Some vegetables are almost universally popular, and revered, and appreciated. Potatoes, for instance - hearty, versatile, superb at carrying flavours, and a bedrock for a number of different meals, in a number of different cuisines. Peas - again, adored, almost without exception. Carrots - not liking carrots is just weird - what's not to like? Onions - again, a staple, and a base flavour.
Some vegetables, on the other hand, are hated with a passion most people reserve for fascist dictators. Or our sporting rivals.
Brussels sprouts, for instance. Now, I reckon I get why people dislike them. They seem old fashioned - something your gran's generation delighted in boiling into submission, till they are grey-green and resolutely unappetising. When they are overcooked, they take on an almost metallic taste that can make you gag, almost.
Plus One's pet hate is parsnips. I don't entirely get this - I have always regarded parsnips as, basically, white carrots, but I will concede that they too have a faintly "gaggy" quality to them. I do my best to accommodate this, but every so often, I will try to force her to eat a roasted parsnip, or some carrot and parsnip mash. Lots of butter and ground black pepper - what's the problem?!
When I was a kid I didn't like pumpkin - too sweet and rich for the fledgling Omni palate. I now realise that I was entirely wrong, and that pumpkin is almost unspeakably delicious - especially when roasted. My mother doesn't like mushrooms - so much so that as a child I was virtually unaware that they existed.
Cauliflower is unglamorous. Cauliflower is drab. Cauliflower is uninteresting. Well, that's what some people will tell you. But - you give me bland, I say "blank canvas". Unless you are talking swedes, or marrow, which I reckon are utterly irredeemable...
There are probably even some people who dislike asparagus - I regard them with the same disdain I reserve for people who think the music of The Smiths is "depressing".
So, anyway - here's the challenge: how do you make the most unappetising specimens from the plant world into something edible - delicious, even? This is what I think.
1. Find out how they are supposed to be cooked. In the case of brussels sprouts, they need to still be firm and green, and not overcooked. When lightly cooked, they have a flavour and texture that is quite delectable - I reckon the same thing goes for cabbage. (I do think, though, that though you want veges to be firm to the bite, you want to make sure they are actually cooked - I hate it when carrots or beans, in particular, end up being "hot but raw". They just taste wrong.)
2- Roast them. Seriously, most things taste delicious when roasted in oil, with plenty of salt and pepper. And, in the case of cauliflower, a liberal application of cumin and oil before roasting results in something almost indescribably delicious - seriously, give it a go.
3- Add cheese, or bacon, or lemon juice, or toasted nuts. Or two of them (but perhaps not all four). Cauliflower cheese - delicious. Most things with grated parmesan - good. Lemon juice, and crumbled bacon over lightly cooked sprouts - one of my favourite things. Pine nuts or almonds, toasted, with lemon juice, over asparagus - oh my lord. The other night I made a coleslaw and, on a whim, added some toasted pumpkin seeds and a handful of crispy fried bacon bits. It was spectacular.
4- Try, and try again. Honestly, I reckon you can train yourself to not necessarily love all vegetables, but certainly eat them in modest quantities without barfing. Having no food phobias makes you all-powerful, indestructible, and likely to live forever.
What you are ultimately trying to do is make things as delicious as they can be. Some things - a handful of grapes, a piece of cheese - require less help to achieve this state than others. But, if you get creative (remember the chicken hearts and gizzards I ate at the Larder's Garage Project dinner?), there is no reason why even the most reviled vegetables can't be turned into something exceptional.
What vegetables turn your stomach, and are there any preparations that will make them palatable to you? Any tips for recipes for the unglamorous veges?
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