NAVA BRAHE: I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with vegetables. Put them in front of me and chances are I’ll eat them. I know that’s not the case for most people, but I’m lucky in that respect. I don’t run screaming from broccoli, nor am I opposed to ingesting the occasional lima bean. What really intrigues me these days is how stressful our relationship with vegetables has become.
First, let’s get one thing straight: French fries are not a vegetable. Yes, potatoes are a vegetable, but cutting them into sticks and deep-frying them transforms them into something else entirely. I’ll never forget the segment in Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, when he visits a school cafeteria, and the school dieticians tells him French fries are considered a “vegetable”.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I think the real issues are cost and preparation. Anyone who’s been to a supermarket lately can’t help but notice how expensive vegetables are. And those aren’t even the organic ones. If you venture into that territory, we’re talking mortgage payment. Why is it that eating heathfully has to be so expensive, not to mention inconvenient? The debates rage about not having enough time, to not being able to prepare certain vegetables, and of course, not being able to afford them. Frozen vegetables are always a good option, but even those ring in higher than your average frozen pizza. So when it comes down to that $5 bunch of asparagus you can bake, saute or throw on the grill with a little salt, pepper and olive oil as a nutritious side dish, or that $5 frozen pizza that will feed a family of 4, which do you think people are choosing to buy? Anything that’s healthy will always take a bit more effort, but why does it have to be so expensive?
We’ve become a society that no longer understands the meaning of “seasonal”. With fruits and vegetables racking up more frequent flyer miles than business travelers, you can have your “farm fresh” tomatoes year round, and your peppers and cucumbers flown in from all over the world. On the flip side, there’s the organic options that don’t look quite as pretty, but are not loaded down with hormones and pesticides. But all of it will cost you; and it depends how much you are willing to spend. Is your health worth it, or does it take too darn long to trim that asparagus? Which, by the way, is another favourite of mine.
Fresh, frozen, it doesn’t matter. I love my veggies, and I love to prepare them. But, I sit at home in front of a laptop all day long. I guess in that respect, I’m lucky. Not so sure about healthy…
SARA WELSH: My first encounter with vegetables (apparently) was before I was even born. While my mother was pregnant, she craved brussel sprouts like they were going out of style and she said I repeatedly kicked every nerve I could until she stopped eating them. That being said, I was still one of the only children in my Kindergarten class who actually loved broccoli. Not broccoli smothered in some sort of nutrient destroying sauce, but actual steamed or raw broccoli.
Veggies and I have always gotten along. At least, we get along as long as I’m not cooking them. I am a self proclaimed horrible chef. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, I really do, but the teaching I have gotten up until now has not been sufficient enough to have me not ruin almost everything set in front of me unless it’s spaghetti or something baked. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often hear of cakes full of cauliflower.
I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with a husband who attended culinary school and is more than willing to teach me. We’re both rather poor and veggies are expensive compared to other things in the grocery aisle, but buying fresh produce is important. Until I can be trusted not to destroy them just by looking at them sideways, my hubby will continue to prepare them (so we don’t feel like we’re not only wasting money but also fine product) and we always buy local.
The farmers of America do their best to produce healthy, exceptional products and it is our duty to support them. We might argue about jobs going overseas and how detrimental that is to our economy, but then we turn around and say that buying local produce is too darn expensive and we can’t be bothered to do so. This logic is flawed. Farmers need just as much job support as everyone else and not every farmer is lucky enough to be able to put a natural gas well on their property. When you do buy veggies, buy locally and support farmers as much as you can.
LAURA ROBERTS: To put all my cards on the table, I recently saw Food, Inc. for the first time (if you haven’t yet, get thee to your Netflix account and stream it STAT!) and was horrified by the things going on in the food industry that a) North Americans do not know about, and b) which are considered so sacredly secret that just discussing them can get you into a lawsuit.
Howard, my apologies for bringing you into a potential lawsuit via your site, but What. The. Fuck?! I can’t even talk about the obscene and downright dangerous practices of the food industry, demanding change for the good of us all, because some corporate asshole thinks it’s perfectly fine and good to hose down my meat with poisons, in order to kill all the mutating bacteria that will ultimately consume us all? In the words of The Big Lebowski: This agreession will not STAND, man!
In a world where knowledge is power, where everyone and anyone can immediately Google any information they wish to find, cooking vegetables is not difficult. But as Nava and Sara have pointed out, buying vegetables is expensive. Not just organic ones, but regular ones all covered in filth and pesticides and genetically modified to include rat genes to keep them from doing lord knows what. (Seriously, has anyone else noticed how very large and suspiciously dildo-esque carrots have become? I want to know what elephant’s tusk or other appendage has been slipped into the mix here to provide this grotesque embiggening.)
Buying vegetables should not be a trade-off where those of us living below the poverty line have to ask, “Should we buy this crown of broccoli, or should we save our money by buying 6 Happy Meals for the same price?”
That, to me, is unconscionable. That, to me, is unpatriotic, un-American, and downright unacceptable. My fellow Americans: We cannot go on like this.
Like Sara and Nava, I am a fan of veggies. Sure, I love me some steak, and I’ve been known to cook a mean lasagna (with or without veggies), but a world that tries to foist NON-FOODS on us and pass them off as REAL FOOD is simply unacceptable. It is barbaric, backward and brutish. And I know for a fact that the human digestive system—much like the bovine digestive system—does not react well when asked to process corn. Corn, of course, being the main ingredient in most of these non-foods we are told are foods. Corn also, coincidentally, being one of the cheapest and most genetically modified substances on the planet, and the so-called food item being force-fed to cows because it is—you guessed it—cheap and filling.
Not because it is healthy, but because it tricks your stomach into feeling full, satiated, nourished.
We are not cattle, nor should we eat like cattle. (Hell, cattle should not eat the way cattle eat in this country, but that’s a discussion for another time.) As the old saying goes: Garbage in, garbage out. Vegetables are part of a balanced diet, provide necessary nutrients, and taste great when cooked well. If the question is one of cost, perhaps we must give up some of our little luxuries to pay for the vegetables that will sustain us. I don’t believe it is that much more expensive to buy fresh or frozen vegetables than it is to buy the junk food like frozen pizzas and such, but it’s a perception of value. What does it take to get Americans to eat their vegetables? Americans taking the responsibility for their own health and wellness. The buck stops here, people.
So: Are you in or are you out?