I have always had a love-hate relationship with vegetables.
Oh, I know they’re healthy. I know they’re wholesome, packed with vitamins and minerals and fiber and a host of beneficial phytochemicals. Blah, blah, blah. And I love them for that.
But I also know that, typically, they do not delight my palate the way, say, cream cheese-frosted red velvet cupcakes do.
That’s where the hate part comes in.
You see, when I was growing up, it wasn’t about liking vegetables. It was about doing the right thing. And that was to eat your vegetables, no matter what. My dad was very health conscious; my working mom, very time-strapped. As a result, most nights at dinner, vegetables at our house consisted of frozen mixed veggies chucked in a little water, boiled until mushy, and dished up with a heaping side of obligation.
Eat. Your. Vegetables.
As a result, this is approximately how I felt about veggies as a child:
Of course, as I grew up, I came to appreciate that my parents cared enough for my health and well-being to serve my brother and me nutritious meals. As an adult, I’ve also learned new ways to prepare veggies so that sometimes I even manage to like them. But still, I didn’t promote them to the forefront of my diet. Instead, they languished in the supporting role of side dish, understudy to chicken and spaghetti and takeout.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Then I had a breast cancer scare at the ripe old age of 30. “Probably benign,” the radiology report said of my mammogram results. I was supposed to come in and get checked again in six months.
Probably benign? Wait for six months? I’m not a “probably” kind of woman. I like to know what I am—or am not—up against. So after a couple of hours of panic, I did what any self-respecting nerd would do: I researched the heck out of it. For days, I dredged up every reliable source I could find on what was in the radiologist’s report. (Perhaps not the very best course of action; let’s just say that not everything I found made me feel better.) However, in the course of scouring the internet for every shred of information about what might be lurking in my body, I also found myself searching for what I could do to reduce my risk, or rather, to get ready for whatever I did (or didn’t) have to face.
Aside from the obvious—get moving, cut out the wine (horrors!)—one piece of advice came up over and over again: Eat more vegetables. Fruit too, but especially vegetables.
Now, I know that vegetables are not cure-alls and that breast cancer is an incredibly complex disease with a variety of causes. But I also know that I’d been eating more junk than I cared to admit, and that if I could replace some of that junk with veggies, then surely I’d be better off.
Accordingly, I dutifully inhaled a salad at lunch, chowed down on sautéed greens at dinner, and repeated. Again and again and again. Day after day after day. Until finally it occurred to me that unless I embraced all the veggies laid out before me in the supermarket, not only might I lose my mind from the tedious repetition of greens, but I’d never be able to adopt a whole-foods, (mostly) plant-based diet.
So right then and there, I vowed to myself that I would try—and like—every vegetable in the grocery store. (Who says I’m not ambitious?) And thus, Veggie Quest was born.
I should say at this point that after much gnashing of teeth, I did decide to have a biopsy. Much to my immense relief, the results were benign. However, the seeds for Veggie Quest were planted, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Consequently, Veggie Quest will be about this humble home cook’s foray into the wild and wooly world of vegetables. From rutabagenous romps to haricot hijinks, I will share recipes, from slapdash fast to daylong marathons, along with cooking tips, tricks, and fascinating facts about the vegetables I hope to call delicious. The tone will be as the veggies dictate—with any luck, saucy and fresh. And of course, I’ll try to keep my posts and recipes wholesome, healthy and plant based, although you must forgive me if a little hyperbole and bacon grease find their way in occasionally.
I am only human, after all.
So please, join me on my quest! If you’d like to nominate a vegetable to be my next victim—er, veggie, or if you have recipes, advice, tidbits or an encyclopedic knowledge of elephant garlic, please contact me by comment or email. I would be honored to have your input on the project!