Stories

The Ubiquitous Broccoli

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by Carolyn Foster Segal

ImageBroccoli is my least favorite vegetable. To me, there is simply nothing appealing about its taste, texture, or appearance. The sign above it at the farmer’s market, heralding “broccoli crowns cheap today” does not make my pulse beat faster or my heart sing. I’ve tried chopping up those crowns and hiding tiny slivers among carrots and zucchini. I’ve buried florets in omelets, fajitas, and quiches and covered them up with sauces ranging from hollandaise to mole to duck sauce and ketchup. I’ve tried arguing myself into taking just a bite or two under the category of “strong medicine” for the sake of health and wellness. But nothing has led me to reconsider my position: I don’t like broccoli. This may in fact be the only philosophical stance that I share with former president George Bush, who once went on record to declare his aversion to this particular vegetable.

I realize, as George Bush soon discovered after his impolitic announcement, that broccoli has its aficionados, but I cannot find a single thing about it that’s enticing. Its very name is off putting. There is nothing sensual or succulent here: just that harsh opening of “br” followed by the even harsher short ”o” and “k” sounds (and not just one “c,” but two). And even then the word isn’t finished. It continues on, through two more syllables, the final syllable with its “l” and plural end form—i—working together to produce a sort of shriek that makes poetic hash of its singular form’s more musical ending (broccolo). It’s an altogether unappetizing and uninviting name.

The Wife I Always Wanted: Eat Your Peas, Please.

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by Don Seigel

ImageI’m a middle-aged step-dad with a bad back. I’m unable to jog. But I have a better shot at qualifying for the one-hundred-yard dash in the next summer Olympics than I have at getting my thirteen-year-old to voluntarily eat a vegetable. Any vegetable. And the same can be said for fruit. “I hate them,” he insists, decrying, at one fell swoop, all means of natural nutrition. “Hate is a strong word, pal,” I tell him, trying to lend some perspective to this same conversation we repeat night in and night out. But if this isn’t hate, I think to myself, what is it? The smell of broccoli makes him nauseas. The sight of a mushroom incapacitates him with fear; one found its way on to his dinner plate a couple of weeks ago and he yelled out, panicked “Get it off of there!” as if it were some alien species about to attack him.

Complicating his life, not to mention mine, is his mother, who insists he eat, at the very least, one serving of a vegetable at dinner. After negotiations rivaling the Geneva Talks in intensity, we have agreed to let him eat the vegetable of his choosing – peas, peas, and occasionally some peas – at the very end of his meal, and on a separate plate – his vegetable plate. This is the only way he’ll consider, in his words, “giving it an honest attempt.”

Easy, Affordable and Good for You Salads

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by David Latt

ImageMy wife is on her way to her parents' house in New Jersey. She packed her clothes, bathroom kit, and Walter Mosley's latest detective novel, The Long Fall. I wanted to contribute to the weekend's meals even if I wasn't going with her. I put together a small packet with a mini-apple pie, a banana chocolate chip walnut cake, freshly cooked black beans, brown rice, grilled broccoli, bulgar salad with celery, and a box of whole wheat couscous. All but the couscous were ready to eat.

When we visit her parents, I usually do some of the cooking under her mom's supervision. The first time I cooked in Helen's kitchen I was showing off my then-specialty: whole roasted chicken cooked at high temperature. The impact on her kitchen was regrettable. The "high heat" was so high that her corningware roasting pan exploded. The resulting splatter on the inside of her oven took several days to clean. Needless to say I didn't make the best first-impression on my prospective mother-in-law. Luckily the chicken was delicious but I haven't used her oven since.

Let's Get Some Chicks

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by Brenda Athanus

ImageIt is snowing briskly outside my window for the third snow storm in 4 days! The winter snow has collected halfway up my windows, but today is the day to order new baby chicks, which will arrive via delivery in less then a month. Placing my order should make the sun come out or at least make the snow stop. We always order our baby chickens from Murray McMurray because their quality is the best and they have an unbelievable selection, from the mundane to the most obscure. What is a mundane chicken? That is a chicken bred for laying eggs, not exotic and not really a bird that would be too good for later becoming a broiler or roaster. Just a good egg layer for 4 to 5 years. The consensus wants a large breasted chicken for a meat bird like Cornish Rock, which to me seems very sadly industrial and a statement of our eating public that they prefer to breed meat birds that fall over after eating and aren't able to get up until the grain in their bellies has digested.

So, what is so wrong with a chicken that is a normal size all over? I seem to remember broilers when I was a kid being normal in size - not super-sized - and oh were they flavorful! You determine what kind of chicken for laying based on what your weather is like - cold or warm. As I live in Maine I prefer old English varieties for their hardiness like Silver-laced Wyandottes, Speckled Sussex or my favorite the Buff Orpington for their very sweet nature. These all lay brown eggs which I prefer. Then I might add half a dozen obscure varieties, that's why you must get your order in very early in the season because some varieties are limited and on a first come first serve basis.

Cajun-Style Brown Rice

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by Joseph Erdos

ImageToday I discovered a half bag of brown rice, a lone red bell pepper, some leftover celery, and an onion. Since Mardi Gras is coming up, why not make a jambalaya? So with this adapted trinity (the typical trinity uses a green bell pepper) I created a festive and healthy dish. I could have added chicken and sausage to keep it traditional, but since I did not have either, I decided to make a vegetarian version. In the end I had a paella-like Cajun side dish that I could pair with anything even leftovers. Using the brown rice rather than white made it even more nontraditional, but it made it more interesting and healthier.

Since it's a whole grain, brown rice is a much better choice than white rice. It's high in fiber, more nutritious, and has a slight nutty flavor. Its texture is chewy, akin to al dente pasta. The only downside is that brown rice has a shorter shelf life than white. In its original packaging brown rice can last for about six months before going rancid, but it stays longer in an airtight container. Brown rice is really a satisfying replacement for white in this spicy and flavorful dish.

 

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My Comfort Zone
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by Sara Mohazzebi

darya painting sm
In Persian, Darya means sea
Darya in West L.A. 

 

I wish my comfort food was as simple as mac and cheese or ice cream with chocolate sauce and gobs of whipped cream.  But I grew up with a...

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