“There are many ways to love a vegetable. The most sensible way is to love it well- treated.” M.F.K. Fisher
Remember when the old refrain “eat your vegetables” could be heard ‘round and ‘round the dinner table? How did we go from that to making salad an entrée, to going for the grilled vegetables even before the steak? Well, they’re all good now. Even Brussels sprouts. Especially Brussels sprouts! Turns out, it was all in the preparation.
Foodies have fun bashing the 1950’s, for good reason. With the exception of door-to- door milk delivery (even in the cities!), nearly everything was mass- produced, processed, and packaged. We’re talking Velveeta cheese, Jell-O mold salads, bottled salad dressings, and frozen t.v. dinners. Cakes came from a box, gravy from packets, whipped cream from an aerosol container, and unless you lived on a farm, vegetables from cans. One has to wonder where we would be in the U.S.A. today had it not been for Francophiles Julia Childs and James Beard. In an country infatuated with “instants,” their message was to take the time to cook good food, and to cook it right. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I even like lima beans now.
The old way was to over-cook (canned) vegetables. The new way is to eat it raw, or under-cook everything fresh. The old way was to peel vegetables. The new way is to leave them in their skins. The old way was to submerge the vegetables in water, over-boil, and then pour all the water down the drain. The new way is to sauté, roast, or grill the vegetables. Or if boiling, in as little water as possible, as quickly as possible, and know that whatever juices remain are beneficial and should be used—as stock, if not in that particular dish. The new way brought extraordinary color, flavor, crispness, and nutrition back to the vegetables. It got us growing our own again, shopping farmers markets, or organically. Washing, cutting and chopping, and creating a still life each evening in the kitchen as beautiful as any painting.
My husband and I are very fond of the artichoke, which can be grown in most any climate and harvested summer through fall. For this he has perfected an aioli sauce, and we like to dip the leaves in it while sitting on the sofa viewing Anderson Cooper’s news program at night. Eaten in this manner an artichoke alone can be filling, or maybe it’s the news. Artichokes remind me of my parents, when they were younger, and I was younger, and I’d come into their bedroom at night to find them sitting up in bed with pillows propped against the headboard, mom in her nightgown, dad in his pajamas, eating artichokes in bed. A dish of mayonnaise between them for dipping the leaves, and a small glass of wine on each nightstand. They too were watching television, a small black & white portable set well across the room. This was a ritual they must have engaged in frequently when artichokes were in season. Consequently, the artichoke is the only vegetable I associate with the bedroom, so much so that when we enjoy ours, I keep thinking we are doing something that belongs in bed.