29 June 2010
A Monstrous Vegetable Nightmare
My horde of early memories are precious and few; the births of my brothers, the death of our dog, the afternoon I spent stuck in a closet-these are scenes that I keep close to me, jewels within the caves of my thoughts, pressed into shape by time. But among these momentous occasions is one that at first seems to be nothing more than a fool’s gold. The scene: our kitchen (table, rug, lobster-shaped jello molds). The characters: my mother (stage left), my brother in his high chair. The year: unknown. The villain: asparagus juice.
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Asparagus juice. Juice made from asparagus. A vegetable, turned liquid by my mother’s trusty Cuisinart. Needless to say, when my mother set a full glass in front of me, I threw a tantrum of the finest caliber. Cartoons taught me green meant poison and vegetables were no better than the dirt they were pulled from. I was drawing in another breath, debating whether the floor or the chair would be best to jump up and down on, when I suddenly noticed that my younger brother was drinking his asparagus with gusto. I was shocked into silence. The cameras in my mind began to record. It made no sense to like this alien drink, this monstrous vegetable nightmare; its putrid color, its frothy head. Impossible. But there was my tiny brother, lapping it up through a straw. I could only stare.
Jump cut through two decades of hazy memories, and you will find me in a very different role. Now I am the one munching away on concoctions of eggplant and tofu while my hamburger-holding friends raise their eyebrows. The curiosity that sprung from my run-in with that asparagus juice has bloomed into full vegetarianism, and I am in debt to that smelly punch. At an early age, it made me stop and think, reconsider my assumptions, and get over my food fears. Even though it would be many years before I would give up meat completely, I think my current vegetarianism began that very day. Of course, the cost of this transformation has been a chronic, avid aversion to asparagus, but I suppose some wounds are just too deep to heal.
Vegetarianism is important-for the individual, our growing world population, and our overburdened planet. Luckily, vegetarianism is extremely doable, and a lifestyle change anyone can make if they choose to. In light of this, greenjoyment.com has agreed to take me on as a Vegetarian Correspondent (yes, that is my official title), to help foster awareness and discussion about vegetarianism. In the following months I will put forth a three-part series:
- Vegetarianism and the Environment
- Common Vegetarian Difficulties, and
- Vegetarian Nutrition
It is my hope that these articles will help readers better understand this lifestyle, to provide recipes and links, and to create a reader discussion. After all, being a vegetarian is much more than a diet-it’s a lifestyle, and one that can bring innumerable benefits.
But to be clear: my goal is not to start a crusade against carnivores. Vegetarianism is not for everybody, and meat-eaters are not bad people. Instead, I want to provide information and resources, and let readers decide what to make of it on their own. Whether one moves into strict veganism or simply cuts back on meat consumption, what matters here is awareness. We are responsible for the effect our eating habits have on the world, its creatures, and our own bodies. Through this series, I hope to set my own glass of asparagus juice on the table-to challenge stereotypes, cause reflection, and inspire readers to try a lifestyle they may never have considered before. The world of vegetarianism is broad, exciting, ready for exploration…and doesn’t only consist of pureed vegetables. I promise.
This week – Recipe: Lasagna for Everyone
Next week – Making the Switch
“Needless to say, when my mother set a full glass in front of me, I threw a tantrum of the finest caliber. Cartoons taught me green meant poison and vegetables were no better than the dirt they were pulled from.”
Perhaps this was only to present the topic in a humorous fashion, but cartoons are not what inspired you to turn your nose at asparagus. Young children have an especially strong distaste for bitter food. This distaste is biological. It keeps adolescent human beings from eating things that might actually be poisonous to them. As a human being matures, it is taught which food is safe to eat, and which is harmful; mitigating the distaste, since it is known that the food is safe. Thus, premature humans – let’s call them…”kids” – crave sugar and fat, since that is really what they need to grow.
You’re right! I always forget how strong our biological programming is. Although humans have changed since our hunter-gatherer days, we are still responding to the types of physical and emotional challenges our ancestors encountered hundreds of thousands of years ago. And if you’re living by foraging in a hostile environment, you are going to crave sugars, fats, and proteins because those types of nutrients are the most efficient ways to keep your body weight up and your muscles healthy. For children, this need is especially strong, because the ability to survive to successfully reproduce rwas perhaps the most pressing problem our genes could develop around. I assume it’s the same reason that children have such a distrust for most food!
In the case of this article, I think my own misgiving was due to the food itself, but you can’t rule out the importance of its presentation! It’s true, our bodies are telling us strongly one thing, but we don’t always give in – genetic predetermination is only a myth, after all. However, while children have evolved to distrust certain types of tastes, they have also been endowed with the ability to learn quickly through example, and to be especially aware of visual clues. So a little bit of persuasion by way of cartoons, etc., can help push children (and, let’s face it, adults too) past reasonable thought and into reflex mode. So, at that time, green liquid = radioactive sludge…which only reinforced my biological unwillingness to get asparagus juice anywhere near me. Now, if only I could say that I learned to like it today…
I strongly support your views. Here is a fine reference:
* More than 3,000 liters of water are used to produce a kilogram of American beef.
* Cornell University’s David Pimentel, a specialist in agricultural energy, estimates that 30,000 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy are used to produce a kilogram of pork in the United States–equivalent to the energy in almost 4 liters of gasoline.