I eat my veggies first

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I have some sympathy for you, my readers, who must be wondering, wtf? If not for the reduced level of posting, then for the apparent veering away from what seemed to be the blog's theme of energy efficiency, green-building issues, etc.

Leaving aside the former — I want to post daily, and I've just been totally sucky on that point for far too long (don't worry, I'm beating myself up enough for both of us, though you can still pile on if you want) — I feel somewhat more OK with the latter. The name of the blog is "Sustainably," and my movement to more posts about nutrition, obesity, and food-production issues fits pretty well under that umbrella. 

In my previous post, I talked about a "singularity," a term that means something entirely different (link to what people who know what they're talking about think it means) but which I'm employing it to mean that all topics are related ultimately, that one principle underlies everything we know and see.  I thought that the environmental issues were separate from the obesity issues, but more and more, I see them as related. The central point is probably in nature, if not nature itself or the higher intelligence that created it. But I won't be going there today.

Undeniably, agriculture has huge carbon implications — because of the inefficiency of growing vegetables to feed to animals so we can eat the animals, because of agribusiness's almost total reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, and because of the vast distances that many foods travel to reach our tables, among other reasons. (The accepted stat is that the average food travels 1,500 miles, and I sure wish I knew the provenance for that.)

But what brings me to the keyboard this morning is a rumination arising from my reading David Kessler's book, "The End of Overeating." He devotes a section of the book to all the ways that the food industry manipulates the incredible range of processed foods we eat (average number of new products introduced annually in the '90s: 12,700. Fewer than 5 percent were still on shelves two years later.) Kessler, a former FDA commissioner, says that processors seek to layer as many different tastes (salty, fatty, sweet, sour, sharp, spicy, etc.) into each dish as possible, so as to stimulate us into eating more than we would have otherwise.

Which brings me, finally, to the meaning of the headline: As completely dorky as it sounds, I almost always eat the vegetables on my plate first. 

You understand: I am a food addict, and in the unbridled throes of my worst years, I ate as much or more in a day than most others did in two or three days. My back seat was littered with fast food packaging, and I was recognized at 7-11s and donut shops throughout the metropolitan area.

I'd eat almost anything, but I preferred the usuals: french fries, fried chicken, ice cream, chips, bagels with cream cheese, popcorn drenched with butter, etc. etc. etc. I wasn't opposed to vegetables constitutionally, but they were an afterthought at best.

At one point, a trusted friend advised her friends trying to eat better to make sure healthy veggies were part of each meal, and that they eat them first, to ensure that they got eaten, no matter what else happened.

I never adopted her suggestion, I assure you.

But now, almost every time I happen to notice, I see that I've eaten my veggies first. Sometimes I steam them, but mostly I saute or roast. I use as little oil as I think I can muster, and flavor most often with onions, garlic, and/or ginger, though lately I've been returning to spices, both fresh and dried, for added variety.

And they go first. Not because I'm trying to be good. Not because someone told me to. 

Because I like them. I am drawn to them. They taste great. Carmelized naturally occurring sugars. Little browned or burnt bits.

This is nothing about rectitude; I didn't try to make myself like something. It is about indulgence, organically arisen when I wasn't looking.

I didn't need no stinkin' layering of refined this and processed that to arrive at something palatable. I started with a very few ingredients, all of them grown and harvested. Processing is limited to peeling, practically.

From what I can see, this never would have happened if I had continued to eat all that processed food. Native goodness is more subtle than milled, sweetened, extruded, and otherwise constructed food products, but it is just as satisfying, even if it doesn't have an annual promotional budget costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

You know why their manufacturers spend hundreds of millions of dollarspromoting these highly engineered concoctions? Because they have to, if they're going to sell.

I have a lot of vegetarians in my family, some really accomplished ones, and they often rave about what I'm serving them. I've brought a couple of dishes over to my dad's place recently, and the last time, his wife said she didn't think she'd ever not liked anything I'd ever made for them.

This isn't bragging, I swear. My point is that whether eaters are used to veggies all the time, or whether they watch what they eat even to the edge of blandness, this stuff tastes great. 

Tastes great, good for you. Now there's a slogan for you.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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