In Defense of Vegetables
Stephanie Sharpe, 26, teaches English to ninth and eleventh graders in the Midlands. Although a Columbia native, she only recently discovered City Roots' CSA program, and over the summer, she signed up for weekly shares. This past summer, too, Stephanie completed her second round of Whole30, a nutritional program that required her to subsist solely off of "whole" foods, and the CSA shares complemented this diet well. For thirty days, Stephanie subsisted solely off of fruits and vegetables from City Roots, as well as eggs, meat, and supplemental greens from local grocers and her own small garden.
The recipes that Stephanie offered to share with the City Roots blog were ridiculously simple, and while simple and easy recipes are inherently appealing, Stephanie's do offer us something more as well. For her recipes speak to what we typically forget when we eat in front of the TV or snack out of boredom: that we should appreciate food for what it really is--we should be able to actually taste the vegetables amidst all the fats and oils we typically drown them in. Simplifying our recipes allows us to taste what's good for us.
But during Whole30, Stephanie found it hard to manage without comfort foods. She could no longer eat what she was used to eating as comfort food--grits or gravy or cornbread, the foods she'd eaten since she was little. But when she discovered City Roots' yard-long green beans, she was able to satisfy this psychological craving as well as the physical one. The beans naturally taste buttery, and Stephanie calls eating them "feeding the soul." Although Whole30 forced her out of her comfort zone, foods like yard-long green beans helped to ease that transition:
Stephanie's Yard-Long Green Beans
1. Cut the beans to a manageable size.
2. Put them in a steamer.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Her second go-to recipe is also short and easy:
Stephanie's "Egg Salad"
1. Fry an egg in olive oil (she uses the mushroom and sage olive oil from The Crescent Olive on Devine Street).
2. Arrange the fried egg on top of City Roots microgreens.
3. Add yellow mustard (the tart taste of the mustard will temper the spice of the microgreens).
This past week, Stephanie shared more of her story with us:
After friends posted pictures from Farm to Table dinners, Stephanie followed City Roots on Facebook, and from there, she learned about the farm and discovered its CSA shares. Although she'd never heard of a CSA program before, Stephanie thought that the set-up would be a good way to encourage herself to eat more vegetables. If the food was there, she'd have to eat it, and she'd likely be able to try new vegetables as well.
Stephanie's desire to change her eating habits came from a variety of sources but largely from Michael Pollan's books, The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules, and his manifesto, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." She resolved to eat less "imitation food products" (processed foods) and set certain rules for herself, following Pollan's guidelines. If a third grader couldn't pronounce it, she wouldn't eat it. If she couldn't picture where it came from in a garden, she wouldn't eat it. And once she made the change, she realized that she liked the idea of knowing where her food came from. She couldn't just picture the fields where her green beans or microgreens were grown; she could visit them. She'd always heard others laud the value of local foods, but she was surprised by how much she ended up valuing that local connection. When she picked up her grocery store produce from California, she couldn't talk to the people behind the veggies or ask for their ideas on how to cook them. With City Roots, she could.
City Roots, too, did expose her to new fruits and vegetables. Although microgreens had never been a main fixture in her diet before, they became a staple food (the broccoli and basil varieties as particular favorites). And although Stephanie did sometimes run into foods that she didn't like, she never considered this to be a particularly bad thing. Knowing that she wasn't a huge fan of green tomatoes, Stephanie ended up giving them to a friend, and her friend was ecstatic about the gift. The CSA program is community-oriented in name, but it became so even on a localized level for Stephanie, as she ensured that nothing went to waste. And, even though she was a little wary at first of the weird vegetables, like the Asian eggplants, each new food became an opportunity. She had to try different spice combinations when she cooked each new vegetable, and she couldn't be afraid of experimenting. The CSA shares forced her to become more innovative in her cooking style.
Stephanie adapted and learned to love new foods, and although she didn't necessarily grow to love all of the vegetables that she didn't initially like, she appreciated how much better they made her feel. She found that others noticed her increased energy, too--friends made comments like "why are you so hyper?" And she couldn't deny it. She had more energy. She felt fantastic. She lost weight faster, and she found herself eating less and needing less, as her body adjusted and stopped processing fake foods.
Ultimately, Whole30 changed her relationship with food, and the City Roots CSA share complemented this process, making healthy eating easier. Stephanie finds that she does eat more fruits and vegetables now, especially as snacks--and that even beyond that, she is more willing to try new things. She's come to value cooking and preparing food herself, as she's able to know exactly what goes into each meal. Cooking her own meals has also changed her relationships with others, as many of these relationships are and were built on food--the mere act of eating an occasion for meeting. Since virtually no restaurants are Whole30-friendly, Stephanie, during her thirty days, would invite friends and family over to her own house for meals, and in this different setting, these meetings became less contingent on food. And the food-oriented aspects of the occasions became more of a community ritual--as others became involved in the cooking, too. Food constantly brings us together, but Stephanie was and is intent on making sure that it connects us in a positive way, both for our bodies and for our communities. Cooking each meal has forced her to be connected to it, and she's found that this closer connection to the food she eats--and to the local land that produced it--is something to be proud of.
For more information on the Whole30 diet, visit their website at http://whole30.com/.