This is about vegetables. And eating more of them. And liking it.
Some people just don't like vegetables. And of course it's not as simple as just EATING them, you have to buy them and prepare them and convince your family to eat them, too.
Here's my vegetable story.
I don't think of myself as being super picky as a child, but I didn't like onions, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, beets, mushrooms, or summer squash, and I don't think I ever tasted artichokes, avocados, brussels sprouts, kale, swiss chard, bok choi, kohlrabi, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, sunchokes...or who knows what else (and many of those I didn't taste until last year! I was missin' out!). Once or twice my beet-loving father paid me a quarter to taste a beet. I thought it tasted like dirt. (To my delight, Caedmon LOVES beets. But they make his diapers scary for a few days.) I also had issues with fruit for awhile, so much that my brother would tease me by calling me "Joanna Banana Strawberry Kiwi Fruitbowl Dancer and a Half." (thanks, bro.) I did love bananas and cantaloupe, but that was about it until a friend convinced me to try her orange in third grade. :) I eventually conquered my fear of berries, too.
But it wasn't until I was in college and heard a speaker talking about nutrition that I started liking more vegetables. She told us how nutritious vegetables are for us, and I guess I believed her enough that my mental taste buds changed. This is why I think it is so important to talk to your families about food and nutrition! I'm living proof that your thinking can change your perception of taste! (The speaker was set against animal products, however, so I started drinking soy milk and stopped buying meat...which I wouldn't recommend doing. Now it's raw milk and grass-fed meat for us, and we're sticking with it.)
A friend was visiting a few days ago and as I was cooking lunch she asked, "So, do you have as much trouble eating vegetables as I do?" And I had to think about it. No, I guess I don't have trouble eating vegetables. And here's why: vegetables inspire me.
No, not the vegetables at Meijer, though Meijer does have a pretty good produce section. Not a side of canned peas (sorry, dad) or a "vegetable medley" where the carrots are...spongey? The vegetables that inspire me are the ones that fill the tables at the Holland Farmer's Market. The ones my parents grow in their garden (I dream of being a real gardener like them!). The ones that I load into my reusable shopping bags week after week from the CSA I belong to.
Real people, working in connection with the earth, help these vegetables to grow and produce food that nourishes our bodies. Isn't that amazing?
Oh my. So much to say. Please, if you never have, read The Omnivore's Dilemma. Learn about Polyface Farms (also featured in Food, Inc), where farmer Joel Salatin (he's a little crazy, but he'd tell you that himself) has been an instrument in the process of the land being transformed from desolate to abundantly fertile. It taught me that the hands-off approach that is a part of the green movement (all we humans can do is bad, so just keep your hands off of the earth and we'll all be better off) is seriously not the answer. No, it is God's design that we serve the earth, and if we are responsible and loving, the earth will be better off than it would be if we just left it alone. And think about it: we can't leave it alone! We are utterly dependent on it! But the crazy thing is that it is dependent on us, too! We can help to increase its fertility and diversity, and in return it will give us food to nourish our bodies and minds and families and friendships and economies. Praise God!
Now do you see why vegetables inspire me?
And of course this goes beyond vegetables. This applies to all our food. (At least all our REAL food. Chemically processed food is not inspiring.) But most people don't need to be inspired to eat more cheese or meat or fruit or grains. For some reason, vegetables are the toughest. But I'm fairly convinced that if we are more involved in our vegetables, we will want to eat them. If we realize that there is a miracle involved in a tiny seed growing into a huge plant that bears fruit and feeds us, we might start appreciating their unique flavors and textures a little more.
So here is what I suggest: This summer, find local vegetables. Go to localharvest.org and enter your zipcode. Chances are, someone grows food somewhere nearby. Of course organic is best, but any vegetables are better than no vegetables, and if you read The Omnivore's Dilemma you'll learn that Industrial Organic (the organic produce you get at the grocery store) is not exactly good for the earth (though it is certainly better than "conventionally" grown food). [disclaimer: we DO buy some produce from the grocery store, and I'm okay with that. We just try to get MOST of our fruit and veggies locally and in season.]
If you want to take a leap of faith, join a CSA. WHAT'S A CSA??? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pay a farm a set fee up front and receive a share of what they produce throughout the growing season. You are committing to supporting the people growing your food, and you are also saying, "Even if the weather sucks and some of your crops fail, I still want to support you because I'm grateful that you are growing good food." One thing I like about CSA's is that you are forced to bring home and eat vegetables. Even for a vegetable lover like me, it's kind of overwhelming to go to the market and try to figure out which vegetables to buy for the week. I guess I enjoy having some fixed factors in my meal planning (which is also why I use meal "themes"). Also, many CSAs provide recipes to help people figure out what to do with the vegetables.
And that leads me to my next suggestion to help you on your vegetable-eating journey: Keep reading my blog! This summer, to my utter delight, I have the honor of being a "chef" for our CSA. Each week I'm going to bring a dish for people to taste and an accompanying recipe. I will also be posting the recipes on my blog to benefit anyone who reads it! They will be simple, do-able, yummy recipes to help you learn how to use vegetables that you've never encountered, or help you know what to do when zucchini is coming out your ears. :)
There are also several cookbooks out there that are arranged seasonally to help you make the most of your local vegetables. The one I have the most experience with is Simply In Season, which I definitely recommend. Go to your local library and see what they have! Find one with simple recipes and beautiful pictures. Bring it home and be inspired. And if you end up feeling overwhelmed instead of inspired, keep tuning in to my Easy Changes You Can Make Today series. Any change is better than no change, and you don't have to do it all at once!
What is keeping you from eating more vegetables? What have you enjoyed about eating locally and in season? How have vegetables - or any real food - inspired you?