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The secret to falling in love with vegetables



Anna O'Neil - published on 05/16/18

This one thing can be a game-changer.

I’ve never thought of the green portion of my plate as more than an unfortunate necessity. You’ve got to get those vitamins somehow, and it may as well be through some boring salad. After I became a mother, the sense of vegetable duty heightened. Even if I didn’t care, I should at least act as if I think that broccoli is totally exciting.

That plan of attack is decidedly not working.

By accident though, I stumbled on something that does. That is, it’s made me start treating the contents of my crisper drawer like jewels, and there’s a good chance that this new attitude, if not the previous one, will rub off on my kids.

We had just finished visiting a pen full of goats at a petting zoo, and nobody wanted to go home yet, so we drove until we got to a second farm, and started walking around, looking for the owner of the place, to see if we could score some fresh eggs. Well, there she was, looking like she’d been up for hours (it was only midmorning.) I’m not chatty by nature, so I asked her a painfully obvious question: “Do you grow your own vegetables?”

Yes they do. And now I stop by every week to pick up a bag of whatever she’s grown. Last week it included, among other things, an absurd amount of scallions, this week, some baby kale (I think) and what Google tells me is a rutabaga.

It’s not easy to get excited about a rutabaga, but I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this rutabaga and I realized why: It’s because I know the face of the people who grew it for me. I saw their land, and saw that look in their face that farmers always have, a combination of real exhaustion and unflagging determination. Farmers are so hardcore.

These vegetables come to me still dirty from the ground. The garlic still has its stalk attached, the apples still smell like the orchard. And when I pick them up, I can tell that in some cases, they were still growing that morning. It’s not just that it seems so romantic — it’s that it all seems so valuable. The work, and time, the knowledge, love, and luck that went into growing these. Once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to forget it. That’s why I’m staring at this purpleish root vegetable, thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, how lovely!”

I can’t, obviously, get up close and personal with everything I put on my table, but I’ve started at least looking up the ones I’ve never thought twice about. Apparently, quinoa is shocking pink when it flowers, and then you just dry it, shake it off, and give it a rinse. And did you know how wacky Brussels sprouts look before they’re harvested?

We’re so used to getting our food off the shelves that it doesn’t seem like anything special, but this whole experience is reminding me just how strange and delightful and miraculous it all really is. I’m going to make that lesson a frequent conversation I have with my kids, and see if it doesn’t teach them to love what I took me far too long to fall in love with. In the meantime, does anyone know any good rutabaga recipes?

Read more:
The Pope’s Prayer for Small Farmers

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