘special bowl’ was her own bowl of vegetables that had to be consumed before the rest of the meal (the yummier bit) appeared. As I write this, it sounds dreadful … but, she is not mentally scarred from the experience … and she now eats a really wide range of food that is good for her (and a whole stack of junk — she’s a teenager).
It would have been so easy to just give up and give in. I wonder what her eating habits would be like now if I had taken that path?
Maybe both of my kids would have grown up refusing to eat vegetables to ultimately turn into one of the many adults I know who leave their salad behind on the plate, refuse to eat green vegetables, or just ask for a side of chips (hold the veges) in a restaurant.
Speaking of restaurants — what is the deal with vegetables in the meals they serve? I have no facts and figures, but a quick mental run-through of menus I have perused of late show an extremely limited inclusion of vegetables. One or two types if you are lucky, and then you may be even luckier to actually find evidence of the vegetable in the meal.
Then there are the, often ‘posh’ (i.e. overpriced) restaurants that don’t include any vege at all in the main, but expect you to pay extra for a ‘side dish of seasonal vegetables’. A cost I fully expect many people don’t incur simply because they are happier not to have the vegetable option. Personally, I resent paying extra for something that should have been included in the main meal in the first place.
I realise I sound like a ranting vege-hugger, but my point is: unless you suffer from an allergy, there is no can’t when it comes to chowing down on vegetables. There is only won’t. For me, I am perfectly capable of eating boiled cabbage, roasted carrots, slimy mushrooms and poofy brussels sprouts — I just won’t.
Funny story to end with: the niece of a friend of mine had parents who were vegetarians. One day, she decided she wouldn’t eat the yummy (I know, because I’ve eaten with them) vege meals they prepared — not a mouthful. The only food that would pass her lips?
If that’s not a battle of wills between parent and child, I don’t know what is.
(And, yes, I believe they gave in for a while … she was very stubborn.)