Artists Like to Cook Vegetables

Veggie SquashAlthough I am a good cook, I do not claim to be an expert on any food much less the undervalued vegetable. But I do have opinions and a blog. I like to cook vegetables.

Growing up in a blue-collar urban family , I was exposed to a total meat and potatoes diet which also noodles and very occasionally rice.

Most of my vegetables came out of a can.

My father demanded they be cooked for about 10 minutes on the stove so the end result was salty gray mushy peas.

He liked peas.

Having said that I must admit that my mother and grandmother made cabbage , yes a vegetable, that was to die for.

Then I was introduced to southern cooked vegetables when I married a South Carolinian and realized vegetables , partnered with cornbread without sugar, were unbelievably delicious. Corn, butter beans with little pieces of fatback, I learned to cook them all. I was lucky.

Unfortunately most folks when they go out to eat are treated to the very unappetizing steamed vegetable medley that passes for vegetables in even some of our better restaurants. You can picture it- limp zucchini , yellow squash and wilted onions in their salted water bath . Yum. I have to assume the chefs were not trained to cook vegetables anymore than I was trained to appreciate them growing up in the Del Monte can environment. ( in the interests of geographical balance. can I mention my introduction in the 70s to the southern version of pizza from a now defunct chain consisting of a generous mound of oregano on top of a block of mozzarella cheese sitting on a barely tanned bed of cooked flour? My heartburn is coming back)

Anyway, I mention restaurants because I think a lot of us get an idea of what unfamiliar recipes taste like when we first sample them prepared in a restaurant. Very few of us nowadays have an Italian or Eastern European or even Chinese grandmother bending over a hot black kitchen stove stirring a pot of ethnic wonders. (Grandfathers were doing manly things piddling in the back yard.)

Yes, we have cooking shows, but they are the new forms of entertainment, but are hardly tutorials.

So restaurants become our baseline. Unfortunately most restaurants fall well behind in their expertise in cooking vegetable dishes. They steam them to death or serve them raw. They don’t even know how to prepare asparagus so that you aren’t forced to eat rooty stems . Seasonings include salt.

So in our country you get your meat – bloody to hockey puck, bland to sugar high.  You get your seafood -,crispy fried to greasy fried.  You get your chicken, and of course everybody’s favorite white meat- pork with its bacon flavoring everything from entrees to ice cream. Then of course you get your fried potatoes and your favorite carb -bread.

Rarely do you ever have the opportunity to taste an incredible sautéed vegetable dish or any vegetable dish that is more than just an afterthought to bring color to the bland variety of earth=toned foods we love.

Dare I say my rant does not include salads- that traditional American diet food. Maybe more on salads another time- grass clippings as health food. That’s a joke folks.

As a result of lack of exposure I dare say most people don’t even know what a caramelized onion is much less caramelized spring cabbage. And we wonder why children can’t stand vegetables although you can blend them in a smoothie with 30 grams of sugar and hope they can’t taste them.

I love International grocery stores which stock a wonderful variety of foods that grow- many I have never even heard of –  but alas they don’t identify them or tell how to prepare them much less put out samples like Costco does with prepared foods.

At least we have the entertaining Korean woman on Youtube who is a joy to watch.  Now I am going out to stock up on Korean radishes to make her pickled radish recipe.

You ask what does this have to do with art? Nothing. But artists have to eat and I like vegetables.

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