I have this post that I’m not sure quite how to write without sounding like I’m a stones throw away to being a cliched analogy of standing on a soapbox or preaching to the choir. So, I’m going to try.
I’ve been reading quite a few books about our food system as of recent and the one thing that always strikes me is amount of advertising revenue goes into peddling products to busy moms or to little kids that really have no ability to comprehend the marketing. I think about all the banners of companies that are promoted in schools and the large billboard everywhere we turn. Companies have even turned to bloggers, realizing the power of the internet. Advertising is everywhere.
I then think about veggies. I do not believe that veggies should have to fight so much for marketing. We shouldn’t have to add “extra vitamins” or “more fiber” to our veggies to get people excited. Veggies shouldn’t need to get pop culture to promote them and we shouldn’t have to worry about the sex appeal of veggies.
And yet here I am, with a post titled “sexy cabbage.”
My friends and I often get together to do dinners where everyone brings something. I was trying to clean out my refrigerator when I realized about the only thing I had going was 3/4 head of cabbage and a few carrots.
“How exciting!” I said sarcastically to myself. I thought about some sort of cabbage casserole (smothered with cheese) or simply just roasting the two together. Neither idea moved me enough start cooking. I shut the door and walked away to brainstorm different ideas and a potential trip to the store.
I took a few steps away from the refrigerator and and stopped myself. I couldn’t help but think that the poor cabbage always gets the shaft. There are so many veggies out there that have a “public image” that isn’t so exciting. In this case of the cabbage, it’s usually $.79/lb at the grocery store, it has faint ties to random and somewhat odd meals, and it’s this strange green color.
So I thought to myself, “No, that cabbage, it’s sexy.”
I know, that sounds silly but I find beauty in all veggies. Even when I wasn’t eating as well as I should have been, I’d always float though the produce aisle staring at the beautiful, natural color. I didn’t know how to cook squat with anything, but I couldn’t help admire it. I didn’t get that from the other 90% of the store.
There is this stigmatism that has played out through advertising and pop culture. When I think veggies and culture, I think about kids pushing broccoli around their plate and possibly feeding it to the dog. I think of all the cartoon characters that have been created to push sugar-laden cereal as great for you. And I think about all the marketing focus groups and scientific research labs that millions of dollars go into coming up with the best ways to reach consumers.
What chance do veggies have against all of that? I mean, a head of cabbage is a head of cabbage. Yet, I think the more people get excited about the food being cooked, the more that excitement carries through, past the marketing, past the fluff.
So after all of this, I grabbed the cabbage and the carrots and rummaged through to find a lime, a few green onions, and a bit of cilantro. I did my best to make two seemingly unsexy veggies, sexy.
I whipped up these spring rolls (rice papers are ALWAYS a staple in my house) and called my friend who hoards a peanut sauce she’ll make in large batches and freeze until needed. I walked into my friend’s house and promptly stated, “these spring rolls are awesome.”
And you know what? We ate through the majority of the giant batch of these spring rolls and not once did anyone negatively question the fact that the majority of what they were eating was raw cabbage and carrots.
I get a lot of comments and emails back from people that usually go to the tune of, “I wasn’t sure that ____________ was going to like this, but _________ LOVED it!”
Too often the people who love veggies or the people who are really excited about trying more veggies get concerned about everyone else’s reaction. I did it to M all the time. I’d whip up a dish and be hesitant because I wasn’t sure he was going to like it, when in reality, I probably already created a negative force around the dish with my attitude.
So I think the moral of the story is: we, the veggie lovers, are the marketing for the veggies we love and the dishes we make. We have to be excited about what we’re making and we need to realize that veggies are actually very, very sexy, even if marketing isn’t tell us that.
Sexy Cabbage (+ Cilantro-Lime Carrot and Cabbage Spring Rolls)
This recipe is loose and I can never really predict how many spring rolls it's going to make, so just have a few extra on hand.
- 1/2 head green cabbage, approximately 4-5 cups shredded
- 6-8 carrots
- 1 bunch green onions
- Juice from 1 large lime
- 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
- 10-12 rice paper wrappers
- Using a veggie peeler, shave carrots into fine strips. Dice green onions halfway through the green part and chop cilantro. In a large bowl combine the carrot strips, green onions, and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over everything and toss until everything is coated and mixed together.
- Set up a rolling station with shredded cabbage, carrots, rice papers, a dish of hot water larger enough to hold the spring rolls, and a cutting board.
- Soak the rice paper for 10-15 seconds (you don’t want it too soft when taking it out of the water but pliable enough to roll.) Place rice paper on a cutting board and load with cabbage and carrot mixture. Roll, tuck, and fold in sides as you go. Continue with remaining ingredients.
- Once done slice in half and serve. These are great on their own or dunked in a peanut sauce..
by Erin Alderson