My Idea of Fine Dining

I guess it’s a really big deal to some people of the culinary killjoy variety (like, say, my husband) that I’ve been in New York for almost two weeks and haven’t eaten a vegetable yet.  Well, so what?  I’ve been very busy.

We go out to restaurants, since it’s kind of like we are in restaurant heaven right now.  Look north, look south, they’re everywhere.  Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, you name it.  Every day when we arrive at a new one, I’m already very hungry and in a big hurry.  When I’m in a big hurry, I can’t eat vegetables.  They take too much time, what with pushing them around the plate like I was a three-year-old and hoping they’ll disappear.

Which is exactly why I almost spent the entire night at my maternal grandparents’ house when I was six, staring eyeball-to-eyeball with a nasty clump of fried okra.

“Your grandfather told you you could try it and spit it out if you didn’t like it,” my grandmother said. “That was nice of him.”

No, it wasn’t.  I didn’t want that vile stuff in my mouth in the first place.  I could already tell I wouldn’t like it, so why did I have to wreck my digestive system and tastebuds by proving it?

“You can go to bed now,” my grandmother said a couple of hours later.  “You are a very stubborn little girl.”

The way she pronounced that word stubborn, I could tell it wasn’t a compliment.  She preferred my other cousins, who were always cheerful and cleaned their plates and liked to wash dishes with her.  My sister and I, both sullen bookworms and rumored slobs, were the least-favored grandchildren in the group.  We didn’t even like to go swimming.

Anyway, with a childhood okra trauma like that, it’s little wonder I don’t like vegetables.  When I get around to eating them, I like them all gussied up with cream sauce or cheese or Hollandaise so you don’t really know what you’re eating.

But being here, being surrounded by a jillion new restaurants, appetizers and entrees, puts an even greater strain on my occasional eating to-do list, which includes a gargantuan effort to try to eat at least one vegetable a week.  I mean, I lurch into an Italian restaurant and what am I going to order?  Broccoli or fettucine Alfredo?  Or a Thai restaurant with broad, handmade noodles — or some worthless, stalky green thing I could probably cook myself, but never do.

“I don’t understand it,” says my husband, who is the kind of man capable of uttering a statement like, “I’m starving.  I really want a carrot.”  (I, too, am often starving, but never, ever for a carrot.)  “How can someone not like vegetables?”

I would tell him the tragic and heartrending experience with my grandparents and okra and the scars I still have from that experience.  But he’s heard it before.  Every time I’ve told it to him, I can tell who he’s mentally siding with.  It’s not me.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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8 comments… add one
  • Ellen Link

    Something Jamie and I have always had in common is an appreciation for carrots (I just finished one and am up for another). Cooked vegetables? Bleahh. Worthless, whatever their accompanying sauces, except for potatoes, corn and beans.

    Keep on avoiding them, Ruth!

  • You hang in there Ruth. Only difference between you an I…if it is fried or mashed or creamed I will eat it. One other rule I have
    if I can’t spell it I don’t eat it!!!! and my sellping is ralley bad!

  • That’s it Ruth. You’re coming out to Queens and I’m giving you an around-the-world tour de vegetable. We will feast. You will kvell. You will go home with leftovers and eat them at 2am after they enter your dreams and remind you that you want more more more! Oh, and we’ll have some seriously delish crispy pork, too. 

  • Cynthia Link

    It seems that you’re remaining quite the Texan, Ruth. And moving to New York may inspire you to hunker down and hold on to our Texan eating habits. How many sticks of celery do you find growing around here? Now meat is another story. We have lots of home-grown cattle. Stick to the meat!

  • I’m with you all the way on okra. It is the only vegetable extant that is slimy and hairy at the same time.

  • A carrot?  Might as well offer me poison!  And okra is a joke – as you and others are pointing out, what is healthy about hairy, slimy, _fried_ okra?  Besides, we all know that chocolate is the basic nutritional building block.

  • Jane Link

    I think cream sauces on veggies is perfectly acceptable.  After all, dairy is also a basic food group.

  • Winston Link

    Every time you mention hubby in a blog, I like him more and more.  I picture him jowly, balding, wearing a deep blue cardigan, sitting sedately by his laptop much the way a bull frog sits on his lily pad.   Every now and again he croaks a little jewel– not brilliant cut, more a diamond-in-the-rough.  It plops in the pond and disappears in the mud, unrecognized for what it really is.  I’ll bet he well knows where to get a darn good vegetable plate.  Should we ever meet, I’ll take him to dinner there.  We’ll gladly drop you off at the nearest Beef Barn and gather you up on the return trip.

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