Veggies can sometimes be divisive
- Written by Patsy Oliver
My Cute Little German Mother loves it when I take her for a drive to the farmers’ market in Dayton. We found it a few years back when going for a Sunday drive. So, a couple of weeks ago, we were off ... We usually have a kid or two in tow, but this time it was just Mom and me. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we arrived at the market in just over 30 minutes. After stopping to admire the turnips, she went for the squash and mustard greens. Overall, I like most veggies, but I do draw the line at green peas – apparently due to some childhood pea-related trauma. When I was about 2, Mom left me in the high chair to finish my peas while the rest of the family went outside on the patio – an after-dinner tradition when I was little. Dad said that when they came in, I was asleep in my chair with a mouthful of peas. She could force me to put them in my mouth, but she couldn’t make me swallow them. They were worried I could have choked, so I was never again made to eat anything I didn’t like. Now mind you, I wasn’t spoiled. At my house my Mom cooked every night, but she did not make exceptions for individual tastes. “Vee are having roast vit potatoes and carrots,” she’d say. I was a pretty picky eater and didn’t like carrots back then, but I would mash them together with my potatoes and then disguise the carrot flavor with lots of salt. If there were issues surrounding the dinner menu, veggies were usually to blame ... except for that one time she tried to slip us liver and onions ... even Dad didn’t go for that. There was nothing else, so we all picked around it ... but she was the only one who actually ate any. She didn’t try that again. Then there were the brussels sprouts. My older sister lied to me and said they were ‘guacamoles,’ a rare but coveted vegetable that we were lucky to have. I held my nose and managed to get a couple down. I was so mad at her when Dad told me the truth. It was many years before I tried real guacamole. And then there was the ongoing broccoli issue. My Cute Little German Mother always loved to include broccoli in any dish she could get it in. We hated it. We would all look at the stew and then Dad would ask, “Why can’t you just put corn in here instead?” Mom would just act like it was the first time she’d ever heard such a suggestion and imply that perhaps, someday, there would be corn in the stew where the broccoli once ruled. That day never came. Without fail, she would lecture us concerning an article she read about the endless benefits of broccoli. Dad would wink, while smiling at me and my sisters, and say to her, “Broccoli is Republican food ... I don’t know why we have to have so much broccoli.” He was a union leader, so those kinds of quips went around quite a bit. We thought it was funny. Dad always had a quick and sarcastic wit. There was the one time, though, that we thought he might have gone too far, and our meals could be in jeopardy for some time. He was fussing about dinner being a little behind schedule ... OK, I guess we were spoiled. So, Mom says, “Oh, you! You are alvays vanting to eat!” “Yep, almost every day,” he replied. We didn’t dare say a word. But, back to broccoli. Enter President Bush, episode one. He also did not like broccoli. A fact that Mom really enjoyed pointing out to Dad. Finding common ground between Dad and the President made her smile. Funny, the memories that the farmers’ market can stir up. Mom bought broccoli. I actually like it most ways. I did not dare complain. I figure after putting up with us all those years, she’s entitled to eat whatever she wants ... and to cook only if she feels like it. But, on the occasions when she makes stew, I still have to suggest that corn might be a nice substitute for the broccoli.