When it comes to vegetables, I am the first to admit that I am absolutely clueless.
I’d like to claim I grew up in a vegetable-free household which would explain this and several other unexplained mysteries, such as why the heck I can’t use cutlery like a normal person, but it would be a lie.
Adding to the confusion, I was a dedicated vegetarian for seven long years and I still have no idea about vegetable-related matters!
I recently found myself making a salad at someone else’s house. I was trying to be all helpful and enthusiastic, but quickly found myself having a small panic attack when faced with something I suspected was a zucchini, green skin and all, and didn’t know what the hell to do with it… peel it? Don’t peel it? Slice it? Bake it? Throw it in a cupboard and pretend it was never there…?
Turns out it was actually a cucumber and yes, you can eat the green bit!
This is just the most recent of many situations I’ve had resulting from my lifelong vegetable confusion. Others include:
I’d heard of the elusive yam but was pretty happy living in the knowledge that it had never crossed my path. It just didn’t sound like a friendly vegetable, or a tasty one for that matter, but more like some kind of angry little man in a cape wielding a Bamm-Bamm style club.
That was, of course, until I blogged several months ago about my fear of mashed potato and for some reason, these yams kept coming up in my comments.
Do you like yams?
How do yams make you feel?
Do you eat mashed yams?
Things were getting weird.
I was confused and finally accepted that it was time to consult my friend Google.
So, for anyone who is unfamiliar with the yam equation, here it is:
Yam = Sweet Potato = Awesome!
You know those cultural miscommunications you have when you are so clueless as to what is going on you just smile and nod and accept that you will never know the truth? For me, Kumara was one of these.
For quite a few years, when kiwi friends kept saying things like ‘it’s kumara, right?’, ‘does this have kumara in it?’ and ‘I’m going to get kumara on the side’, I was seriously confused. Initially I thought kumara was a bird or maybe a person, but after much smiling and nodding and a whole lot of confusion, I realised they were simply trying to say ‘sweet potato’!
Better than that girl I once heard about who told her boss at a staff event at a chalet that he ‘had such a nice long deck’.
Ah, bless those little kiwis!
However, the real beginning of my vegetable confusion can only be blamed on one vegetable…
Many years ago, while still reasonably new to the world of vegetarianism and after a chinese doctor told me I was going to die if I didn’t eat meat, I made it my mission to learn to cook vegetables. I bought myself a cookbook, aptly titled ‘Learning to Cook Vegetarian’ and dog-eared the pages of anything that looked even remotely manageable (ie. Had less than ten ingredients) for experimentation.
One of my first attempts was some kind of baked creation, which seemed pretty straightforward. I copied down my little list of ingredients… garlic… onion… potato… turnip… turnip? Turnip! What the heck was a turnip?
Keep in mind here that this was before the days of Google on your phone, or even readily available high-speed internet, so my investigation of what the heck a turnip was consisted of squinting at the photo in the recipe book and by process of elimination and some vague recollection of a turnip character in a childrens book I had read long ago, came to the conclusion that it was a root vegetable with a sprout, which may or may not also have big eyes and wear a pair of runners…
Not one to shy away from a project I have committed to, I decided not to scrap the chosen recipe and chose another, but to take my new found knowledge to the supermarket to source the aforementioned turnip and everything else that the recipe called for and, of course, me being me, I got everything else and left the turnip for last.
With pretty much no idea what I was actually looking for, I had been standing in the root vegetable area for a good twenty minutes, reading all of the price labels when I found it. The excitement was overwhelming:
Turnips – $3.50 per kg | Beetroot $4.00 per kg
I looked up to the corresponding box and to my horror, there was no separation between the two vegetables – just a whole load of round things rolling around in one big box!
Having never seen beetroot except from can, I had reached a whole new level of confusion. Refusing to accept defeat or ask for help, I took a gamble and grabbed what most closely resembled the turnip I had envisaged – I figured if they had been stored in the same box without proper labels, there can’t be much difference anyway… Right?
Needless to say, to this day, I have never cooked or bought a beetroot OR a turnip ever again.
