Edging in veg

I recently discovered that I quite like vegetables. This is a new development. It’s not that I ever refused to eat them, but they certainly never excited me before. I remember trying to turn down mushrooms as a kid, and my mum saying “if you won’t eat that, I’ll never be able to take you to Spain, they eat mushrooms all the time there”. It did the trick. But until I finished school and went off to China, my conception of what’s good to eat was squarely focused on anything with lots sugar or chili in it. Vegetables were dead gooey lumps to fill up the space around pie or chips or egg or toast. Salad barely acceptable.

China revolutionised my attitude to “bitter” veg in particular. By that I mean the likes of auberigine or courgette, which I’d always found a bit “adult tasting” like coffee or beer. (As opposed to the sweetness of peas or boiled carrot). I guess it’s a right of passage of every foreigner to fall tragically in love with north/west chinese red braised auberigine (红烧茄子). The tragedy being that you can only really get it in China. When fending for myself in our uni-flat in first-year, I’d try pathetically to recreate it ending up with almost slimy, chewy, massacred vegetable slush to be enjoyed with some cheese toasties and a can of baked beans. Just sad really. And during the occasional burst of 5-a-day consciousness, I’d wash some limp lettuce leaves which never quite dried and sortof sagged tastelessly with squidgy tomato, then in the disgust leave the rest of the lettuce to rot into its own brown corpse-fluid at the back of the fridge.

So I’m not quite sure where this new hunger came from. Though it seems to have just grown suddenly and naturally, like how old music which has washed over you for a lifetime in shops and buses can suddenly click and you realise it conencts somehow, and to your surprise you want more. Perhaps it was that I started cooking for others more this year, started taking the time not just to throw something together which was going to supply the required calories without sudden death, but that might be edible. Or perhaps its the one supersharp knife in our new kitchen, which sears through onion flesh like a ski through snow, giving a feeling of force and speed and control which is almost a wee bit epic. Or my flatmate’s hand-blender which with absolutely no effort turns an ugly-shaped mass of boiled stuff into light fluffy soup. Or the local veg box which means the dark bottom cupboard always has at least a few earthy, rooty, unidentifiable vegetable-like things. And it’s actually quite nice.

Perhaps it’s partly because there’s something intrinsically lazy about vegetables. There’s no need to faff with dough or mixtures or turning things on or off. But they’re also just really simple, quite beautiful in a way. It’s a weird ponder. I never thought of myself becoming some sort of a healthy-food person, it’s almost laughable really. But it did seemt that something had changed today. As I cycled back in the dark and wet, dreaming of a nice warming carrot and leek stew.


One Response to “Edging in veg”

  1. Oscar Says:

    I love your post 🙂

    This week it’s thanksgiving break at Hamilton, meaning that for most of the time the dining halls are closed. I’m cooking together with a couple of Chinese guys, and it’s great. I wish I cooked every single day, and for other people too. I love vegetables too.

    Except for cooking, I’m trying to finish up my 40-page senior thesis in religious studies – on the Taiping rebellion. I wish my vocab and language was as good as yours is. Instead it’s primitive, blunt and somewhat American. I’m struggling to write a couple of pages a day…
    It sucks not to have English as my the first language.
    (am feeling a little bit jealous – please take it as a compliment, for I’m just realizing I can’t write as well as you do 🙂

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