Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eat Your Vegetables

I loved this video when I was a kid. There was something about watching carrots and beets being pulled from the ground and washed in that big farm sink that made me want to eat vegetables.

Until they were actually on my plate.

As my friends and family can attest, I am not a huge vegetable fan. My favorite food: Brown. My least favorite food: Green. The only vegetable I can claim to absolutely love is the potato. But we all know that's not ideal, and barely qualifies as a member of that food group. I offer the lame defense that I grew up in the 70s in a smallish town, where the vegetables available at the grocery were not exactly gourmet. The fresh produce at Safeway was pretty limited. I can remember being able to get iceberg lettuce, carrots, onions, potatoes, the rare avocado and artichoke, cabbage and really lousy tomatoes. Everything else came in the canned or frozen variety. Limp asparagus (which I actually liked a lot), LeSeuer (or Le Sewer) peas (BLEGH), "French Cut" frozen Green Giant green beans ... well, you get the picture. My mom wasn't a huge vegetable fan herself. Our sides were pretty limited to powdered mashed potatoes, green beans, peas (which to this day I steadfastly refuse to eat), lima beans (frozen), corn (frozen or canned), and that's about it. But I don't think I was missing much, given the available options.

Vegetables are my cooking nemesis. Since I don't like them very much, I don't always spend a lot of time focusing on them and preparing them well. I'm far more likely to use them as an afterthought when I'm cooking. I'll knock your socks off with some starchy side dishes and the meat but that's likely to come along with an uninspired pile of green beans with garlic as anything else. I don't like making salads, I don't like fussing with trimming and chopping vegetables and figuring out how to season them, and the end result usually shows my lack of interest. The payoff usually isn't worth the effort to me.

But, obviously it's very important to eat good, healthy vegetables, and since we started P90X, it's imperative. We're being very good about following the guide, which specifies a certain number of lean proteins, complex carbs, fruits and VEGETABLES a day. And as you might suspect, the number of vegetables is on up there. (sigh). What's a Starch Queen to do? Definitely time to get serious about obtaining GOOD vegetables, and preparing them WELL.

First order of business is the procuring of decent produce, which is where the Farmer's Market comes in. Thank god I'm no longer relegated to three bins at the Safeway. I'm a grocery shopping grownup in the era where Farmer's Markets are not only available, but fashionable, hip and PC, even. Every cooking magazine you open has some article about Farmer's Markets, sustainable food, the glory of the local grown, and how it's the wave of the future. Suits me just fine. I'm sure all those fruits and veggies at the grocery taste great when you actually eat them IN California or Mexico where they grow, but they don't exactly inspire my palate when I get them at The Teeter. We've Saturday Farmer's Market devotees since it opened in the Spring and that in itself is a great motivation for me. First of all, if I'm going to go to the trouble of hauling my kiester out of bed on a Saturday and schlepping downtown just to get something, I'm by golly going to make sure I eat it. Second, the stuff truly does taste really good. I actually look forward to eating what we get down there, and seeing it all pretty and fresh and smelling what vegetables ought to smell like inspires me to take some time to prepare it.

The next order of business of course is figuring out ways to cook with this bounty. Some of it is so good that I use it on salads for lunch. (I know, right!?) That's one or two veggies down for the day! And another thing I'm enjoying very much is making soups out of them.

I do like vegetable soups a lot. Not the brothy kind with floating bits. I can't say I'm a fan. But I do enjoy the concentrated flavor of a single vegetable pureed soup. I'm going to spend some time today making several different ones for the upcoming week. This time of year, it's great to pull it out of the fridge and eat it chilled. Today I'm going to make soups out of carrots, broccoli, cucumber, and then I'll throw in a gazpacho for good measure. That should get us nicely through the week, and I'll be in good shape for veggie consumption.

But I'm still not going to eat peas.

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