Let the farmer’s market convince you to eat your vegetables
Monday, January 4, 2010 Leave a comment
Originally published June 29, 2009.
Farmers’ markets boast a wealth of interesting sights and sounds for anyone willing to crawl out of bed by eight in the morning: one-man bands (a surprising number of which tend to include banjos), artfully-shaped bonsais, and lines a mile long waiting not for concert tickets or driver’s license renewal, but for fresh strawberries.
The conjured scent and phantom taste of those berries brings me to the most important aspect of a market comprised primarily, of course, of farmers. The produce from local farms is not only one of the best parts of summer and early autumn, but is also a flavorful epiphany (and celebration) regarding the “growing up” of our tastes.
I can remember countless people new to college who, having secured the freedom to choose their diet by living on campus, ate the same junky comfort food every day.
A la carte dining plans facilitate this much more than the buffet-style dining of UIUC, but it’s always possible to find something to satisfy the desire for something uninventive and unhealthy in dining halls.
Much of this comes from a desire for at least one aspect of the “college experience” to remain static. A hot, tasty meal goes a long way towards making a day or even a whole week in a new place more tolerable, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s bad for you.
In the meantime, either the hesitance to jump on the Try New Things bandwagon or the obliviousness to nutritional knowledge tends to keep vegetables at arm’s length for many students.
We come to campus with established dietary likes and dislikes and stick to them at all costs.
In my case, they took the form of an avowed hatred of broccoli and asparagus and to a lesser extent, bell peppers and tomatoes. I do know people who refuse to eat things they despise no matter how they’re prepared. But I mostly just couldn’t eat these banes of my taste buds’ existence on their own.
And yet, the produce offered at farmer’s markets looked incredibly appealing, perhaps even delicious. Seeing such beautiful, unique goods was completely different than the homogenous, bland “perfection” of the grocery store stuff, imported and out of season.
Of course, learning to like foods has as much to do with preparation as it does growing practices.
Veggies tend not to taste so great when they’ve been cooked to the consistency of mush in mass quantities, as is often the case in dining halls.
Not only does it completely change the taste, it also eliminates most of the nutritional contents that make eating vegetables necessary.
Eating lightly steamed broccoli was completely new for me. The plastic-bag flavor of the frozen variety and camouflage green color were nowhere to be found. The delicate tanginess of ripe local tomatoes replaced the watery smushiness of giant store-bought ones, as with red peppers. I even learned that in addition to tasting better, red bell peppers are actually better for you than their unripe green counterparts.
And, in an unexpected coup of my previous feelings about veggies, I went back for seconds of asparagus grilled briefly with lemon juice and black pepper.
For all of you out there who swear six ways to Sunday that you could never like spinach, radishes, or kohlrabi, do yourselves a favor. Do whatever it takes to get out of bed this Saturday and get to the Urbana farmer’s market.
Buy fresh, buy local, and don’t forget to enjoy the banjo music.
Chelsea is a senior in LAS.