I’ve been trying to introduce more vegetables and new vegetables to our family each year, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the vegetables that I grew up eating.
I’m not sure if it was my mother’s cooking or just the 1970s but our vegetables were almost always canned and almost always awful.
Canned yellow corn or canned green beans were served each night with a meat and a starch – rice or mashed potatoes. Occasionally we would have canned white corn niblets or canned beats, which I thought were gross. Sweet potatoes were sometimes baked but those were served more as a starch than a vegetable. Broccoli was about the only thing served fresh from the ground, other than iceberg lettuce for salads. (Every now and then my mom would plant a garden and we would have more fresh stuff then but usually in salad form.)
But canning wasn’t new in the 1970s (it actually developed before the Civil War) so I’m not sure why canned vegetables were so popular. I think what changed was mothers working and coming in at 5 p.m. to throw a dinner together.
My mother worked full time and would often get home between 4 and 5 p.m. We did have a home-cooked meat every single night but maybe adding in a fresh vegetable was too hard or time consuming. And making a nice homemade veggie is more time consuming than opening a can.
For example, I bought spaghetti squash to serve last week but never could find the hour and twenty minutes necessary to roast the squash before scraping out the insides. I finally put it the oven on Sunday afternoon to scrape out to use for Monday’s night’s side dish. Even though I had already baked the squash, I still had preparation for the recipe. I was supposed to saute a onion and garlic in butter. Add fresh herbs and then saute with the spaghetti squash. I didn’t have the fresh herbs on hand so I used dried herbs which didn’t really work very well. If I make this again, I will look for a less time consuming recipe.
Last week I also roasted beets for the first time. They didn’t take that long to roast – maybe 45 minutes – but it was very messy to peel them and cut them into little squares. (See photo.) I put a little olive oil and salt on them to roast and all the kids ate them up. I have broccolini that they like blanched quickly in pasta water and then sautéed with pasta, olive oil and cheese. And I have some kale in fridge that I haven’t dealt with yet. I want to make kale chips but I have to read up on how to do it.
My kids like vegetables now and hopefully that will continue. I do think it’s all about the preparation but it does add time to the meal prep. So my question is were canned vegetables just life in the 1970s or the advent of the working mom or just my mom? How do you make vegetables appetizing to your kids?
(Food writer Elizabeth Lee Greene advised me to wrap my washed and trimmed beets in foil before roasting. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour or until a knife will go through. Then after they cool to touch, you use the foil to to pull the skin gently off. So you never touch the beets. She likes the chill them and use on salads with walnuts and goat cheese! This is a great spaghetti squash recipe that Elizabeth recommended too.)