Challenge accepted: vegetables

It’s no surprise to any of you that I hate almost all vegetables. There are a select few that I actually enjoy (corn and potatoes), and others that I tolerate (broccoli, spinach, carrots, cucumber), but I hate all the rest. Even those that I tolerate are really just vehicles for ranch dressing or goat cheese and olive oil. I know vegetables are healthy and that (wo)man cannot live by fruit and bread alone, but I every time I force myself to choke down a bite of dry broccoli I feel like I’m punishing myself for some terrible wrongdoing.

Dear readers, you should feel privileged that I’ve been so vocal about my antivegetablism in my column, because it’s not a secret I like to give away. My immediate friends and family know, but despising vegetables is not something that makes you a welcome dinner guest or a great lunch partner, especially in a city with as many ethnic and offbeat food choices as Boston. In high school, one of my best friends was born in Romania, and her mother often cooked Romanian food at home. But because she knew I was picky, she’d relay a message through my friend days ahead to make sure whatever she was cooking was Jill-friendly. I hated feeling like such an asshole in someone else’s home.

As a result, I kept my feelings about vegetables to myself and became an accomplished scavenger, able to pick out all the onions and peas and still end up with a full meal. I always thought that this was a less rude solution than asking the cook to please, leave out the onions, mushrooms, peas, peppers,  and maybe all the vegetables while you’re at it, because I am picky and unable to handle it. But it occurred to me that leaving my host with a plate full of uneaten veggies is just as rude and probably disgusting.

So sometimes, I will eat the vegetables. I’ll eat the peas in the pot roast, closing my eyes and imagining that they’re just little rainbows. Once, at a pre-prom party, my friend’s mother had cooked us a fancy dinner, and the first course was a thick cheese soup. I picked up a chunk in the soup with my spoon, assuming it was a potato. But the bite had that horrible crunch and sweetness of an onion and my eyes started watering and I had to chew and chew and chew and try my hardest not to spit it out. It turned out it was actually an apple, but that’s how much I hate onions. My body’s reaction is to GET IT OUT. There’s a reason kids avoid vegetables unless they’re disguised as something else. There’s a reason they spit those peas out on the ground. Kids are not going to sugarcoat that shit. Vegetables are terrible.

However. I’m not a kid. I shouldn’t allow spinach to be my only green vegetable (I’m not allowed to count basil, right?). My mom is dealing with many newly acquired food allergies, and her doctor said that eating a lot of the same foods early in life can result in allergies later in life. How cruel is that, dear body? Developing allergies to the things you love to eat most? I love ice cream and flour too much to let that happen.

I’ll admit that while some of my opinions of vegetables are backed up by copious research and dry heaving, others are based on nothing whatsoever. I don’t think I’ve ever had Brussels sprouts, but they definitely look like something rabbits should ingest, not humans. The same goes for kale—something that bitter should be banished to the side of the plate with the sprig of parsley where it belongs. In trying to decide what to write about this week, one of my roommates started quizzing me about vegetables:  which I like, and which I refuse to eat. “You should do a vegetable challenge,” she said. Well then. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Once a week or so, I’ll try to put down that haterade and pick up a new vegetable. I’m going to try and find palatable recipes for veggie side dishes and if I survive that, I’ll move on to main dishes. This is not to say that I’m becoming a vegetarian—I love bacon way too much for that—but I’m shouldering the spear of asparagus and trying to keep my six-year-old self from stomping her feet too much.

6 Responses to “Challenge accepted: vegetables”
  1. Bruno says:

    Some good ways to make kale more palatable are to blanch it in really hot water for a minute or two, then shock it in an ice bath. Dry it off then saute with olive oil, garlic and onions. You can take it a step further and make it creamed kale by adding heavy cream and butter add the end and let it reduce a little.

    Also must recommended sauted broccolini or baby broccoli.

    Best of luck.

  2. Bobby Coleman says:

    Try boiling cauliflower until it is soft to touch, drain, and smash it up with a potato smasher. Mix in garlic, salt, pepper, and a little butter. Most people think it tastes just like mashed potatoes….

  3. Lindsey says:

    I know you would probably hate to sully the glory that is mashed potatoes, but it’s an incredible cloaking device for bad tasting vegetables.

    My mother knew which vegetables my sister and I loathed as children and planned the meal accordingly: If she wanted some peas with dinner there would always be mashed potatoes we could mix the peas into to disguise the horrible taste (because we weren’t leaving the table without eating those peas. My mother WOULD. NOT. HAVE. IT).
    Broccoli was usually steamed and served with a cheese sauce over it, or, if there was no cheese sauce she would allow us to play dinosaurs at the table where we pretended to be brontosauruses eating tiny trees because who was she to stop us from willingly eating broccoli one way or the other?

  4. Anna says:

    I’m glad you’re trying out vegetables. One of my fave things is carrots cooked in brown sugar somehow. It’s really good.

    But, whatever you do, don’t ever try to have corned beef and cabbage. If it turns out you like this food I’ll be really shocked. The worst part about corned beef and cabbage is that it has to cook for like seventeen hours and while it is cooking it emits the most vile smell known to man. After having smelled this awful stench for hours, people then expect you to eat it.

    I just wanted to warn you since I guess cabbage is a vegetable.

  5. Danielle says:

    I have to admit, I’m coming at the vegetable thing from a slightly different angle. My kids, while veggie lovers, are not interested in any forms other than raw or steamed. As a grown up, I’m longing for some variety in preparation.
    But to that end, you should totally embrace olive oil and garlic as great additions to veggies! Olive oil is very high in good cholesterol and eating it also helps lower bad cholesterol levels. It’s a win-win for veggie consumption and good for your arteries-ness.

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  1. […] problem is that I’ll get enormously fat.) Last week, after reading my first vegetable challenge column, my friend Deepa offered to make me dinner wherein she would force let me try her Brussels sprouts. […]

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