Worming Its Way Into Snack?

Fresh vegetables were a tiny fraction of our diet back in Lincoln in the early Sixties. Except for carrot sticks and corn-on-the-cob, I thought the Jolly Green Giant and Del Monte put all veggies into tin cans. I willingly ate canned green beans, wax beans, niblets, cream-style corn, sauerkraut, and diced beets. Under duress I ate the minimum amount of canned peas. Sometimes Fritzi would serve canned lima beans or butter beans. Those were always suppers that led prematurely to bedtime. At Christmas and Thanksgiving we ate fresh celery sticks.

Nearly all my little students eat a wide range of fresh vegetables on a regular basis. Lunchboxes often hold sliced peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, edamame, broccoli, cauliflower, bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, and jicama.

In the upper elementary grades after 1964, I learned to eat chopped iceberg lettuce with Kraft Italian salad dressing, stewed tomatoes, and canned spinach with lemon or vinegar. It was high school before I ate baked squash. In college I pushed the limits trying fresh spinach, asparagus and mushrooms in some quiche/crepe fern-decor restaurant downtown. It was a wild and crazy time!

Sometime after I got married, but before I had kids I encountered eggplant and avocado. The charms of eggplant still escape me.

Tomorrow will be a challenge. My little students harvested the garden broccoli heads today. I've expended much attention removing the green caterpillars known as Imported Cabbage Worms from the broccoli plants over the past few weeks. The caterpillars are fiendishly camouflaged. When the broccoli florets are served with a dip of Ranch dressing, I will want to holler to the caterpillars, "I know you're in there! Come out with your hands up!"

Barbara Damrosch writing in the Washington Post, 7/5/07, calls those green larvae of the cabbage butterfly, "unintended garnish" and says they are harmless if accidentally consumed:

The green worms hide so well in the broccoli heads that you rarely see them until they are cooked, at which point they turn a conspicuous, incriminating white .... But there will always be a moment when you've just served an honored visitor a beautiful plate of homegrown broccoli and there's that little extra ingredient. Proper etiquette requires a guest to move it inconspicuously to the side of the plate and exclaim "Good protein!" if caught in the act .... Soaking produce in a sink full of salt water before cooking will send most worms flocking to the bottom.

Fritzi told me over the phone long distance that a salt water soak brought all the little creepies crawling out of a broccoli head. I can't recall why she actually began to use fresh broccoli in her kitchen. I was already married and living in Omaha, but we still had to live through Reaganomics before the first President Bush would proclaim his dislike of broccoli. By then my dad had decreed that he would not eat any salad that didn't have at least two ingredients besides the iceberg lettuce. That would be not counting the cabbage butterfly larvae.

"I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." George Bush, U.S. President (1990)

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Gennie Netz said...
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Genevieve said...

In the low-lying valley in the Nebraska Sandhills where I grew up, asparagus grew wild under the cottonwood trees along the roadsides. We picked asparagus as we walked home from school. Despite that, I never learned to like it.

Asparagus is not native to the U.S., so I can only guess that it was sowed under the trees by birds who ate the little red berries from the settlers' asparagus plants.


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