Tuesday, March 26, 2013

vegetables and life

I don't care if it's good for you, because, to me, kale has always been a four-letter vegetable.

I know green is good. Dietitians tell us so: Low in fat. High in fiber. Rich in vitamin C, magnesium, folic acid, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals??? Okay, stuff that's good for you.

All those food charts show it.

Environmentalists tout GREEN. Even Kermit likes green (even though it's not easy). 

And I like salads. I like lettuce and spinach and broccoli and peas and green beans--RAW. NOT cooked! Green and cooked is a combination I cannot stomach--literally.

When I was a girl, I would dread dinner. I could smell cabbage cooking as soon as I walked in the door from school and my feet would drag. The pile of cooked spinach on my plate looked like something dragged out of the ocean--stinky, slimy, and disgusting. Brussel sprouts? Gag and double gag. Don't even let them touch my other food because the taste is contaminated. I can't count the number of times I stared at the green cooked food on my plate and saw in it my fate: going to bed early. And I hated going to bed. Even as a baby I wasn't a good sleeper, so just lying there was torture. But even that couldn't make me eat the cooked greens.

My parents told me to at least try them. I did. And I would gag. That made them upset and I'd go to bed.
They said to eat them while they were hot instead of waiting until they had gotten cold (coagulated is more like it). I tried that. And I would gag. Off to bed. It was the story of my childhood, told on a regular basis. Green cooked veggies for dinner=going to bed early. Simple plot. How happy to have beets for dinner! Carrots? Loved them. But anything green and cooked? NO!

Now that I am older, I am a little better. Mostly I can choose to eat raw over cooked. And, if a random pea shows up in the chicken soup at Brick Oven? Okay. I can pretend I don't see it and swallow quickly. But two peas in the same spoonful? Absolutely not.

What is it about cooking that makes green things inedible to me? Surprisingly, cooked vegetables are easier to digest than raw ones, so you'd think that would help.  Contrary to urban myths, we don't lose that many vitamins in cooking--so they are about the same, health-wise. Some vegetables must be cooked to be safe for consumption (potatoes and yams), but most can be eaten either way. With some vegetables, like broccoli, vitamins are enhanced cooking. But none of this positive information changes how I feel or tells me why the cooked versions are so abhorrent to me.

Cooking alters chemistry and texture. Okay--this may be getting at my problem. Part of it may be texture. Cooked equals mushy, or at least softer. Since, even as a baby I didn't eat green vegetables, though, I don't think that is it completely. I eat other soft things--bread and applesauce. One study suggests people like me have higher sensitivity to some kinds of bitter flavors that we taste in these vegetables. But that isn't the difference between cooked and raw. I don't know. It just may be that's how I am.

I like vegetables that are made into desserts: pumpkin pie and carrot cake. Maybe if someone could come up with a way to have broccoli tarts that taste like apple pie, I would get my daily greens up to the triangle recommendation.


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