American Pie told us that men think about sex every seven seconds. Well, I think about food at about the same frequency. It’s not only a need, but a genuine pleasure. I. Love. Food. I love eating it, I love reading about it, I love cooking it, I love talking about it.
So what if I told you that I used to like…next to nothing? Okay, that’s not true. I just didn’t like anything that was good for me. I come from a family of amazing cooks who managed to hide nutrition under a veil of deliciousness. “Don’t let her know that those are mushrooms, not beef” they would whisper in the kitchen. Here’s the thing: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be healthy or that I preferred junk food, I just simply didn’t like the way things tasted. Walking through a farmers market, my mouth drooled at the juicy, ripe heirloom tomatoes, the colorful cauliflower, the deep, dark bunches of kale…but when I tasted them, I (literally) spat them out. What con artists these veggies were! Using their beauty to distract from their absolutely disgusting taste!
At 21, being the only one of my friends eating a plain hamburger at Barney’s – hold the tomato, lettuce, onion and bun – I realized that maybe it was time for a change. I wanted to play for the other team. I wanted to know why on earth people paid extra for avocado. So, I gave up meat. For 40 days.
In my still developing little brain, I assumed that if you don’t eat meat, the only thing left on the planet to eat is vegetables, and I would therefore be forced to like them or I would in fact starve.
Let’s just take a moment to pause here and be very grateful for no longer being 21. Amen.
And for three days, that’s basically what happened. I was living on rice and fruit. So much fruit. But then my senses kicked in and I walked my hungry ass to the market. I piled up on all the things I thought looked good and was determined to make them taste good. I grabbed a couple of cookbooks, tied my apron and put my game face on. It was time to cook.
For the next 37 days all I did was cook…and eat. At first, I still hated most things. I’ve never been much into salt, so the veggies had to stand all on their own. I learned to mix spices, the difference between eating a carrot raw, steamed, roasted and fried…what I preferred and what I didn’t. (Raw and roasted. Never steamed. That’s why I hated grandma’s carrots…) I slowly learned that I could in fact learn to like anything…I just had to find out how.
Fast forward to the end of my forty days and I was a bonafide vegetable eater. My family couldn’t even believe that I was the one to prep a spinach salad and green beans for Easter brunch. Me! Gina! Girl transformed!
Fast forward nine years later and I am now mostly a plant-based eater. I say mostly because I simply don’t want to give up steak tartare or crispy slices bacon. That is not to say that I now love everything, it’s just that I have had a shift in perspective. As with so many other things in life, we build a box and then we sit in it, sometimes wondering what life could be like on the outside (but not often ready to admit it). Stepping out of the box can be scary – like ordering something you’ve never heard of from the menu – and maybe when you do, you won’t like what you find. Or maybe you will. You just have to keep trying. Over and over and over again.
My current battle is with beets. Round, colorful, beautiful looking beets. I hate them. The smell. The texture. The aftertaste. But I will like them, damnit. So I order them every chance I get. One of these days, I’ll stumble on something outside of the box that makes me so glad I took the first step.