Other awkward vegetables I have encountered include ‘Green Onions’ (which, it turns out was my Fast and Fabulous cookbook seeing how far I would go to find a vegetable that DOES NOT EXIST), ‘Chinese Leaf’ (otherwise referred to as any leafy Chinese vegetable, walking around the markets asking for Chinese Leaf is not recommended!) and ‘Pepper’ or ‘Bell Pepper’ (which, contrary to popular belief is referring to a capsicum, NOT a chilli!) amongst many, many others.
On a side note, a few weeks ago I finally worked out how to install emoji emoticons onto my iPhone. Clearly a fairly simple task once you realise it’s an app.
My newfound love of emoticons was going well, I’ve been throwing them in here and there to create confusion or make a completely unclear point. In the midst of a recent texting conversation, I needed to throw in something completely unexpected. Insert Emoticon:
Think to self: A PURPLE zucchini! Of course! No one will see it coming!
The response: “Eggplant?”
My nose whistles. Not all the time, but probably for a full day once every month or two and I have no idea why.
In between whistling fits, I don’t generally give it much thought, kind of like having the hiccups or the flu, when it’s not actively destroying your life, you forget that it exists. But when it does re-appear, it is always at the most inappropriate of times. Most often at work and always when it is so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.
I’ll often be halfway through a staff meeting or trying not to laugh at something or someone in a serious situation when the nose starts whistling like an angry kettle and it will generally last the duration of the day.
I had totally forgotten about this affliction until I was re-watching Arrested Development last week and the episode came on where GOB broke his tooth and kept whistling (freaking hilarious!), which is pretty much exactly what I sound like when having a nose whistling attack. It got me thinking about quirks in general and the funny things that make people themselves. As we all know, I have a fear of high five-ing, which has plagued me since my teen years. I also have a fear of mashed potato.
I’d like to pre-empt this by saying that I love potatoes in general. Give me a chip or a roast potato any day. Baked (jacket) potatoes – love them! Even boiled potatoes bring me great joy. But mashed, or boiled to the point of mash, is just never going to fly with me. It’s a total crime against the sturdy potato!
I have had issues with it for years, but it wasn’t until about six years ago that I finally admitted it to other people. I was a vegetarian at the time and the cases of unintentional mash eating were becoming too much for me. Once I had announced it out loud to those closest to me, I was finally able to move forward fearlessly in my life.
It’s not generally accepted without questioning, in fact every boy I have dated since then has said (I quote) ‘That’s just because you haven’t tried mine. I make the best mash’ Yep, I’m sure you do and I’ll even pretend I enjoy it… but really, it makes me want to throw up. On myself.
The worst mash-related incident I have had was when travelling in Chile in 2006. I was traveling with a Chilean friend and we spent a fair amount of time with her extended family, eating until we couldn’t move. Vegetarianism wasn’t openly accepted in Chile and I was quite used to picking meat out of my sin-carne food while responding to comments of ‘that’s not meat, that’s ham’ with ‘oh, sorry, my mistake, muchos gracias’.
One day we were going to an aunt’s house and my friend had emphasised the whole sin-carne situation beforehand, clarifying ‘you do eat everything else right?’ ‘Yep, anything, just no meat!’.
So we rocked up to lunch, sat down at the table and aunty puts a plate of food in front of everyone. When my plate came out, she was looking thrilled to bits with herself as she placed it in front of me and I looked down in horror. In front of me sat a plate at least 20cms wide, piled high with nothing but grey, sloppy mashed potato. I looked at my friend in horror and had a small panic attack, before taking a deep breath and hoeing into it.
I still feel sick remembering it and when I hear the words mashed and potato in the same sentence, I still remember the sight, smell and taste of that plate full of mushy hell.
I was discussing quirks with my friend today and went through these main ones of mine, the mash, the high fives and the nose whistling. Hers were an inability too cross the road without a green man (kissing goodbye our chances of ever getting on The Amazing Race) and a serious hatred for chicken. The chicken thing is understandable as it’s a fairly hit and miss meat and was actually the last thing I returned to eating when I came to my senses after 7 years of vegetarianism, however my friend consciously buys and eats cage eggs without hesitation. Apparently she’s breaking even on the chickens she’s saving from being bred for food…
I realised during this discussion that the people I love the most are the ones with the funniest quirks, fears and passions. Fears of buttons, fear of cotton buds and an addiction to tuna are a few that spring to mind amongst my friends.
I’m now on a mission to discover the strangest thing about each of my good friends… Expect to be grilled, people!