Why You Don’t Want to Eat Your Vegetables
November 4th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life right now, and OMG, you guys. It is wonderful. My eyes have welled up with tears so many times over the way we treat the people who grow our food and the way I myself left my family farm to move to NYC.

Here’s my favourite discovery from today:

Our vegetables have come to lack two features of interest: nutrition and flavor. Storage and transport take predictable tolls on the volatile plant compounds that subtly add up to taste and food value. Breeding to increase shelf life also has tended to decrease palatability. Bizarre as it seems, we’ve accepted a tradeoff that amounts to: “Give me every vegetable in every season, even if it tastes like a cardboard picture of its former self.” You’d think we cared more about the idea of what we’re eating than about what we’re eating.

And it hit me–this is probably why I like vegetables so much better in a restaurant than at home. I always figured I was just a simple woman too easily won over by the charms of being cooked for and served to. The tray of plain steamed vegetables at Yakitori Torys (now sadly closed) literally made my mouth water, and the all-vegetarian meal we had at Kajitsu is still one of my most memorable.

I never cared at all that Tocqueville bases all of their dishes on what they can buy at the Union Square Greenmarket, but I’m sure now that a good part of the reason I want that $25 prix fixe of theirs every weekend is the fresh vegetables.

I guess the moral of the story is that we should be growing our own food, directly supporting the people who do by buying from a local farmer’s market, or at least only buying foods we know are in season in our areas. I’d love to hear about it if you’re doing any of these things!

8 Responses  
  • Heesa Phadie writes:
    November 4th, 201012:32 pmat

    You’re making me tear up too. I used to have a garden but I no longer can due to where I live now. Real vegetables are so flavorful and delicious….that crap we have to buy at Safeway is shit. There is almost no flavor in the veggies from supermarkets. I try to get down to the Farmers’ Market when I can.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      November 17th, 201011:16 amat

      That’s just what the book talks about. And I’ll tell you–even as an absolute tomato-hater 4 lyfe, I still noticed a difference in the taste when I tried some of the heirloom tomatoes in the salad they served us at Degustation.

      Maybe I only hate tomatoes because nobody ever gave me fresh ones as a kid. Even though we were a farming family, we turned our garden in a pigpen when my mom found a worm in her broccoli at dinner one night. It seems sad now.

  • Jim writes:
    November 4th, 20103:53 pmat

    I buy vegetables that are in season. Meat I am less knowledgable about, but I pretty much only eat pork, beef, and chicken anyway. Sometimes fish – and if I do, I check if it’s seasonal. In Britain the whole seasonal/local thing has become a middle-class supermarket obsession and I definitely try to stick to it every time we go shopping. I even go for the stuff that’s passing its “sell-by date”, one because it’s slightly cheaper and two because the actual quality of the food is often not a question, it’s just legislation and health and safety stuff. We have to go to a supermarket because it’s cheaper. However because of the progress over the last few years about all the local/organic/seasonal you have chains like Morrison’s who actually devote most of their space to seasonal veg. So yes there may still be some peppers (bell peppers I think you guys call them) knocking about, but it’s now mostly red cabbage and brussels sprouts. Which is cool.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      November 17th, 201011:21 amat

      What’s interesting is that you have to KNOW what’s in season to be able to buy only seasonal vegetables. Like the book says, we’re so used to being able to buy whatever produce we want whenever we want it that we’re not even aware of when things are in season and where.

      My company often has German interns, and they talk about how you almost can’t buy anything over there that ISN’T organic, because the public demands it. I’m pretty sure the public over here would demand it, too, if they knew to, but of course we have powerful industrial food lobbyists influencing everything the government decides for the people. It’s awful.

      It seems like it probably takes a little work to learn how to cook only with what’s in season, but the more I learn, the more it seems entirely worth it.

  • Noel writes:
    November 5th, 20105:17 pmat

    I bought Ryan this book for Christmas last year! He loved it. It’s especially wonderful since Kingsolver is a Kentuckian and all.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      November 17th, 201011:23 amat

      Funnily, I always assumed she was probably too much a mass market writer for me just based on the covers of her books, but I’m really loving her.

      Have you read the book yet yourself? It really echoes what you were talking about in your blog when it comes to supporting local businesses.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    November 10th, 20101:31 amat

    Another food book for me to read!

    Amazon thinks I have an eating disorder.

    No, seriously, I’m becoming increasingly interested (and educated) in why we eat what we eat and how important it is to understand that.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      November 17th, 201011:25 amat

      I swear, even as recently as last year, I was wondering why chefs always talk about local and sustainable foods. Lemme know if your Amazon forays lead to any great discoveries. My entire Christmas list is full of books about small farms and the local food movement now.

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