Top | The Vegetable Challenge

Going easy on myself

(post, Caroline Cummins)

I agree with what James wrote earlier: I'm not really keen on the idea of vegetables for breakfast. I'm never very hungry in the morning anyways, and what I do eat tends to be lightly sweet: oatmeal, yogurt and granola, or toast with peanut butter and honey. This usually takes care of at least a serving or two of fruit, as I like my oatmeal with grated apple or chopped dried fruit and my granola or toast with sliced fresh fruit. But it also narrows the vegetable field down to lunch and dinner.

I have tried Cindy Burke's breakfast salad, which I found delicious — for dinner. My husband, on the other hand, is always up for a mighty meal in the morning; he's been known to make himself an entire frittata dotted with cheese and vegetables for breakfast, or even a meaty banh mi sandwich — crammed with pickles, cilantro, scallions, and chiles — topped, in order to justify it as "breakfast," with a fried egg. I can only admire the fortitude of his digestive system.

[%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="Would you eat a banh mi sandwich for breakfast?"]

Late summer, of course, is the easiest time of the year to eat lots of vegetables. We've been eating homemade pizza topped with tomatoes and basil from the garden, and cucumber-tomato gazpacho, and caponata, and green beans as a salad instead of a side dish. Lunch yesterday was grilled squash and roasted potatoes, both from our CSA; dinner was enchiladas with pinto beans, cheese, and grilled zucchini.

What we've been eating less of, of course, are all those dark leafy greens the science types say are so good for us: kale, spinach, collards, and the like. Frankly, I'm waiting for winter for those; they'll taste sweeter anyways, and I won't be able to overdose on tomatoes and cucumbers then. Every plant to its season.

In How to Cook a Wolf, M. F. K. Fisher wrote: 

bq. One of the stupidest things in an earnest but stupid school of culinary thought is that each of the three daily meals should be "balanced." In the first place, not all people need or want three meals each day. Many of them feel better with two, or one and one-half, or five. Next, and most important perhaps, "balance" is something that depends entirely on the individual.

In other words, don't bother trying to cram fruit, veg, protein, and starch into every meal of the day; you'll just feel stressed about "balance," not to mention overfed and bored. As Fisher concludes:

bq. Try this simple plan: Balance the day, not each meal in the day. Try it. It is easy, and simple, and fun, and — perhaps most important — people like it.

So the fact that I like fruit in the morning and vegetables later in the day, and a bit of protein here and there, is perfectly OK in the Fisher handbook. In fact, she goes on to say, your daily diet could be nothing more than toast and coffee for breakfast, soup or salad for lunch, and a cheese soufflé or rare steak with fresh vegetables for dinner. Sounds pretty good to me.

And should I worry about the fact that eating seasonally means too many tomatoes in September and too many mounds of kale in February? Only if Fisher's principle of stretching your "balanced" diet out over the course of a day doesn't work when applied to an entire year.

reference-image, l