I read somewhere that there are over two-hundred edible vegetables on Earth. Out of all of the vegetables available to us, however, humans choose to consume a mere 5% of the existing variety with any consistent regularity. Apparently, we are creatures of habit, and prefer to stick to what we know (and/or what our parents made us eat when we were growing up). Thus, around the globe, people typically only eat their “vegetable staples”, like corn, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, eggplant, squash, carrots, celery, fungi, etc.
Maybe since many forms of vegetables were thought, throughout history, to be poisonous, it was better to avoid branching out (lest you accidentally poison yourself or your family). Plus, it is not like vegetables are a favorite food of people everywhere. In fact, I think most individuals detest them, and only eat them because they know it is good to do so (mainly to avoid developing Scurvy). After all, if left to their own devices, I’d bet the majority of children, college-age about-twenty-somethings and adults (especially those sans offspring) would forgo eating vegetables altogether. Particularly, if the world’s supply of cheese, dressings (like Ranch) and other delectable toppings, generally utilized to disguise the true taste of vegetables, were suddenly rendered unavailable.
But what really surprises me is that the Brussel Sprout is ON the short list of vegetables that people will eat. I have yet to encounter a person who actually enjoys eating Brussel Sprouts (although I have met many adults who derive secret pleasure from forcing them down the throats of their children, simply because their parents did it to them).
I can get behind carrots and celery. I like corn and spinach. I will even voluntarily consume broccoli (although it is not a particularly enjoyable experience for me). However, I refuse to eat Brussel Sprouts, and would support legislation to deem them “inedible” (perhaps even “poisonous”). I am confident that somewhere on that list of over two-hundred other edible vegetables, we can find one that tastes, looks and has a better consistency than the personally offending Brussel Sprout.
Where does this all come from, you ask?
Well, when I was little, I was sent to stay with my maternal grandparents while my mom and dad went on vacation. In preparation for her absence, my mother went over all the things (i.e. “rules”) that she expected of me while she was away. The list included: “doing as I was told”, “cleaning up after myself”, “helping my grandmother ‘voluntarily’ (i.e. before I was asked to help)”, as well as “EATING WHAT MY GRANDMOTHER FED ME AND NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT IT”.
It was the last one that got me.
See, my mother had never made me eat Brussel Sprouts. This, of course, stemmed from the years and years that she was forced to eat them as a child. Consequently, I don’t think I had ever seen a Brussel Sprout before staying with my grandparents for the first time. However, it wasn’t long until I knew the icky-green veggies all too well.
The VERY, FIRST NIGHT I was there (I kid you not), my grandmother served me Brussel Sprouts for dinner. After close inspection (they were green and smelled gross), I decided that I did not want to eat them. Yet, because I wanted the approval of my grandparents (and a “good report” for my mother upon her return), I decided to choke them down one by one until they were all gone. This was, of course, a lot easier said than done.
It was on this evening of Brussel Sprout deflowering, that I first discovered it was possible to gag without throwing up. Normally (since I was a tomboy), this new tidbit of information would have interested me greatly. However, since gagging was an involuntary reaction to the less-than-joyful experience of consuming Brussel Sprouts, I was uncharacteristically unmoved by my newfound knowledge. In fact, the only “joy” I was able to extract from the entire situation was in finally finishing all my Brussel Sprouts (without my grandmother noticing the physical torture that eating them was inflicting upon me, of course).
But the story doesn’t end there. No, no. Much to my dismay, my grandmother (upon spotting that I had cleaned my plate) immediately jumped to two (erroneous) conclusions:
1) Since I ate them all, I must like Brussel Sprouts.
2) Since I ate them all, I must want more Brussel Sprouts.
As a result, my grandmother (much to my horror) gave me another helping. I – not wanting her to hurt her feelings – cleaned my plate for a second time and quickly excused myself from the dinner table (before my plate could acquire any more of the green, mini-cabbages).
Naively, I spent the rest of the night and most of the next day thinking that I had overcome the worst of the dinnertime torture. After all, every Brussel Sprout that had been cooked that evening had been eaten (which meant that there would be no leftovers threatening to reappear at another meal). Similarly, I was used to a variety of food and assumed that my grandparents were as well. Thus, it stood to reason that, since we had already had Brussel Sprouts on Day 1 (and there were no leftovers), they would not pop up on the “dinnertime rotation” for at least another week. By then, I would be back with my parents and wouldn’t have to worry about eating another Brussel Sprout ever again. Or so I thought…
Alas, my grandparents were used to no such (logical) routine, and – once they found something that worked – had a tendency to repeat successful behaviors in an effort to guarantee another success. In other words, my grandmother had fed me Brussel Sprouts…I had eaten two servings of Brussel Sprouts…thus, it stood to reason that I must like Brussel Sprouts. Therefore, instead of running the risk of making a dinner that I would not like or eat, my grandmother decided to play it safe and serve Brussel Sprouts AGAIN the next night. Her rationale: stick with what works.
I think I ate Brussel Sprouts for three dinners straight before my grandmother changed up the menu and served lima beans instead (which I actually do like). Not once did I let it slip that I hated Brussel Sprouts (or that I wasn’t enjoying eating them night after night after night). Not once! I deserved an award!
It was all worth it when my parents finally got back from their vacation, and I received my (hard earned) “good report” from my grandparents. My grandmother even thought to include how much I loved Brussel Sprouts, and encouraged my mother to cook them for me at home. She, however, did not tell my mother about my newfound love for the lima bean – just the Brussel Sprout (I remember feeling a twinge of panic at this…).
Don’t worry, though. Once my mother and I were in the car (and safely out of the range of my grandmother’s hearing), I clarified the situation and let my mother know that I did NOT, in fact, like Brussel Sprouts. Then, in an effort to win the extra brownie points that I thought I deserved, I explained to my mom (in painstaking detail) exactly how many Brussel Sprouts I had forced myself to eat, how gross they were, and how they made me gag just by looking at them. I concluded (like some sort of melodramatic martyr, I’m sure) with the fact that I had done it all in an effort to spare my grandmother’s feelings about her cooking and apparent love of Brussel Sprouts.
Sadly, I don’t remember my mom being as impressed as I thought she should be.
At any rate, my mother confided in me that she didn’t like Brussel Sprouts, either. And, as a result, she promised to never make me eat them. My grandmother was, of course, another story…