Eating Green

I am eating.  Do you see that look of grim determination and stubbornness on my face?  That’s because I am eating broccoli.  It doesn’t make me happy.

I am pretending to like broccoli, and it’s hard work.

In fact, the only thing I ever strongly agreed with the first George Bush about was our common hatred of broccoli.  But I don’t stop there.  I hate most other vegetables, too.  Cabbage, beets, Brussel sprouts, yams, squash, kale, cauliflower.  I could go on, but I won’t.  I already have a stomach ache.

By and large, the best way I’ve discovered to eat vegetables is to disguise them.  Broccoli-cheese soup, for example, or carrot cake, which allow their healthy ingredients to show just a little, but then you can forget about them fast, since they don’t really interfere with your taste experience.  Also vegetables are invariably improved by dumping a bunch of high-octane hollandaise sauce on them so that all you can see is a plump, glistening yellow layer on top.  Distract me, please!

Other vegetables I tolerate because — I’ve been repeatedly told — they’re healthy.  All I can say is that information had better be correct because I’m taking it on faith.

“You mean people really eat vegetables because of nutrition?” my husband asked last night.  We were huddled over an enormous helping of sauteed okra and onion that he raved about and I considered passable, for a vegetable dish.

Good lord.  What he kidding?  No, he wasn’t.   This man likes vegetables.  Actually likes them.

“Of course they eat vegetables because of nutrition,” I said grumpily.  “I can’t think of any other good reasons to eat them.   Can you?”

“Because of the taste,” he said, which almost sent me into a coughing fit.

“Let me guess,” I said.  “If you had a choice between okra and ice cream — ”

“Okra,” he said.  “It’s not even close.”

I told him the truth: If vegetables weren’t good for you and didn’t allegedly make you healthy, I could happily spend the rest of my life gorging on white and beige carbohydrates and never eat another green or orange stalk-y thing for eternity.  Since my husband often hinted I was a bad vegetable role model around our kids, he didn’t look surprised.

I finished the last of the damned okra and thought about a scene I’ve often returned to in my dreams.  One year, we went skiing close to Quebec.  I stood in the food line for dessert and piled on a buttery, caramel syrup over my cake and ice cream and realized that, if I were in that dark, cold climate, with my sweet tooth and my fat tooth, I’d probably weigh 300 pounds.  It must be my Indian blood: somewhere, deep inside me is a longing to be eating nothing but blubber on an icy tundra somewhere, adding layers of fat to protect me from the cold.

Listen to your body — that’s a sweet, idealistic, but ultimately idiotic notion in my case.  Instead, I listen to the broken record in my mind: You like broccoli, it tells me.  You really, really like it.  YummyCan I have some more?

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

7 comments… add one
  • Chris Link

    My body keeps clamoring for hot dogs.  I exist on pork products perched on bread: BLT (with a pickle), Polish dog with kraut and mustard, fried ham on buttered bread, cold deli ham on bread with mustard, pepperoni pizza, sausage patty on a biscuit…you get the picture.

    I keep waiting for these items to be proven good for one.  It’s an idea whose time has come.

  • I pitty your distaste for broccoli! I’m a vegetarian, so liking vegetables is a prerequisite. But this does help me understand why people always ask about meat cravings… I didn’t realize vegetables could be such a chore for laypeople! 🙂

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Chris — You’re right.  I suspect that, one day, smoking will also be proven to be beneficial to your health.  I look forward to that day.

  • George Bush didn’t like broccoli either.  Something you have in common.

  • Chris Link

    I quit smoking some years ago.  I have always said that when I am diagnosed with some incurable disease and there is no way that I will survive, I’m buying a pack.   It’s simply an anti-social activity around here (WA State).

    Just returned from 3 weeks in Italy.  They all smoke there – not in buildings, thankfully, but everywhere else. 

    Confession:  I do like broccoli if it’s stir fried.

  • cousin Per Link

    Dear Ruth, try squeezing just a little lemon or lime over the steam boiled broccoli after you melted butter on it in the pan…Grinded black pepper and
    a couple of drops of japanese soy… yummy can I have some more. Lemon makes a big difference to many of the cabbage relatives like cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli. Your blog is a gem! Love from the swedes.

  • Give me okra over ice cream any day! Really, have you tried roasted vegetables (either on the BBQ grill or in the oven) drizzled in healthy olive oil? Delicious!

Leave a Comment