Thursday, April 25, 2013

Learning to Love My Greens

I've wanted to write this post for a long while now, mostly because it shows how even the most stubborn little girls can grow up to become quite healthy (though still quite stubborn) women. So settle in for a tale I like to call "The Girl Who Refused to Eat Her Green Beans."

It happened about once or twice a month. I'd walk into the kitchen, and Mom would ask for help trimming the stems off the green beans. At some point during the oddly satisfying task of ripping the heads off the skinny little demons, I'd start to plot how exactly I would get away with not actually eating them.

One time, the night of The Refusal, I had apparently decided that I'd had enough. Who the hell did these people think they were, trying to force me to eat string beans? I would simply not eat them. As dinner wound down, Dad pointed out that I hadn't touched the veggies. (I should note here that my father is the source of my gift of sarcasm, and in this circumstance his snarky comments only fueled the fire for what was to come. I'm not faulting him for The Incident, but there were two of us at that table.) I continued to ignore the pile of mucus-colored tubes, though they stared at me throughout the meal. I remember feeling smug, defiant, and anxious as hell.

The thing is, I wasn't exactly opposed to all vegetables. Most, yes. But I didn't mind salad, and corn was its own food group in my diet.  I could munch on celery and carrots and had no aversion to potatoes. I could eat onions and peppers without too much complaint, and the heads of broccoli (don't you dare mention the disgusting, chewy stems)--when smothered in Squeez Cheez--tasted just fine.

But green beans... It wasn't just that they didn't taste good. It was the rubbery texture and the way they squeaked as I chomped down on them. It was the way the bean and the pod mashed together and somehow tasted flavorless and horrible simultaneously. It was the gag reflex they ignited every time I tried to swallow. I hated those damn green beans.

So as my brother was excused from the table and Mom started to pack up leftovers, I asked to get down. Inevitably--what did I think was going to happen?--I was trapped. Dad sat back as he always did after dinner, his right ankle resting on his left leg, and stared at me as I faced my reality: I was going to have to eat these beans.

One by one, I miserably chewed and gagged and choked through my tears. I tried to negotiate--"How about just one more?"--to no avail. I cried and pouted and mumbled about how unfair it was. Dad sat there patiently, unaffected by my impressive display of despair, and an hour later I finally finished the last damn bean.

Despite this obvious case of child abuse, I survived The Incident, and my relationship with vegetables has evolved to a point where I daresay I like them. And as someone who hated vegetables so vehemently for so long, I would be doing a disservice if I proceeded any further into writing this blog without sharing some of my wisdom for how to like your greens more.

1. Find a preparation method that you actually like--sadly, deep fried doesn't count. I think my mom is a brilliant cook, and I still call her for cooking advice, but she almost always steamed our green beans. For me, I've found that roasting my veggies with just a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper makes a huge difference in flavor.

To Roast Vegetables: Chop into similar sizes (you can roast multiple vegetables all at once)--either cubes or slices. Toss with just a bit of olive oil (1-2 tablespoons, depending on how many vegetables you're roasting), salt, and pepper. Then spread on a sheet pan (avoid too much overlap to ensure even cooking) and roast at 400 degrees. Depending on the vegetable, you might need anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, so check your oven once in awhile until the veggies are slightly crisp on top and lightly browned.

2. Find veggie-packed recipes of foods you already enjoy. Some of my favorites:

3. It's okay to not like them all...just find several that you do like. Try some new stuff! Vegetables are tastiest when in season, so find ripe options at your local farmers' market. Once you find one you like, search online or ask around for similar flavors. If you like sweet potatoes, you might be a fan of other root vegetables. If you like zucchini, squash might be the way to go. 

4. If all else fails, hide your own vegetables. I can't wait to use this trick on my kids someday. Sneak spinach into your smoothies, zucchini into muffins, and cauliflower into pasta dishes. You can't taste the difference, and you're getting a serving or more of a nutrient-dense vegetable!

So if I can do it, you can do it. Let's find ways to eat more vegetables. And you better believe I'm bracing myself for a child who doesn't like vegetables--you know what they say about karma.

What's your favorite vegetable? Your favorite prep method for veggies? You favorite veggie-packed recipe? Share below!


  1. One of the most memorable dining events I had experienced as a father

  2. One of the most memorable family dining moments as a father. I won! :-)

  3. I had a similar childhood experience, only mine involved black-eyed peas. And I think it was more like four hours, or maybe it just seemed that long. My favorite vegetable is spaghetti sauce. It's totally a vegetable if you make your own, but no one even thinks of it that way. Plus you get all that great onion and garlic action. And you can slip all kinds of veggies and herbs past the haters.

  4. I absolutely refused to eat 99% of veggies growing up. Magically I started trying and enjoying veggies in my early 20s. Now that's all I eat. In fact there isn't a veggie I don't like! My parents are always amazed at what I eat now. :)

  5. Love roasting or broiling my veggies! I absolutely love raw peppers though :)

  6. Roasting vegetables definitely brings out the best flavor in veggies! I HATED bell peppers as a child. Now, I love them!

  7. What terrible parents!!!! Love you Julie.

  8. What terrible parents!!!! Love you Julie.

  9. Yeah, and always the good child, your brother ate his green beans without a problem....Judy

  10. Oh no! I hate to say...I saw it coming! I hated just about every vegetable (if not everyTHING) that was set in front of me as a kid...unless it was a French fry or a bowl of Lucky Charms! ;)

    Nowadays I LOVE my vegetables...and meat, and tofu, and well, yeah, there's really nothing I won't try! Quite the opposite of the girl I once was! My favorite vegetable is kabocha squash and my favorite prep for almost any veggie is roasted. Though I will say, I actually prefer my green beans...STEAMED! 8O