I’m a vegephile. I like vegetables, a lot. Give me a ripe tomato or a carrot still covered in dirt and I will be in my element. But what if that tomato’s from a can? Or that carrot’s been widdled down to the size of a pinky finger? In today’s “foodie” craze, it seems like there’s a line in the sand between what’s fresh/local/organic and everything else. That line, I think, is bogus.
First let’s get something out of the way. All things being equal, fresh and local produce is hands down better than the alternative. Besides supporting the community and being better for your body, it’s flat out tastier. Lettuce is crisper, fruit is more flavorful. Why settle for less?
That was the argument of the healthy elite when they criticized Michelle Obama last summer. As part of her anti-obesity campaign, the First Lady and the White House chef, Sam Kass, supported the use of frozen veggies when fresh weren’t available. What’s worse, they suggested buying them at big box stores to save money. Expectedly, this rubbed many the wrong way. If Michelle was really trying to make the nation healthier, why was she okaying a less healthy alternative? Why was her chef promoting the same agro-economic system that wiped veggies off American plates in the first place?
Critiques like these are misguided. The state of American eating is so dismal right now – with about 10% of the nation eating enough fruits and veggies – even the most modest improvements should be welcomed. People that think these huge nutrition gaps need to be filled with equally sweeping changes miss the point, and probably do more harm than good. If the bar’s set too high, those most in need of help will just be more alienated.
Looked at another way, a $100 Sonicare toothbrush would probably get my teeth cleaner than the freebie my dentist gave me last summer. Does that mean I shouldn’t bother brushing until I save up for the real thing? Probably not.
In a world where artificial flavors are more recognizable than real ones, the act of eating anything from the ground should be celebrated. That frozen vegetables are otherwise unadulterated is downright miraculous, and should be praised that much more. Guilting the underprivileged into buying better produce is conceited and pointless. The goal should be to make any and all produce as appealing as possible.
(Baby carrots – in likeness and concept – are admittedly weird. But they’re also really nice with cilantro-yogurt.)
As far as frozen goes, I’d definitely recommend broccoli. Here’s what you do: get a bag or two of frozen broccoli and thaw it in the microwave. Next, put it all on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder. If you’re feeling extra daring, add some chopped garlic. Pop the sheet in the oven at about 350 and take it out when the edges of the broccoli florets start to brown. Freezer to table, and delicious.