That’s what I thought when I was a kid. For many years, I refused to be in the same room with vegetables, let alone eat them. “Are you really part of this family?” people would cry as they tucked into heaping plates of breaded escarole soup, while I sat meekly in front of a plate of macaroni seasoned with butter.
I don’t know how it all started, but I abhorred anything that grew: lettuce… all types of salad ingredients… anything green… every sort of pepper… cauliflower– you name it, I hated it. It’s a wonder I managed to thrive on macaroni and meat, but I did somehow. (That probably explains why I am a sucker for any type of carbohydrate these days.) Christmas Eve at our house was a particular nightmare: every fish dish was seasoned withsome sort of vegetable flavor, and so I sat– again– withmy plate of buttered spaghetti. I used to actually wonder if I hadn’t been given to the wrong family at birth: I was born in Sister Elizabeth Hospital in Brooklyn, which is now Lutheran Medical Center, so I may really have been meant for a family named Larsen or Svenson or Knutsen.
Lima beans were an especial horror when I was growing up. I mean, why give something like that to a kid when you know he’d rather tuck into an egg salad sandwich? Instead, I would be faced with a serving of those bland, washed-out beans, which I refused to eat. Mom got so mad at me one night at supper that she banished me to the enclosed porch to eat my meal in solitary; I couldn’t reappear until I’d finished every bean, but instead I buried them in the soil of Mom’s potted plants. (She always had some philodendron growing.) Years later I discovered that my sister Lois used to do the same thing!
[Lois was often particularly troublesome at dinner, for reasons I don’t recall. Often, I’d get so mad at her that I’d angrily pack a little suitcase for her and put it by the door, with orders for her to leave NOW. Sometimes she was sent out into the hallway to eat by herself, tucked into a tiny folding ladder that served as a stool. Above her dangled a bare light bulb, making her seem like a cross between Jane Eyre and Baby Jane Hudson.]
Mom tried. One night she served us from a bowl of something mashed and white and creamy, which was delicious. We couldn’t get enough of it! “What was it?!?!” we demanded at the end of the meal, only to be told that we’d been tricked into eating cauliflower disguised as mashed potatoes! Ironically, the South Beach Diet features this as a palatable way to eat cauliflower– Mom was WAY ahead of her time!
These days I’m much more flexible in my vegetable habits; the previous post credits my shrinking taste buds, but maybe I’ve just grown more adventurous. Kirk actually made me dictate a list of vegetables that I would eat, one day while we were driving to Key West. The conversation began thus:
Kirk: Hey, look over there… that’s the plant nursery I went to with Mark.
Jim: You went to a nursery with Barb?
Kirk: Who’s Marv?
I laughed for the next 400 miles, but the conversation eventually led to the aforementioned vegetable list, hand-written by Kirk, which is still Scotch-taped to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door:
“Peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, string beans, black-eyed peas, baked beans, beets, some fresh garden tomato, artichoke hearts, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, creamed spinach, lima beans.”
I re-read this list on occasion in order to remind myself how grown-up I’ve become, and I can even add things like romaine lettuce, fresh spinach, and the kinds of greens you find in those “mixed salad” bags at Publix: who could resist something called BUTTER lettuce?
I swear, I’m going to live to be a hundred!