Growing up, I hated vegetables. My Mother had a garden and I remember picking peppers, squash and peas – but by the time they were cooked and served, I had no interest in them. When forced to eat vegetables, I would pinch my nose and chew and swallow as quickly as I could.
I think some of this came from any child’s natural pickiness about food, but another major factor was that vegetables simply couldn’t compete with the cookies, chips and soda that I would surreptitiously eat all day long. And lastly, I would venture to guess that my exposure to public school cafeteria food created a lasting impression of disgust (who ever thought that ‘creamed spinach’ would be appealing when ladled out of vats onto small plastic dishes?).
Over the past four years I have changed my mind so completely on this point, that if now I don’t manage to have a least one large helping of vegetables during the day, I don’t feel satisfied. I have them fresh and frozen, raw and in soup, stir fries and salads – just can’t get enough. The produce section has become my favorite part of any supermarket, and it’s the first place I go when I visit Whole Foods or Trader Joes, even when I’m shopping for other items. The more I began to experiment with healthy eating, the more I came to crave fresh squash, peppers, peas – well, all of the things my Mother used to grow.
But there are many times I feel as though the rest of society were still back in the 1960s of my youth – where vegetables are a ‘necessary evil’ to be tolerated only when cooked in oil, slathered in butter, masked in sauces, or hidden in pasta. It’s a shame, too, because with the rise of the organic movement, and with an overall renewal of interest in healthfood, there are more and better vegetables available to more people than ever.
At my office, I have tried in vain to advocate for the inclusion of healthy fruits and vegetables in our many, many food events. But like little kids, my adult office mates strongly prefer ice cream, pizza, cookies, candy and soda almost to exclusion. Recently, I approached my company’s general manager about including a fancy fruit basket in our upcoming year-end holiday party, explaining that good quality food would actually help the staff feel better. His response? He sent his secretary to my office to let me know that while the rest of the staff eats pizza, lasagna, rolls, ice cream and cookies, she is going to make a ‘special trip’ to Boston Market to buy me a ‘vegetarian alternative.’
I was too nonplussed to explain that I’m NOT a vegetarian. I just like fruits and vegetables. So I’ve decided that I’m going to BMOHF (bring my own healthy food) to the party and see if I can come up with the most visually pleasing, most aromatic and tastiest plate possible. I might not change any minds, but at least I won’t be eating junk food.
Vege-philians of the world, unite!