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Kent Bernhardt: Pass the veggies, please

I like food. In fact, I like it a little too much.

I especially like food that isn’t good for me. I think we all do to some extent, but I carry it to the extreme on occasion.

In fact, I’m a pretty good gauge of what’s good for you and what’s not. If you’re ever unsure about whether a particular food is bad for you, just ask me if I like it. If I say yes, then you know you should avoid it.

I will happily report that I also like foods that are good for you.

There was a time in my life when I shunned vegetables. That lasted until I realized that vegetables didn’t grow inside of a can. I discovered you can also eat the ones that grow in a garden – and they taste completely different, even pleasant.

Everyone had a garden when I was growing up, but I never learned to appreciate them until one day in my late teens when I sampled some of my grandmother’s garden-grown asparagus.

The asparagus I had eaten previously came fresh out of a can. I can’t recall if there was a green giant on the front of the can or not, but the asparagus inside was green and slimy. There was nothing appealing about it, and I went to great lengths hiding my asparagus under leftover food and utensils to avoid actually having to ingest it.

This tactic seldom worked because parents don’t like to see leftover anything. That, plus any green-colored food tends to stand out regardless of where you hide it. So since I was constantly being reminded to clean my plate, I had to learn to bear the taste of canned asparagus.

But my grandmother’s garden fresh asparagus was different. It had a firmer texture and a different flavor altogether. She also told me a secret. If you put just a dab of ranch dressing on it, it tastes even better. I was suddenly in love with asparagus, and asking for seconds.

It was the same with peas. The Del Monte folks did the best they could, but canned peas of the 1960s were pale and soggy. I avoided mine like the plague, attempting in vain to feed them to the household cat under the table. Cats don’t like them any better.

I attempted the “napkin-hide” maneuver on several occasions, only to have that strategy flagged by my younger sister who had dutifully finished her vegetables.

In fact on one occasion, I had indeed consumed my peas and left the table, only to have her load my plate with a fresh spoonful and announce to my parents that there were some left on my plate.

Angrily, I returned to the kitchen, scooped up the peas in my hand, shoved them in my mouth, and downed them with a quick swallow. The sound of her taunting laughter told me I’d been had.

But I’ve made my peace with peas, carrots, green beans, and even broccoli. No longer do you have to coax me into eating them.

Well, there’s still cauliflower. It has to be swimming in cheese before I’ll go near it.

I love other foods I formerly hated. Thirty years ago you couldn’t pay me to eat Mexican food. Now, I crave it often.

Seafood is another food that calls to me after years of ordering chicken every time my family would frequent a fish camp. I’m not sure when it happened, but flounder, shrimp, crab, Alaskan whitefish – I love you all.

So young parents, I wouldn’t be overly concerned if your children shun the things they should like, and like the things they should shun.

Our palates are ever changing.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

 

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