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. Yummy. Can I have some more?
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)